The drop shot also called the third shot drop, requires subtlety and nuance—things that might not come naturally if your instinct is to smash the ball, says Charlie Ball, an instructor at Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle Club in Encinitas, California. With a drop shot, your goal is to get the ball over the net so that it drops into the nonvolley zone, or kitchen, where your opponent can’t smash it. “They’re not going to be able to attack that kind of short ball,” he says.
The drop shot is typically used when you’re at the baseline and your opponents are in the non-volley zone. This often occurs during the third shot of the game, but a drop shot can be used at any time. The shot is strategic, Ball explains, and can help you in two important ways. First, because it’s soft and slow, it gives you and your teammate time to advance to your own non-volley zone.
Second, when executed properly, the drop shot won’t bounce very high when it lands, which means your opponents can’t attack it. Instead, they are forced to hit it up to get it over the net. And then you should be able to easily return their shot.
A successful drop shot accomplishes Ball’s overall strategy for the sport: “Pickleball is a game where you’re trying to make your opponent hit the ball up so you can hit it down,” he says. “If you can get the ball to bounce low in the kitchen, you’ve done a good job.”
Here, Ball shares a drill that can help you ace the drop shot.
CHARLIE BALL is a pickleball instructor at Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle Club in Encinitas, California. A former tennis coach for 10 years, he currently works with pickleball players of all levels, from beginners to competitive players, as well as people with limited mobility.
MASTERING THE MOVES
CONTROL THE BALL
Stand at the baseline with your drill partner at the kitchen line on the other side of the net. When they hit the ball to you, try to make contact with it in front of your body—it’s easier to control the trajectory of the shot that way.
DROP IT LOW
Keep your paddle face open, use a short backswing, and hit the ball. Your goal is a soft, controlled shot. Try to drop the ball on the other side of the net as low as you can. Ideally, your opponent shouldn’t be able to hit it until it’s at knee level. That forces them to hit the ball up to get it over the net and gives you time to move closer to the non-volley zone.
AIM FOR A VARIETY OF TARGETS
Your opponent is going to have to hustle farther to try to return the shot when you drop the ball crosscourt. And when you drop the ball in the middle, it takes away the different angles your opponent can play. Mix up where the ball lands to keep them guessing.
ULTIMATELY, GET THE BALL INTO THE KITCHEN
If you can hit a short drop shot close to the kitchen line, your opponent is most likely not going to be able to attack it. Says Ball, “The beauty of pickleball is that the kitchen is always the right answer.”