CALL IT THE SHOT heard ’round the pickleball court. The two-handed backhand around-the-post put-away has helped Riley Newman become one of the top two players in men’s and mixed doubles and accumulate more than 50 pro titles. “I use it quite a bit,” he says. Not only is it effective, “it always gets the crowd going.”
The shot was inspired by Newman’s background as a tennis player. Before he took up pickleball in 2017 and turned pro the following year with his sister Lindsey (the two have won several mixed-doubles titles together), Newman played Division 1 tennis for Seattle University. “My sister and I grew up playing tennis, and we’ve always hit a backhand with two hands,” he explains. “When we came into pickleball doing the two-handed backhand, one of the pickleball legends said, ‘Nobody’s really doing that.’ We said, ‘We’re going to try it anyway,’ and it’s taken off ever since. The shot gives us lots of control and stability, especially when people are slamming balls way too fast.”
Amateur players can pull off the shot, too, Newman says. To execute it like he does, he encourages gripping the paddle with both hands (though if that doesn’t work for you, you can try a one-handed backhand instead). Follow the steps on the opposite page, and it can become a solid tool for you to break out during recreational play—and one that will get onlookers cheering. “It’s a fun shot,” Newman says.
RILEY NEWMAN is a pro pickleball player who is ranked in the top two in men’s and mixed doubles. He currently resides in Phoenix.
THE TWO-HANDED BACKHAND
DO THE SHUFFLE
Grip the paddle with both hands. Have your partner hand-feed you the ball from the other side of the net, emulating a crosscourt dink going too wide. Quickly shuffle toward the sideline to meet it.
Get into position. Before swinging at the ball, get set up with your feet in the ready position facing the net post. Then get as low with your knees and paddle as you can. You should not be moving when you hit the ball.
SHOVEL UP THE BALL
Wait for the right moment. Let the ball drop as low as possible—when it practically hits the ground, Newman says. Then, shovel the ball from the bottom with your paddle face almost parallel to the ground, but slightly tilted in order to land the ball on the other side around the post. That’s what gives you the angle to hit the shot.
AIM AROUND THE POST
Hit the ball right down the sideline. Be sure not to hit it too hard, or else you are likely to lose control and hit it long. Don’t celebrate too soon, says Newman. There’s a chance that your opponent will return it, so be ready. But do let yourself feel elated. “The first time you hit the ball around the post, it will make you smile,” Newman says.