The Art of the Third Shot Drop: Mastering the Various Techniques


In the world of pickleball, we often encounter players who possess a powerful and aggressive style of play. These individuals, often former tennis players, are accustomed to hitting the ball hard from the baseline or just behind the kitchen line. However, if you find yourself facing opponents who consistently hit the ball hard from the non-volley zone line, it may indicate that you are placing the ball too high over the net. To counter their pace and regain control of the game, it is essential to master the art of the third shot drop.

Understanding the Different Variations of the Third Shot Drop

While many players tend to categorize all third shot drops as the same, it is important to recognize that there are various flavors to this technique. Let’s explore some of the different types:

  1. The Dipper: This variation involves adding a significant amount of topspin to the third shot drop. The topspin causes the ball to dip quickly after crossing the net, making it challenging for your opponent to return.
  2. The Hairpin Drop: With the hairpin drop, the ball bounces near the net on your opponent’s side of the court, making it difficult for them to reach and return the shot effectively.
  3. The Side Spin: By coming around the side of the ball, you can generate side spin on your third shot drop. This can be executed in either an inside-out or outside-in manner, adding an element of unpredictability to your shot.
  4. The Under Spin: The under spin third shot drop involves keeping the ball low and using backspin to control the shot. This technique forces your opponent to hit up on the ball, limiting their offensive options.
  5. The Block: Unlike the other variations, the block does not involve a swinging motion. Instead, it focuses on redirecting the incoming shot with a controlled and precise block.

Understanding these different types of third shot drops allows you to choose the most suitable technique for any given situation on the court.

The Strategic Application of the Third Shot Drop

Knowing when to utilize a specific type of third shot drop is crucial for maximizing its effectiveness. Here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Blocking: If the second shot from your opponent is deep in the court and carries a significant amount of pace and spin, a simple block is often the most efficient response.
  2. Top Spin Drop: When your opponent’s shot has considerable pace but lands short in the court, it is necessary to lift the ball and execute a top spin third shot drop. This technique allows you to maintain control while keeping the ball low and close to the net.
  3. Hairpin Drop: If your opponent hits a softer shot towards you, it presents an ideal opportunity to execute a hairpin drop. The hairpin drop offers better control, allowing you to place the ball shallow in the court and make it difficult for your opponent to counterattack.

By understanding the different scenarios and selecting the appropriate type of third shot drop, you can regain control of the game and neutralize the aggressive play of your opponents.


Mastering the art of the third shot drop is essential for any pickleball player looking to elevate their game. By recognizing the various flavors of this technique, such as the dipper, hairpin drop, side spin, under spin, and block, you can strategically choose the most effective shot for each situation.

Remember, the ultimate goal of the third shot drop is to place the ball in a position that forces your opponent to hit up on the ball, limiting their offensive capabilities. So, the next time you find yourself facing hard-hitting opponents, confidently employ one of these techniques and take control of the game.

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Written by Billy Pickles

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