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What Is A Third Shot Drop?

Okay, you’ve caught the bug...the pickleball bug. Your courts are starting to turn from a fun and friendly game to a competitive grudge match. As your game advances you may have noticed a couple of things: one the game is played at the kitchen line and two, the third shot may be the most important shot in pickleball, especially when it comes to extending your time on the court.  So...what is the famed ‘third shot drop’?

In your arsenal of shots, the third shot drop is arguably the most important shot to excel in the game of pickleball. The third shot drop sets your team up for success if done correctly, or failure if not. You or your opponent has served, the serve has been returned, and now, it’s make or break time with the third shot. The third shot drop has one goal: to get your team to the kitchen line, by forcing your opponents into a defensive return. You may be wondering why this shot is so important - “I can just bang one right by them!” While that may work in friendly games, as you progress into higher-level play, you see less and less banging, and more and more defense. 

How to hit a third shot drop? 

In pickleball and in life, practice makes perfect! Now we all love playing the game of pickleball, but to truly perfect the third shot drop you will need to find a partner and head to the court early for a practice sesh. (As mentioned above the third shot drop is the third shot of the rally, designed to float gently over the net, not allowing your opponent to attack.) 

To practice this shot, you’ll need your practice partner, or a machine, to hit a ball deep near the baseline. Your focus should be to strike the ball with enough arch that it clears the net by a foot or less, landing in the kitchen with minimal bounce. A good way to start is to focus on the centerline, keeping the ball in the middle limits the chance of a mistake. Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, this shot can be done with your forehand or backhand. Over time it's necessary to be able to hit a third shot drop both ways so your opponent can’t target your weak side. 

As you compete against better players, this shot limits the chances of your opponent poaching, by hopping around the kitchen and beating you with an Erne:“a shot where you hit the pickleball either (1) in the air as you are jumping around the Non-Volley Zone (also known as the Kitchen); or (2) after you run around or through the Kitchen and re-establish your feet out of bounds, just to the side of the Kitchen.” 

The net can be your worst enemy when first trying out the third shot drop as there is a balance of touch and power to get the ball to the net while making it soft enough to land in the kitchen. Again, practice makes perfect! 

Now What?

Now that you know what a third shot drop is and how to get started, what's stopping you from being the king or queen of your court? Get out on the court and start practicing and playing! And remember JustPaddles will be with you from Click to Court!

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