How to Master the Art of Returning a Pickleball Serve: Advanced Strategies Unveiled


Have you ever wondered where the best place to return a pickleball serve is? It may not be where you think. Many players instinctively aim to return the ball down the middle, believing it will create confusion among the serving team. However, this strategy isn’t always the most effective, as it gives your opponent the perfect angle to hit a powerful third shot. So, where should you actually aim your return?

According to senior professional John Sperling and Coach Russell Elefterion, both of whom I recently interviewed on the Pickleball Fire podcast, the ideal return should go straight to the player standing directly in front of you.

This advanced strategy may be unfamiliar to you, but it offers several advantages. By hitting to the player in front of you, your partner can cover the middle, while you position yourself for a potential third shot down the line. But what about the cross-court shot angled short in the court? Well, if your opponent manages to execute that shot, you should applaud them for pulling off one of the most challenging shots in the game.

The reality is that most players cannot consistently hit this shot, and those who can are likely in the top 10% or 15% of all players.

Now that you know where to aim your return, the next question is how deep or shallow should it be? If your opponents are agile and move well, it’s advisable to hit deep into the court. In fact, the deeper, the better, as long as you can consistently keep the ball in play.

Remember, the team that makes the fewest errors often emerges victorious. However, if your opponent is slower to react or doesn’t move as swiftly, you can mix things up by occasionally hitting shorter returns. This forces your opponent to rush forward, increasing the likelihood of errors such as hitting the ball into the net or sending it out of bounds due to the combination of movement and shot execution.

Regardless of whether you opt for a deep or short return, incorporating some slice into your shots can be highly beneficial. Slice shots keep the ball low, putting pressure on your opponent to either hit into the net or send a high, defensive shot over the net, which sets you up for an offensive opportunity.

Now it’s time to put this advanced strategy to the test. Give it a try and aim your serve return straight in front of you. Observe how this approach can enhance your game and provide you with a competitive edge. Remember, pickleball is a game of strategy and precision, and mastering the art of returning serves is a crucial component of success on the court. So, step up your game and unleash the power of the well-placed return.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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