Win Tricky Points on Your Serve with the Nasty Nelson

To piggyback on our post about the lesser-known Erne Shot from earlier this month, today we have another technique that’s not seen often and is far more controversial: the Nasty Nelson.

Although this shot is legal, some see it as unsportsmanlike and it may leave a sour taste in players’ mouths. If you decide to use it, make sure you’re either playing among good-natured friends or in a high level competition where opponents should be ready for anything!

Timothy Nelson

Timothy Nelson

The Nasty Nelson was given its name by Scott Lipitz after watching Timothy Nelson make use of it.

The goal is to cause the receiving team to commit a fault. This technique is a serve aimed at the receiver’s partner instead of the usual crosscourt box. If the opponent’s partner hits the ball before it reaches the court—either with their paddle or body—then the point goes to the serving team.

The reason this works is due to pickleball’s service rules which state:

4.C.2. Interference. If the serve clears the net and the receiver or the receiver’s partner interferes with the flight of the ball on the serve, it is a point for the serving team.

Just like a ball is still in play if someone chooses to hit an “out” ball before it actually drops outside the court’s boundaries, if the partner blocks the ball from landing on the wrong side of the court (usually due to not moving fast enough or raising a paddle to protect their body), you get the point.

Although this shot may sound harsh, it’s a viable part of the game and can even be a wise strategy. The “cleanest” way to use the Nasty Nelson is if you notice the receiver’s partner positioning themselves aggressively near the center line.

Since the partner is already close to the legal side of the court, it’s easier to tweak your serve and pop them before they realize they need to get out of the way. It’s (literally) their fault for not realizing they’re blocking the serve’s flight path!

The Nasty Nelson can still be attempted when the partner is at the center or outer edge of their court, but it’s more difficult to achieve under those conditions and may not win many friends.

You can see the shot executed below. In this instance the receiving partner isn’t particularly close to the center line, but the Nasty Nelson is unexpected and he notices the ball heading toward him too late. Despite this surprise attack, all the players take it in good stride!

If you want to see Timothy himself use this shot on an opponent far from the center line, check out this video at 7:04. Just be warned that the rest of the highlights contain strong language.

Do you think the Nasty Nelson’s reward is worth the risk? Even if you don’t want to use this shot yourself, it’s a good one to know so you don’t get caught off guard.

3 thoughts on “Win Tricky Points on Your Serve with the Nasty Nelson

  1. I’ve used this shot a few times when I thought the opposition was kinda pushing my buttons. The up-guy on the receiving team would continually camp out on the center line, actually leaning into the service court, taking away my option to go for the line if I wanted to. Seems to me, if someone wants to play head games as I’m serving, then it’s Karma time, right? Lol.
    BTW, if you just do a brush-back serve (aim *close* but not *at* the line-crowder), you’ll likely see the crowder dodge away from the service court. With that in mind, I recommend aiming about 18 inches into the wrong service court. The dodger jumps into the path of the serve, trying to stay clear of a ball that’s supposed to be going to the service court but is actually headed away from it. Kinda fun, actually. 😊

  2. Won the point, lost the game. Hit a friend with a Nasty Nelson on 0-0-2 in a rec game of 4.0 – 4.5 level players. She quit on the spot. And there was no one to take her place. It’s 100% legal, but it causes hard feelings.

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