Many new players to pickleball have never heard of this shot, or have and are not familiar with what is means. Well here is your chance to know more about this shot, and why it is a good idea to practice the third shot drop and add it to your skill set. Here are five great things to think about as you use this particular shot in your own game.
1) What is the third shot drop? - Literally, it is the third shot that is hit in a rally. Think of it as the return of the return of serve. It goes like this, the serve is shot #1, the return of serve is shot #2, and the serving team hits shot #3. This shot #3 is considered the third shot. When you hit it as a drop shot and the ball lands right over the net on your opponents side, then you have the third shot drop.
2) Why do you use the third shot drop? - Use this shot when your opponents have beat you to the net and you and your partner need to get up to the net as well. (Read 5 Reasons to Play at the Non-Volley Zone Line, if you are not familiar with why you and your partner need to get to the net.) Dropping the ball just over the net into non-volley zone will allow you, and your partner, time to rush your non-volley zone line, while your opponents wait for the drop shot to bounce in their non-volley zone.
3) When not to use the third shot drop? - Many players use this shot when their opponents are at the base line. This only works if your opponents are not very mobile and are not very good. Otherwise, good players will begin to anticipate this shot AND you are leading your opponents to the net before you. The strategy of winning your pickleball game is to continue to keep your opponents at the base line as you and your partner work your way to non-volley zone line first, take control of the game, and play more offensively.
4) Why is this an effective shot? - When playing good players who reach the non-volley zone line before you do (because you have to wait for the ball to bounce on your side, so your team must stay back) you basically have three shot choices for your opponents waiting thirstily at the net for you. First, is a hard-hit passing shot just below the net. This only works if the team you are playing has a hard time with hard passing shots, otherwise watch out, these balls can come zinging right back at you, and are hard to return. Second, is the lob, and unless you have practiced this shot, your ball is, more often than not, going to go out of bounds or get smashed back at you. So the last shot is the drop shot right over the net into the non-volley zone. This is also a difficult shot to hit if you have not practiced it, but once you get it down, the third shot drop will be a great choice for sticky situations like these.
5) The technique of the third shot drop - Because you and your partner are at the baseline to hit this shot because of the double-bounce rule, you want to make sure the apex of your third shot drop is just over your non-volley zone side so that the ball drops just on the other side of the net in your opponents non-volley zone. You do not want to hit this drop shot like a forehand, which will be to flat and go right to your opponent. You want to keep yourself low to the ground, with your paddle face open and almost lift the ball like you are throwing it underhand with a higher arch so it drops just on the other side of the net. Pickleball 411 has a great video demonstrating this shot and drills to practice to make sure you can successfully implement the third shot drop in a game.
We hope you have a better understanding of the third shot drop, are able to practice this shot, and add it to your set of skills for your next game. Let us know how it goes, we always love to hear from players! Our goal is to make pickleball fun while always learning a little more along the way!