This post is building upon my last post, Five Reasons To Play at the Non-Volley Zone Line. Now that you are familiar with why it is great to play at the non-volley zone line, what do you do once you are there? I have had many new players to the game ask me this very question. These six basic shots will break down the options that you have when playing at or near the non-volley zone line.
1) Dink Shot - This is a soft shot intended to arch right over the net and land within the non-volley zone. This is the most underutilized shot with beginner players and a great shot to practice and master when playing more skilled players. You will find quickly that this shot will become your best friend. By using this shot you have more control of the game by changing the pace and using the many angles and placements against your opponent. The goal is to get your opponent to hit the ball upwards to set you up for the Smash and winning point. You may dink back and forth a few times for this to happen. Be patient and practice, you will see how this one shot will improve your game immensely.
2) Drop Shot Volley - This is a volley shot that is designed to take the speed off of the ball and return it short, close to the net, to your opponent who is at or near the baseline. The drop shot volley also works wonders when playing hard-hitting opponents when you want to change the pace of the ball and gain control of the game. Then follow this shot up with your new amazing dink shot!
3) Overhead Smash – This is one of our favorite shots! Hence the name Smash Pickleball. This is a hard, overhand shot used on a high-return or a lob that went wrong. You will increase your percentage of winning points on the smash shot from the non-volley zone, versus other places on the court. Smashing this shot down the middle is a good bet. When you begin to play better players this shot will be less and less effective as good players can dig out a smash shot.
4) Half Volley – This is a groundstroke shot where you hit the ball immediately after it bounces from the court. This shot is usually taken a couple steps behind the base line and is used to dig out the smash shot I just referred to and is a great defensive shot as you are playing at the non-volley zone line and need to adjust because of an "oops" ball that you or your teammate set-up in the air for your opponents to take advantage of.
5) Passing Shot – This is a volley or groundstroke shot that is aimed away from your opponent so they cannot reach it, like down the line. You are looking for a winning shot here. Your priority is to make sure you are taking shots that make it over the net and into the court. Once you get better at controlling the ball, the passing shot can get you that down the line winner. This shot is a good option to have when the time is right and you see that gaping whole on your opponents court.
6) Lob – This is a shot that returns the ball as high and deep as possible, forcing your opponents back to the baseline. I only recommend the lob shot if you know how to effectively hit this shot, if not, this shot can go terribly wrong and you are setting yourself up to get smashed. This shot is good in a dinking back and forth game when your opponents momentum keeps moving them almost over the non-volley zone line and you may catch them leaning forward and off guard for a lob. The lob is also a good shot if you are reaching for an angle shot near the net that is hard to get to and you don't have control over your shot to dink it back over low to avoid the smash. The lob will give you time to get back into position and get ready for your next shot. I would not recommend this shot when playing very good players, they will most likely smash your lobs.
The next time you find yourself at the non-volley zone line, give these shots a try and see how they work for you. Having the knowledge of these additional shots in your repertoire will build your confidence as you continue through your pickleball journey and make playing pickleball even more enjoyable.
Let us know what other shots you like when playing at the non-volley zone line!