I previously wrote about running down a lob. But recently a reader asked, “Then what? What should I hit?” Today we’ll review your best option off a lob.
Option 1: Drop into Non-Volley Zone
If I anticipated the shot and responded quickly, my best option off a lob is a drop shot. However, I won’t attempt this shot unless:
- I have stopped running and am in a balanced position;
- Am able to make contact with the ball in front of my body;
- Am able to step into the shot, so that my forward momentum carries the ball over the net.
Drop shots are difficult shots, particularly as we get closer to the baseline. So though they may be the best strategic option, giving me time to rejoin my partner at the non-volley zone line; it doesn’t make sense unless I can execute the shot. If I am off-balance, or not in the right position to execute the shot my goal is simply to keep the ball in play and get it over the net. If the opposing team is smart, they will return the ball to the player deeper in the court (me). But when they do I have had time to recover, breath and get balanced so I can execute an effective next shot. It might take 2 or 3 balls until I get one that allows me to hit a drop shot. I just need to be patient.
Option 2: Lob It
If you are off-balance or not in the best position, then your best option off of a lob is likely another lob. First, this shot is the easiest to hit. Second, it gives you and your partner the most time. (Time is your friend.) Third, if you aim for the middle of the court, you are giving yourself the highest margin for error. Remember, when you are on defense, your goal is to get to neutral then offense.
Typically, unless the lob is perfectly struck, you won’t have time to get back to the net. In this case, stand your ground and prepare yourself for the next shot. Again, it may take three of four shots until you get a ball you feel comfortable dropping into the non-volley zone, but that’s okay. As long as the ball is going over the net, you are still in the point. Be smart by giving yourself the time to fully recover.
Option #3: Drive
Driving the ball is my last option off a lob because it gives me the least amount of time to get back to the net. I won’t lie, it does feel amazing when it works for a winner…but this is a low percentage shot. Of course, we all need to practice our strokes. It is important to be able to serve consistently, to dink reliably, to hit firm/crisp volleys and effective groundstrokes. But relatively evenly matched teams will win or lose because one team played smarter…they played within themselves … that
Of course, we all need to practice our strokes. It is important to be able to serve consistently, to dink reliably, to hit firm/crisp volleys and effective groundstrokes. But relatively evenly matched teams will win or lose because one team played smarter. They played within themselves … they played higher percentage pickleball.
Too often we panic and rush to hit our shot. We race to the line or scurry to cover a part of the court and don’t hit a good shot. If you find yourself racing about and not knowing what to do next, simply pause take a breath and look for your next shot. Now you are facing forward. You are balanced and able to move in whatever direction is required.
The biggest difference I notice when watching advanced players vs. newer players is not their strokes…but their movement on the court. Advanced players seldom seemed hurried. They seem to walk, rather than run to a shot. This is because they are choosing the shot that is appropriate for the situation they find themselves. The best option off a lob is the shot you can hit effectively and that gives you the most time to recover and get set for the next shot.