Tactical Play: Unveiling Your Opponents’ Weaknesses in Pickleball


When we step onto the pickleball court as recreational players, our primary goals are to have fun, stay active, and enjoy the company of fellow players. However, let’s be honest, winning against a formidable opponent is undeniably satisfying.

In a recent interview with Shea Underwood, an aspiring professional, I discovered two key strategies that can significantly improve your chances of success on the court: understanding the purpose behind your shots in different situations and developing a systematic approach to identifying your opponents’ weaknesses.

Understanding Shot Selection: The Power of Purpose

To effectively exploit your opponents’ weaknesses, you must first comprehend the rationale behind your shot selection in various situations. Consider the example of hitting a cross-court dink to your opponent. When senior pro John Sperling posed this question to Shea, he initially struggled to provide a clear answer. Shea admitted, “He asked me, Shea, why do you hit cross-court dinks? And it just stumped me. I mean, that’s the right shot, right?

I hit that shot because it’s an angle.” However, Shea soon realized that the primary reason for hitting a cross-court dink is to create an advantageous positioning for yourself. By pulling your opponent wide, your partner can cover the line, allowing you to move towards the middle of the court. This forces your opponent to make a difficult decision between attempting a challenging down-the-line shot or risking a pop-up to you in the middle.

Developing a Systematic Approach: Uncovering Weaknesses

Once you grasp the purpose behind your shots, it’s time to develop a systematic approach for identifying your opponents’ weaknesses. If you frequently play against the same individuals, you may already have a sense of their vulnerabilities.

For example, Sally struggles with low, hard returns with plenty of slice, while George has a weak backhand and lacks consistency in his dinking. However, the real challenge arises when facing new opponents, as you may have limited information about their weaknesses during the warm-up phase. In such situations, it is crucial to have a system in place to gather insights and target their weaknesses effectively.

Here’s how you can implement a systematic approach during the game:

  • Observe the Backhand: Try placing dinks specifically to your opponent’s backhand. Even if they manage to return the shot without an error, pay attention to their comfort level. Do they appear at ease or slightly strained? This observation can provide valuable information about their weaker side.
  • Test the Lob: Early in the game, hit a well-executed lob and observe how the opposing team responds. Can they confidently hit an overhead winner, or do they struggle to reach the back of the court and resort to a drop shot? This test can reveal their ability to handle lobs effectively.

By employing a systematic approach to identify weaknesses during the game, you increase your chances of winning more points and ultimately securing victory in the game or match.

Remember, the key to success lies in understanding the purpose behind your shots and implementing a systematic approach to uncover your opponents’ weaknesses. By honing these skills, you can elevate your pickleball game to new heights and enjoy a competitive edge over your adversaries. So, step onto the court with confidence, strategize intelligently, and revel in the thrill of outsmarting your opponents.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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