I encourage players of all levels to play high percentage pickleball. Aggressive, low percentage shots may be fun for some, but other players will get frustrated at the resulting losses.
Pickleball loves consistency, and more points are lost than won. Many more.
High percentage pickleball is frequently described as hitting the right shot in a particular situation time after time. This is partly true, but not entirely. Many players do hit the same shot in a particular situation consistently, but as their opponent, I’m completely relaxed because I know exactly what to expect.
They are predictable. They are safe. And while safe pickleball wins at many levels and is quite fun, the element of surprise is essential at higher levels. Incorporate a hint of danger into your game.
Go for difficult shots and be consistent yet flexible (Credit: Chad Ryan)
Yeah, silly word. What do I mean by it?
In every situation there are several high percentage shot options. For me, high percentage means there is over an 80% chance my shot will be in. The 80% shot should be aimed to throw my opponents off more than the 95% shot.
Such a shot might involve hitting the ball near the sideline to throw your opponent off balance or driving a shot hard and low so it’s difficult to return. These shots nearly always occur at the kitchen line, but driving a third shot from the baseline is effective at times. High percentage play is not the same as predictable play.
This element of surprise generates anxiety and tension in opponents. We don’t want our opponents too comfortable or confident! Uncertain players make more errors. I love it when I know a player so well that I can guess the exact shot they’ll hit.
If I don’t know whether a well-placed dink, drive or lob is coming, I tighten up! Don Paschal was famous for this. He would take a backhand volley off his shoelaces at the kitchen and put it in my chest. Sometimes I couldn’t even see the ball till it crested the net.
Don’t use head fakes. They appear odd. Short back swings help you sell one shot and deliver another. Large back swings foretell hard shots. Decide even before your opponent hits the ball that, if the ball arrives where you expect, you’ll deliver a surprise shot.
Hitting balls through the center of the court can slow your opponents (Credit: Chad Ryan)
Stroke or volley the ball using the appropriate mechanics. Avoid wristy shots that are difficult to control. Moving soft kitchen shots from the sideline to the center creates confusion as to which of your opponents will take the ball. An occasional lob might force your opponents to be uncertain about whether to take a step back from the kitchen line.
Keep your opponents guessing where and how hard every ball will come. Bringing a bag of high percentage trick shots to the court might just win you a few points and a few laughs.