What Are 3 Types of Hits/Shots You Can Use in Pickleball?

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Pickleball is a fun, fast-paced paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. As a relatively new sport that is rapidly growing in popularity, pickleball has some unique shots and strategies that all players should know. Here are the key takeaways on the three main types of hits/shots in pickleball:

  • The three primary shots in pickleball are the groundstroke, the volley, and the third shot drop. Mastering these is key.
  • Groundstrokes are hits after the ball bounces, like dinks. Volleys are hits in the air before a bounce.
  • The third shot drop is an important strategic shot to force opponents up to the non-volley zone.
  • There are many other pickleball shots like serves, drives, lobs, and more to learn.
  • Each type of shot serves a specific purpose and should be used strategically during gameplay.

With the growth of pickleball has come an evolution in pickleball strategy, requiring players to master a range of shot types. Let’s evaluate the three primary shot categories crucial for competitive pickleball.


Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America, with millions of enthusiastic players hitting the courts each year. As a paddle sport, pickleball requires players to use strategic shot-making skills to outmaneuver opponents. Learning the various types of shots is essential for anyone looking to improve their pickleball game. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the three main shot categories in pickleball – groundstrokes, volleys, and the third shot drop. We will analyze the mechanics, purpose, and effective use of each shot type. For both recreational and competitive players alike, understanding these fundamental shots can elevate your play and court strategy. With the rising popularity of pickleball tournaments and leagues, players need every advantage they can get. This guide will equip you with expert insights on mastering groundstrokes, volleys, and the third shot drop in pickleball.

What Makes These Shot Types So Important in Pickleball?

Pickleball is in many ways defined by the three primary shot types – groundstrokes, volleys, and the third shot drop. While creative paddlers have developed an array of additional pickleball shots, truly excelling in the sport requires first building proficiency in those three categories. They enable players to effectively maneuver the ball, maintain rallies, and tactically outplay their opponent. Let’s examine why each shot fills a crucial role:

Groundstrokes – These are pickleball’s most common hits, making up the majority of shots exchanged in a point. Groundstrokes like the dink allow for greater control and finesse after the bounce.

Volleys – Volleys inject speed, power and athletic agility into rallies through their mid-air execution prior to bouncing. They enable punchy offense.

Third Shot Drop – This touch shot changes pace, floating the ball softly and forcing opponents forward. It’s a vital strategic weapon for control.

Simply put, master these three shots and you’ve got the tools necessary to thrive in most any pickleball match. They form the foundation for out-strategizing and outpacing your opponents with diverse shots personalized for the moment.

Breaking Down the Mechanics and Purpose of Groundstrokes

Groundstrokes make up the majority of shots struck in pickleball, forming the rally’s rhythmic back-and-forth exchange. Any shot hit after the ball takes its first bounce is classified as a groundstroke. Let’s analyze the mechanics and purpose behind pickleball’s most common shots:

Mechanics – Groundstrokes are executed once the ball has bounced, enabling players to strike the ball with more control and finesse on its ascent upward. Body positioning depends on the specific groundstroke, with options like the forehand, backhand, overhead slam, lob and dink. Groundstrokes rely on firm footwork and weight transfer for their power.

Purpose – Groundstrokes allow players to place the ball strategically after its bounce, maintaining the rally through accurate placement. They permit greater shaping of shot angle, height and depth compared to mid-air volleys. Finessed groundstrokes like dinks alter pace, acting as the pickleball equivalent of a drop shot in tennis.

In summary, groundstrokes form pickleball’s foundation through their inherent control and versatility. Their execution after the ball’s bounce makes them more accurate. Groundstrokes open up diverse shot options that enable strategy. Now let’s explore the lightning-fast volley.

Analyzing the Volley – Pickleball’s Lightning-Fast Hit

If groundstrokes set pickleball’s underlying rhythm, volleys provide the intense bursts of pace and athleticism. Let’s examine the mechanics and purpose behind this thrilling mid-air shot:

Mechanics – The volley is executed before the ball bounces, requiring sharp reflexes and hand-eye coordination. The player’s weight shifts forward for quick positioning in the volley zone. The ball is struck decisively in mid-air through firm wrist action and paddle control.

Purpose – The volley injects speed and offense, enabling players to act first by intercepting the ball mid-flight. It takes time away from opponents, rushing their response. Volleys are ideal for striking decisive winners or pressuring mistakes.

Research indicates that higher-level pickleball points feature volleys far more than groundstrokes. Volley skill differentiates the top competitors. Crisp, accurate volleys allow advanced players to command the pace and flow of rallies. Let’s see how the third shot drop provides yet another vital strategic option.

The Third Shot Drop – A Pickleball Control Shot for Advanced Players

The third shot drop epitomizes strategic pickleball. Let’s examine the mechanics and purpose behind this specialized ‘drop’ shot:

Mechanics – On the third shot of the point, usually a return of serve, the player hits a gentle, arced shot that bounces into the non-volley zone. Touch, finesse and shaping of the arc are critical. The face of the paddle angles downward for topspin.

Purpose – The third shot drop prevents opponents from smashing deep drives, forcing them forward for less-powerful dinks and volleys. Its slow bounce throws off timing. The result is enhanced control of the point.

Per the 2022 study from the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports on optimal pickleball strategy, the third shot drop generates significant scoring advantages compared to driving the third shot deep. However, it requires advanced touch and finesse to master.

How Do You Know Which Shot Type to Use and When?

Now that we’ve covered the three essential pickleball shots, how do you decide which one to hit during a point? Here are some key principles to guide shot selection and strategy:

  • Use groundstrokes for controlled placement after the bounce. Dinks are ideal for drop shots.
  • Execute volleys when needing speed and power before the bounce. Punch volley winners away from opponents.
  • Drop third shot to slow the pace. Force opponents upcourt for greater control of the point.
  • Consider your position on court. It dictates which shots are feasible.
  • Recognize opponent weaknesses and target them (e.g. exploit lack of mobility with drop shots).
  • Maintain unpredictability. Vary pace and placement to keep opponents off-balance.

With these principles in mind, you can begin to strategically blend groundstrokes, volleys and third shot drops for optimal impact. Match awareness and adaptation are also key. No single formula guarantees success – adapt to the evolving game situation and your opponent’s tendencies. Leverage the shot types for your advantage.

What are Some Other Notable Shot Types in Pickleball?

While groundstrokes, volleys and the third shot drop comprise the pickleball essentials, the sport features several additional shot varieties to expand your arsenal:

Serve – The serve initiates the point with underhand or sidearm delivery. Vary placement and spin.

Return of Serve – Aggressive service returns apply immediate pressure.

Overhead Slam – Smash winners away from opponents when the opportunity arises.

Drive – Hit firmly with pace crosscourt or down-the-line.

Lob – Hit high and deep to defend vs. net rushers.

Backhand – Important for backhand groundstrokes and backhand volleys.

Forehand – Essential for forehand groundstrokes and forehand volleys.

Practice these pickleball shots to grow your shot repertoire. But always emphasize the groundstrokes, volleys and third shot drop that form pickleball’s foundation.


Mastering a diversity of shots equips any pickleball player to strategically outmaneuver opponents. While creative paddlers continue expanding the boundaries of pickleball technique, the sport hinges on the proficient execution of groundstrokes, volleys and the third shot drop. These three categories provide the tools to dictate play through controlled placement, lightning offense, and strategic changes of pace. Match experience will further hone skills for blending shots and adapting play. With the tips and insights from this guide, however, any motivated player can substantially elevate their shot-making. So focus on refining those fundamentals – the keys to pickleball success.

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