Mastering the All-Important Third Shot Drop in Pickleball


If you’re familiar with pickleball, you’ve likely heard of the third shot drop. This crucial shot can be a game-changer, yet many players struggle to execute it effectively or understand its significance. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned player, mastering the third shot drop can elevate your game and provide a strategic edge.

Understanding the Third Shot Drop

What Is the Third Shot Drop?

The third shot drop is a strategic shot executed after the serve and the return of serve, hence its name. The goal is to hit a soft, arching shot that lands in your opponent’s kitchen (the non-volley zone), thereby neutralizing their advantage and setting up your team for a more controlled rally near the net.

Why Is It So Important?

The third shot drop is pivotal for the serving team, which is often positioned near the baseline after the serve and return. In contrast, the receiving team has likely advanced closer to the net. A well-executed third shot drop allows the serving team to approach the net, leveling the playing field and making it harder for opponents to execute aggressive volleys or smashes. This shot shifts the momentum, giving your team a better chance to control the rally and, ultimately, win the point.

The Mechanics of the Third Shot Drop

How to Execute the Third Shot Drop

Mastering the third shot drop requires practice and precision. Think of it as a “long dink,” a shot that requires finesse and control. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you perfect this essential skill:

  1. Start with the Basics: Ensure you’re consistent with your close-range dink shots before attempting the third shot drop. This foundational skill is crucial for success.
  2. Gradual Progression: Begin by practicing your dink shots from the kitchen line. As you become more comfortable, gradually move back a few steps until you reach the baseline.
  3. Focus on Form: Get low to the ground and maintain this position throughout the shot. Avoid the temptation to rush forward, as this can compromise your form and the shot’s effectiveness.
  4. Power and Follow-Through: Unlike a short dink, the third shot drop requires more power and a smooth follow-through. Aim for a high arc that lands softly in the opponent’s kitchen, making it difficult for them to attack.

For a visual demonstration, check out this video tutorial that breaks down the mechanics of the third shot drop.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like any skill in pickleball, the third shot drop requires consistent practice. The more you incorporate this shot into your game, the more proficient you’ll become. Here are some tips to enhance your practice sessions:

  • Drill with a Partner: Practice the third shot drop with a partner who can return the ball consistently, allowing you to focus on your form and technique.
  • Use Targets: Place cones or markers in the kitchen area to aim for, helping you develop accuracy and control.
  • Simulate Game Scenarios: Incorporate the third shot drop into practice games to simulate real match conditions and improve your decision-making skills.

Final Thoughts

The third shot drop is a vital component of advanced pickleball strategy. By mastering this shot, you can effectively neutralize your opponent’s advantage, control the pace of the game, and increase your chances of winning rallies. Remember, practice and consistency are key. Dedicate time to honing this skill, and you’ll see significant improvements in your overall gameplay.


1. What is the third shot drop in pickleball?

The third shot drop is a strategic shot executed after the serve and return, designed to land softly in the opponent’s kitchen, allowing the serving team to approach the net and control the rally.

2. Why is the third shot drop important?

The third shot drop is crucial because it helps the serving team neutralize the receiving team’s advantage, allowing them to approach the net and control the pace of the game.

3. How can I improve my third shot drop?

Consistent practice is key. Start with close-range dink shots, gradually move back to the baseline, and focus on maintaining proper form and follow-through.

4. What are some common mistakes to avoid when executing the third shot drop?

Common mistakes include rushing forward too quickly, not getting low enough, and failing to apply enough power and follow-through. Focus on maintaining proper form and control.

5. Are there any drills to help practice the third shot drop?

Yes, practice with a partner, use targets in the kitchen area, and simulate game scenarios to improve your accuracy and decision-making skills.

By incorporating these tips and dedicating time to practice, you’ll master the third shot drop and elevate your pickleball game to new heights.

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Written by Billy Pickles

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