Have you ever seen a player just drive the ball as hard as they could from the baseline or are you one of those players? Well, that might be a common strategy for beginners but as you develop your game you should try the third shot drop (TSD). If you’ve taken a lesson from me, you would know, my philosophy for pickleball is that the game is won at the net! The best players will hit higher percentage shots and get up to the net. Being at the net allows you and your partner to hit higher percentage volleys instead of low percentage groundstrokes. Utilize the third shot drop as an “approach” shot to get up to the net. A third shot drop is when the serving team hits their third shot from the baseline and drops the ball into the opposing teams kitchen. The first shot is the serve. The second shot is the return. Thus, the third shot drop is the shot to hit into the opposing teams kitchen and allows you and your partner to get to the net.
The third shot drop is similar to a dink when you hit the ball. It’s not a hard power shot at all. Instead, it’s an arching shot that you hit and aim for the opposing teams kitchen area. If you arch the ball too high and the opponent can reach the ball for a volley that is a put away or “kill” shot, then, don’t leave the baseline yet. Try to wait for another attempt at hitting a better drop shot until you can head on up. The shot is executed with an open paddle face and it’s almost like you are hitting the ball like a dink but you want the ball to travel further across the net. To prepare for this shot, you should practice by throwing a pickleball from the baseline to the opposing kitchen area with a toss instead of using your paddle. Try that technique until it feels natural.
Execute the third shot drop when your team is the serving team. Remember, it’s an approach shot and it’s not meant for your team to score every time from it. However, it’s a highly effective shot and sometime it does create the opponents to make unforced errors. It’s intimidating to see the serving team rush the net after a nice third shot drop is struck. If your third shot drop seems like it’ll be a good one, then, tell your partner to “GO” or head up to the net to level the playing field with your opponents. You never want them to play at the net while your team is at the baseline. They will have better odds at scoring with higher percentage shots.
Six-time National Champion
Pickleball Hall-of-Fame Nominee
Former USAPA Vice President