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Advice on Third Shot Drops, Beginner Open Play, And Questionable Calls

Advice on Third Shot Drops, Beginner Open Play, And Questionable Calls

  • Our celebrity coach answers your toughest questions, from on court strategy to diplomacy

MATTHEW MANASSE is a Los Angeles–based professional pickleball player known as the “pickleball coach to the stars.” He works with the biggest names in the game and has competed at every level.


I STRUGGLE WITH MY THIRD SHOT DROP. ANY ADVICE?

Practice, practice, practice. Most players I work with get discouraged over this shot. I hear things like, “I either hit into the net or leave it high and my opponents kill us.” Fair sentiment—but you have to keep trying! The third shot drop lets you gain position toward the kitchen line when your opponents are at the net following your serve. Getting the ball to drop below the level of the net gives you time to come forward. Here are the keys to hitting a great third shot drop: Get your feet into position, square your shoulders, and make sure the paddle is out in front with grip pressure that is about a 3 out of 10. Lift up with your legs and push through the ball with a paddle face that’s square to the ball. This is just an extended dink with a very similar tossing motion that hinges from the shoulder. And once you do hit a successful third shot drop, follow it in toward the kitchen line to gain your position. If you hit a great third shot drop and stay at the baseline, you’ve wasted it.

I’M A BEGINNER AND INTIMIDATED ABOUT JOINING OPEN PLAY AT MY LOCAL PARK. HOW DO I JUMP IN?

If I could answer with just one word, I’d say, “Go!” I’ve been to countless public parks around the country, and everyone I’ve met is very inviting—it’s pickleball! The key is to just break the ice, and you’ll feel more confident. Head to a public park, let people know you’re new to the game, and I’m 100 percent sure someone will include you in their game, show you how to hold the paddle, and maybe explain the rules to you. Even if pros are playing, they’ll probably invite you into a game or at least help you find the right court for your level. The pickleball community wants to grow, so folks hope to get you hooked. Everyone is used to guiding others— in six months’ time, it will be you helping out a newbie!

IN MY LOCAL ROUND-ROBIN, A PLAYER MADE A QUESTIONABLE CALL FAVORABLE TO HER. WHAT SHOULD I HAVE DONE?

I was just discussing this situation with a client! In a recent game, she was certain a ball she hit was on the line, and her opponent called it out. When she questioned the call, the opponent snapped at her, “It’s my call! And when I say it’s out, it’s out!” That reaction is very unusual, but you should be prepared for the extremes. Never be afraid to ask, “Are you sure the ball was out?” If your opponent is 100 percent sure, don’t push it. But if they aren’t sure, offer to replay the point; even pros will offer that option in rec play. Remember, even though you want to win, your main focus is to have fun and improve your skills. But if an opponent does this repeatedly, I might not invite them to play again. In extreme cases, I might even go for the Nasty Nelson (hitting my opponent with my serve)— they don’t call me Pickleball McNasty for nothing!

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