Commonly called a ‘drop’, a drop shot is one of the most challenging shots in pickleball. It’s a soft shot that intends to catch your opponent off guard but if it is not executed properly, you could lose the point or put your opponent in a good position to win the point.
In this article, we will tell you all about the drop shot in pickleball and tell you why mastering this difficult skill will transform your game to a new level.
What We Will Cover
Pickleball Drop Shot: What is it?
A drop shot is one of those shots that differentiates better players from lower-level players. It is a soft shot hit off a bounce from deep in the court that lands in the opponent’s kitchen. When executed properly, your opponent either can’t reach it or is in a really bad position when returning; putting you in a really strong position to win the point.
Why is it Effective?
Pickleball is won and lost at the net; it might be a cliche saying but it’s the truth. There is no other shot that allows the server less time to get to the net like a well-placed drop shot.
A proper drop shot ensures the opponent’s return shot is a good opportunity for you. Because the drop shot lacks power, it means the ball shouldn’t bounce high. The low height forces your opponent to return the ball with an upward swing close to the net; presenting you an opportunity to hit a solid downward shot that will often win you the point.
Apart from setting up a putaway, a drop shot could be so well disguised that it catches your opponent completely off guard and wins you the point because your opponent cannot react on time to return it. The drop shot is a very difficult skill to master but the rewards are high.
Third Shot Drop
You have probably heard other pickleball players talk about the third shot drop and wondered what it was. The third shot drop is a special type of drop shot that’s made on the third shot of a rally after the serve and return. Effectively, the third shot drop is hit similarly to how you’d hit a dink. But instead of hitting it close to the net, it’s hit near the back of the baseline following a deep return.
The goal of the third shot drop is to hit the ball with an upwards arch and make it land soft and unattackable in the opponent’s kitchen. When compared to the dink, the third shot drop is much harder because you are hitting it from further back and in response to a harder and faster return. Make no mistake, it is a really hard shot to get the hang of for most players, but when you do, it takes your game to a whole new level.
It will take many hours of work to perfect the technique necessary to consistently hit good drops from all areas of the backcourt to all areas of the kitchen with both your backhand and your forehand; all that work will be worth it when you finally perfect it.
When to Hit a Pickleball Drop Shot
The drop shot is a great strategic option when you are not at the non-volley line, but your opponent is. A well-executed third-shot drop when your opposition has taken up a position at their non-volley zone line can quickly swing the point in your favor.
Mastering this shot will do any pickleball player a world of good as you will commonly find yourself in a position where your opponents are on the non-volley line and you are pinned back to the baseline, especially as the server. The drop shot is commonly referred to as an advanced shot, but even if you are a beginner, you should try and gradually add it to your arsenal.
Consider also adding one of the best paddles for advanced players to your kit bag
When Not to Hit a Pickleball Drop Shot
Although you may catch your opponent off guard and win a cheap point if you hit a drop shot when your opponent is at the baseline, this is not a reliable strategy as it rarely works against better players. The aim of the drop shot is not to lure your opponent to the net as you should try and keep your opponent back as much as possible while you take control of the net. This makes the drop shot a bad decision when your opponent is at their baseline.
What a Good Drop Shot Looks Like
In addition to landing in the opponent’s non-volley zone, a good drop shot should not bounce up over the net. It’s important that your opponent has to strike the ball upwards after the drop shot to allow you to come up to the net and gain some control.
This is an example of what a good drop shot looks like and how you should get your drop shots to look.
Easy Drop Shot Drills
Toss the Ball
A good way to get a feel for the amount of power needed in a third shot drop is by dropping your paddle and underhand tossing the balls over the net. You should try and get it to land about ½ to ¾ deep into the kitchen of your opponent and you should practice getting it to land on different sides of the kitchen.
Practice with the Paddle and Gradually Move Back
You should start this drill at the kitchen line and take two steps back toward the baseline after every shot. The aim is to hit the ball softly enough that it falls just inside your opponent’s kitchen because if you hit it too hard, your opponent could drive it at you. It’s the same swing no matter how much you move back on the court; it’s just your follow-through with your arm and shoulder that varies.
The third shot drop is pointless if it does not give you time to move forward before your opponent is able to return their shot. To practice this, start at the baseline and have someone on the other side hit the ball at you to imitate a return of serve. Your task is to hit a good shot and move toward the non-volley line. If you hit it well, you should have time to get to the line. You should keep practicing this until you can move forward consistently and efficiently.
How to Set Up the Perfect Third Shot Drop
Get Into Position
The first thing you should do when preparing for a third shot drop is get into position. Your feet should be in the right position before you swing, with your knees bent, and your head and shoulders slightly forward. You should make sure you are not leaning back when hitting the shot so you don’t lose balance and control.
Hit the Ball with an Upward Motion
The next thing you want to do is hit the ball up front with an upward motion. When the ball bounces in front of you, you want to hit it either at its peak or as it slowly descends. Your swing for this shot should be similar to the swing you would use for a dink. It should be a slow, smooth, relaxed brush or push with your paddle rather than a big backswing.
Adjust Your Grip
For a drop shot, your grip pressure should be the same as it is for a dink. You are trying to hit the ball softly, so if your grip pressure is too tight, you will probably lose control and hit the ball too hard. Your grip pressure should be average but on the loose side.
The Shot Should Peak on Your Side
The drop shot should peak on your side of the court and be descending as it crosses the net. If it is still rising as it crosses the net, then it is not a good drop shot. When you do this, your shot is not attackable, you can move up to the net and you can really take control.
Make Sure You Aim
Don’t just hit the ball to your opponent’s kitchen and hope it lands in a good spot. You should be intentional about where you want the ball to drop; whether in the corners of the kitchen or in the middle. This requires a lot of practice to get consistent at but it’s totally worth it when you become a master.
Even some of the best pickleball players still find the drop shot quite tricky to execute, so do not get frustrated if you don’t get the hang of it straight away. Keep at it and eventually, you will become a pro. The feeling you will get when you eventually master this shot and start using it to win games is second to none. I hope this article helps you on your journey to becoming a drop-shot king.