Third Shot Drop
Please Explain

Third Shot Drop  - Should you play it and when and if not why not?

What is the third shot drop of pickleball, when should you use it and what are your options. Here we discuss a walk through with images.

The Third Shot Drop – what is it? Well the 1, 2 and 3 bit is easy 

1) The first shot is the Serve

2) The second shot is the Return of Serve

3) The third shot is (the drop) or is it?

The drop refers to (hitting) ‘dropping’ the ball just over the net into the opposition’s kitchen. Why has this been ingrained to us as the shot to execute in the past?

You have to remember that a ‘normal’ pickleball strategy is (and rapidly becoming was – past tense) to play safe and get your serve in. The second shot is or was similarly played with preference to a looping slow long shot aimed centre and long.

Hit it to the backhand side of the "T". - This gives you more time to get yourself (along with your partner) up to the net. 

Third Shot Drop

Now think about this.

If you are about to hit the third shot, 2 players are now at the net (or ideally should be) and you are about to hit their return of serve – (ie the third shot) quite probably from behind the base line.

You have two options:

Option 1) Put a hard and fast return down the line or between the two players at the net.

This is most often a low percentage shot because of your distance from the net and two opposition players making a formidable wall at the kitchen line.

This type of shot could be expected to be returned either short into the kitchen for a probable winner as you are still very likely near the base line or it is fired long back to you requiring you to try again with the same likely outcome which eventually leads to you losing the point.     

Option 2) Drop a slow shot into the kitchen

When you are faced with 2 players at the net, your other option is to drop it in the kitchen which ideally then gives you the time to get to the kitchen line.

The ideal drop will stay low enough to discourage an attacking shot and dictate that a dink is the return shot of choice. Your slow dinking game then starts just waiting for the opportunity to put a poor shot away or an opposition unforced error wins you the point.     

Enter a Third Shot Drop Option

What if your serve (the first shot) puts great pressure on the oppositions return of serve (the second shot) by perhaps being long and fast with added spin and it lands in their backhand corner of the court.

This type of serve increases the likely hood that the second shot is returned less than perfect, perhaps it lands too close to centre middle court and will not give the return of service player the time and opportunity to get to the net leaving them positioned long on the court by sensible default. 

So what type of 3rd shot should be played now?

Remember the traditional 3rd shot is used so that you have the time and opportunity to get to the net but if you are hitting their second shot (above) from close to centre court, with a 3rd shot drop that lands in the kitchen it enables the opposing side an opportunity to get up to the kitchen exactly where you don’t want them. Hence, your third shot should be anything but a drop into the kitchen. 

You want to keep them long!

When a player is long, keep them long! The exact direction that you hit it long to will be dependent on the actions of the player at the net. If they stay put you need to go to the back left of the court to keep it as clear of the net player as possible.

Just be aware of a poach move by them in which case you would possibly hit another option. If the net player backs up due to the 2nd shot providing an overhead slam option, you might opt to place it somewhere long down the centre line.

They then have to at first get to it to hit it and also work out how they will get to the net. Third shot drop, drive, lob... what?

We all know that dropping a ball perfectly into the kitchen increases in difficulty when you add distance from the net and increase the pressure.

However if you have not played this set-up perfectly you might find that it is you yourself that is still long and if their 4th shot is long, it is you that then has to work out how to get to the net and this is likely to require you to play a 5th shot drop.

Remember, pickleball is overwhelmingly won from the net and rarely from the rear of the court so the sooner you get there and the later the opposition does the more likely you are to win the point.

In the end it means that you play a ball on its merit and play to a game plan and strategy. Your 3rd shot can be a drop or a drive, (rarely anything else like a lob) but if player is long then keep them long and get to the kitchen line to control the play to win the point from what is the best winning position on the court as soon as you can.

So let's close out this third shot drop page with a quick demonstration video of the proper execution of it - for when you do decide to use it.  

The drop shot is a shot that we must all learn to play as is the lob shot. The pickleball lob shot played correctly at the right time is just as important as any other shot in the book. Lobs can be offensive to win or defensive in trying to save or set up a point to win. Learn more about the pickleball lob shot.

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More about Pickleball | Pickleball Video | How to play Pickleball | Pickleball Technique | Pickleball games | Play Pickleball | Pickleball Lob Shot |

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