Pickleball Third Shot Drop Tips for Advanced Beginners

Est. Reading: 4 minutes

Some experienced pickleball players might argue that the third shot drop is not for beginners. Well, I beg to disagree. If a beginner can already adapt to the sport, I think we can call them advanced beginners. If you’re among them and aiming to be an intermediate player, this guide is for you.

Doing a 3rd shot drop seems easy, but it’s more complicated than you think. This is why it’s not for someone barely new to pickleball. But if you have successfully served the ball, returned it, and did some dink shots, there’s no reason you cannot master the third drop shot. So, let’s dive in!

What is the Third Shot Drop in Pickleball?

The first shot in pickleball is the serve, while the second shot is the return of serve. Therefore, the third shot comes from the serving player or team. At this point, your opponent will likely be near the non-volley zone, and you can now do the third drop shot. Technically, this strategy is a specific kind of third shot and can be very effective.

What is the Purpose of the Third Drop Shot?

Like the third shot drive, the 3rd drop shot is usually done by the server from near or at the baseline. But this time, you should hit the ball softly, let it fly high, and bounce it on your opponent’s kitchen. Although you’re on the serving team, after the return of serve, your opponent can go near the kitchen ahead of you.

Since the ball is high and slow, you have enough time to get near the kitchen line before your opponent returns the ball. Therefore, the main purpose of the third shot drop is to reduce your opponent's advantage while increasing yours. At this point, the odds of winning the rally become equal for you and your opponent, both in singles and doubles.

How to Hit a Successful Third Shot Drop

Again, the third shot drop is not for complete beginners and may take weeks (or even months) to master. You’ll understand why after trying the tips below. 

Be on a ‘Ready’ Position

The ‘ready’ position is standard in every shot you make, except when serving. Have your back straight, bend your knees a little, spread your legs wide enough, and hold your paddle in front of you. But instead of holding it up, keep it a bit lower in front of your foot so the ball's trajectory will be higher once you hit it. As the ball approaches you, move your non-dominant foot a bit backward to have a better chance of success.

Loosen Your Grip

Again, the goal of the 3rd drop shot is to make the ball on your opponent’s kitchen. If you hold your paddle tightly, the incoming ball will bounce strong and may land beyond the kitchen once you hit it. On the other hand, loosening your grip helps in letting the ball land in the right spot. Make sense, right? Hence, you should know how to measure your paddle grip size. If you don’t know how, read our Paddle Grip Size Guide.

Push, Not Strike

Pushing the ball instead of striking it also helps prevent it from landing beyond the non-volley zone. To do this, keep your elbow close to your body before hitting the ball. Don’t use your forearm, elbow, and wrist while moving your paddle while the ball is coming towards you. Instead, use your arms and shoulders as if you’re going to lift something. Straighten your knees slightly and relax your arm to control the ball’s flight.

Swing Less, No Spin

The more swing you do, the faster the ball goes. Well, this is helpful if you’re going for a 3rd shot drive. But since you’re going for a drop shot, you need to swing less. One way to do this is not to put spin while hitting the ball. Otherwise, the flight path of the ball will go in different directions. If you’re lucky enough, the ball will touch the net and land on your opponent’s kitchen. However, more likely, it will drop on your side. Rally lost!

Watch the Apex

I must tell you, this is the hardest part of doing the 3rd shot drop. The apex is the highest point of the ball as it goes upward. Ideally, it should be 2-3 feet high. The apex should be over your kitchen to ensure the ball lands in the opposite kitchen. If it’s too short, the ball will likely land just before the net, and you will lose the rally. On the other hand, your opponent can smash the ball if the apex is over the net or farther.

Don’t Run Forward at the Same Time

This is a common mistake most beginners make, and sometimes, even experienced ones. If you run toward the kitchen while hitting your 3rd drop shot, you’ll lose control over your swing, and the ball will land farther than you planned. Therefore, you should run forward only after hitting the ball and while it’s still up in the air. And when you do, make sure to control your momentum and watch your opponent on what he plans to do.

Final Thoughts

Although the serving team always makes the 3rd drop shot, it’s a defensive tactic and a preparation to attack. It means that the best way to master it is to practice with an experienced player who can be your receiver. Here, repeat the tips above over and over until you master the apex on your side. Using a forehand for a third shot drop is more common than a backhand, but it’s better to master both. More importantly, be patient. 

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Reading

Go To Blog
About Us
Picklepow started when a group of friends came together over a shared bond – Pickleball! After playing for years, they created a resource to teach others and connect them to courts across the country. Need a new hobby? You might've just found it!
© 2024 Picklepow – All Rights Reserved
Affiliate Disclaimer
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram