Pickleball Return of Serve is just as important as the serve and like the serve, serves a function. (Isn’t the English language funny sometimes.) Your game strategy intention is (should be) to get to the net and to do that a reliable good return of serve would be deep and ideally to the weakest point of the receiver or best considered position on the court .
A good return of serve particularly for a beginner would be a soft looping shot aimed to land on the backhand side of the server close to the centerline “T”. This may and often does confuse the players as to who will take the shot and also keeps the opposition long.
SIDE NOTE for new players to the game: Remember the second bounce rule – (it needs to bounce twice before it can be volleyed) – once bounce from the serve and one bounce from the return of serve. If the return of serve is a slow long lob, it gives you that bit more time to get to the kitchen line.
Of course if one of your opponents is weaker than the other or you have the opportunity through a poor serve to create a better pickleball return of serve shot, then do so as you see fit. Remember the function or strategy in your return of serve shot is to get you to the net. Net play is statistically where you will win most points. If you can get there before your opposition and then you can keep them long, your chances of winning the point are raised dramatically.
Your second option is to apply a degree of difficulty to your return of serve. This can be done in many ways as you increase your skill level and ultimate player rating so as to be able to achieve the main objective in your return of serve while maintaining the desired consistency of keeping the ball in play.
As stated, a better pickleball return of serve shot then depends on what the opposition’s weakness is. For many players this is their backhand so for a right handed receiver on the right side of court, your return ideally should be long and to the left of the centre line just enough to not only try to confuse who might hit the return but to also target the servers back hand enough to have them play or put player two out of ideal position should they take the shot.
Should the right handed serving player be left of court you could choose between two obvious choices being long and to the servers left corner court attacking their back hand or to the left of centerline still attacking the partner #2 backhand. Obviously the more mobile the server, the less this could be an advantage.
The option to attack the player #2 backhand is open at any time but one could argue that the non-serving player is set ready to receive a return – in not having to serve first.
The value of a good deep well placed return of serve is highlighted almost every time you are standing at the kitchen line waiting for that long shot only to see it land short and centre court. You suddenly go from being in aggressive control of the game into submissive retreat and often directly into point lost. Middle and above rated players will simply punch this gift ball away to any part of the court, to your feet or in-fact directly at you and you end up with a pickleball tattoo.
(A pickleball tattoo is when you eat pickleball from a close distance). Remember – this is a tactical shot – there is no SORRY in pickleball.
However, more advance players can employ more advanced stroke play in their returns which introduces the elements of pace, spin both left and right, sideline and centerline shots which combine a number of elements together like pace and spin or drive and drift. The more variety you show the opposition players the more variety you can employ and subsequent doubt of any certainty of your return. Variety in your game and stroke play is a great positive attribute to your game play.
However- the absolute first priority with your Pickleball Return of Serve is to get you to the net – with your partner of course. When you can produce a reliable shot to do this on a consistent and regular bases and are able to switch between a slow long lofted return to a shot that has a bit of heat on it regularly, you can then up the ante of your game and winning streak.
One should understand at the outset however, there is only one way to get better at any shot be it a serve, a return of serve, an overhead lob or any other shot and it all centres on your grip.
The best Pickleball paddle grip is way more contentious than it should be and with a little understanding as to why the right grip is better than the ‘other/s’ will see an improvement in anyone’s game. Learn the Pickleball Paddle Grip to Use For All Stroke Play (link)
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