How to Get to the Pickleball Kitchen Line Fast and Why

Est. Reading: 5 minutes

If you're new to pickleball but have been watching some games, you probably heard some spectators shouting, "Get into the kitchen line!" No, they're not telling the players to cook or get some food. I know my joke sounds corny, but it's true.

You see, the kitchen is the most exciting area in a pickleball court. It's also the main difference between pickleball and other paddle sports. In today's guide, you will learn why you must get into the kitchen line and how to do it as quickly as possible.

What is the Pickleball Kitchen?

The standard pickleball court measures 20 x 44 feet (6.10 x 13.41 m). The "kitchen" is the slang term for the non-volley zone (NVZ), which is 14 x 20 feet and in the middle of the court. The pickleball net divides the NVZ into two, meaning each side of the court is 7 feet. For complete details, check out our Pickleball Court Guide.

Basic Kitchen Rules

As the name suggests, the non-volley zone means that volleying is not allowed in this area. So, if you're in the kitchen and kitchen line, you should let the ball bounce before hitting it. Otherwise, you'll be committing a fault. If you want to volley, get out of the kitchen. Except for volleying, you do anything while you're in the non-volley zone.

Note that the kitchen rules also apply to any item that touches the player, including the paddle, apparel, the teammate in doubles, and the player's momentum. The rules define momentum as the motion that causes the player to continue moving into the kitchen after hitting the ball. You can also read our Pickleball Kitchen Rules Guide.

Why is Getting Into the Kitchen Line Very Important?

While you can be in the kitchen when not volleying, staying long there is not a good idea. If you do, your opponent might smash the ball, and you'll not be able to return it. In the worst scenario, the ball may hit you, which is also a fault based on the rules.

So, the best area to stay is just beyond the kitchen line. But why not at the baseline or the transition zone? First, most rallies are won at the kitchen line. Second, this is the area where you can take offensive and defensive shots efficiently. Here's why:

Safest Area on Return Shots 

If you're at the baseline, you may not be able to return the ball if your opponent is dinking. On the other hand, being in the transition zone (the area between the baseline and kitchen line) is dangerous if you don't know how to reset the ball, especially when playing against bangers. Simply put, the kitchen line is the safest area to defend the ball.

Wider Angle When Taking Shots

If you're at the kitchen line, your coverage angle will be wider than at the baseline. The wider the angle, the more difficult it is for your opponent to return your shots. You can also take deceptive shots here, especially when playing in singles. Therefore, being closer to the net pressures your opponent to commit unforced errors.

Pushing your Opponents Back

Your opponents like to stay at the kitchen line, just like you. Therefore, one of the best offensive approaches is to push them back. You might want to make the ball land on their feet to do this. However, this strategy can be challenging if you're not at the kitchen line. When playing in doubles, stacking can also help push your opponents back.

How to Get to the Kitchen Line Quickly

Now that you know the importance of getting into the kitchen line, the next step is doing it as quickly as possible. Well, you may be fast enough, but your opponent can be faster. Therefore, the key here is to make them move slower. Here's what you can do: 

#1 Hit a Deep Return of Serve

The deeper your return of serve is, the longer the ball will travel. Therefore, you may be able to go to the kitchen line faster than your opponent. Also, remember the 2-bounce rule, which states that the server should wait for the ball to bounce before the third shot. You can also use this rule to your advantage as you rush to the non-volley zone line.

#2 Keep Your Third Drop Shot Low 

The third shot drop is a variation of the third shot, where you target your opponent's non-volley zone. However, make sure it's not too high. Otherwise, your opponent can easily hit a volley. If done correctly, you can get to the NVZ line without rushing. If you find it quite challenging to master, here are our Third Shot Drop Tips that can help you.

#3 Hit a Third Shot Drive

As mentioned above, keeping a drop shot low is a bit challenging to master, whether it's a third or fifth shot. If your opponent is good at adding spin, a drop shot becomes more difficult. Therefore, an option to force your opponent to back off is a third shot drive. Hitting a powerful drive is also better than a drop shot if the weather is windy.

#4 Don't Hit While Moving

Since you want to get into the NVZ line quickly, you might think taking a shot while moving is a good idea. If you do, you might generate extra power as you hit the ball or a high drop shot. So, instead of multitasking, focus on the incoming ball and analyze how to hit it correctly. This can also help you maintain balance while moving.

Basic Kitchen Line Tips

I've talked about the importance of getting into the kitchen line since the start. The question now is, what should you do next? You can go on with the different strategies you have learned so far. But before doing so, here are some essential tips:

Stop Immediately

Stop immediately once you reach the kitchen line. Don't run to avoid letting your momentum take you to the non-volley zone. Instead, think of it as a jogging exercise or a fast walkathon. This "rushing" technique needs some practice to perfect, though.

Spilt Step

Split stepping is part of being in a ready position. It's done by hopping slightly and landing on the balls of your feet. This way, you are more prepared to move in any direction. Make sure to do the split step before your opponent hits the ball.

Avoid Moving Backward

Your opponent will force you to move back from the NVZ line. To avoid this, place your paddle up at 10 or 11 o'clock to block the incoming ball easily. If there's a chance, engage in a dink battle and prepare to launch an attack.

Final Thoughts

Getting to the kitchen line quickly can be scary, even for intermediate players. This strategy requires proper footwork and mental readiness; mastering it requires much practice. If you're going to a game, it will be easier to master if you play in doubles and have a more experienced partner. 

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