Pickleball is a fast-paced sport that requires players to be quick on their feet and have a solid strategy for attacking their opponent. Five years ago, you could dink your way to a national championship.
Not anymore. Attacking is imperative in the modern pickleball era. You will not attack every shot let alone every point, but it's time to get better at attacking when the time is right.
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But, it's good to be capable and prepared to attack whenever you think it's the right time.
With a better attacking arsenal, you will not feel like you're always on the defensive, waiting for your opponent to make a mistake. You will not feel like you're up against the firing squad.
It's time to take the offensive and learn some effective attack strategies for pickleball. It's to look at offense as a key puzzle piece rather than an added bonus. Consider yourself an attacker from now on.
In this article, we'll go over five useful tips to help you become a more balanced and offensive pickleball player. So, grab your paddles and get ready to shake up your game!
Best attacking tips for pickleball:
Speed up the ball using wrist flicks
One effective way to attack in pickleball is to speed up the ball using a wrist flick. This can be done off the bounce or in the air.
Just like it sounds: This technique involves using your wrist to add extra spin and pace to the ball. Since the paddle and ball both don't weigh much, you can do small compact swings and really add a lot of pop using your wrist right before contact.
Because your wrist does the heavy lifting, your shot will be tough to gauge both in direction and speed. You will not give away information with your backswing. There is disguise.
You can reach further to the side and forward, because a flick doesn't require a backswing. Just flick your wrist forward and upwards right before and while making contact with the ball. This will generate the added speed and spin, allowing a harder and aggressive shot.
Punch or "poke" a ball in the air
Another way to attack in pickleball is to punch a dink in the air. This concept involves reaching forward and contacting a ball out in front of you before it bounces.
You will then punch the ball forward, often at the opponent.
Because you don't let it bounce, you are not being dictate by the ball. You hold your ground.
Also, the opponent now has less time to adjust and react, because you're hitting the ball back immediately, even before a bounce.
One added bonus: If you do this often enough, your opponent may make more errors trying to keep their shots lower and lower. Offense will keep opponents wary and tentative.
Make contact with the ball at its highest possible point (that you can reach) and use a quick punching motion to send the ball forward. You can redirect the ball in any direction, following through out at the person or area you are targeting.
You can use some wrist action in this shot too, forward and upward, to generate topspin. The more topspin it has, the higher and harder you can hit the shot without it going out long.
Target their dominant side ("chicken wing")
Targeting your opponent's dominant shoulder is another effective offensive strategy in pickleball. By hitting the ball to their dominant side, you can force them to hit a "chicken wing" shot, which is a weak and awkward shot that makes it difficult for them to control the ball.
Most players find a backhand block to be a natural motion. We often block backhand when the ball comes squarely right at us. We also block backhand when it's to our backhand side.
But sometimes players wait neutral. Or they even wait backhand. As in, they have a backhand ready. And they can really counterattack backhands well.
And this is not necessarily a mistake by them, as they can hit some great shots. But it's an inefficiency or an imbalance we can exploit.
If they wait backhand, we can attack their dominant side and get their paddle crossed up.
Aim your shots towards the opponent's dominant shoulder, forcing them to reach back across their body and hit a weak shot. They may even hit with the wrong side of the paddle.
Tip: Try to hit the ball soft enough that if they leave it, it will stay in and won't sail long.
Tip: Try to keep your backswing compact so they are caught off-guard.
Tip: This can be done with both a forehand and a backhand of yours.
Try it out. If they hit a nice forehand block, then you know they are ready to block their dominant side. Maybe they got chicken-winged one too many times and are not going to take it anymore!
None to worry, just keep it in mind for the next attack, perhaps to their backhand, or down the middle away from them. As long as you mix it up, they can't guess correctly as easily.
Down the middle or attack the body?
This is the million dollar question in pickleball: Where to attack.
Where you attack also helps dictate when to attack.
You won't attack the same place every time. You won't even attack the same place every time the same situation comes up.
You may have a certain backswing on a certain ball that you place either at the opponent OR away from them. Like a soccer goalkeeper on a penalty kick, they will either have to wait and react, or better yet, guess.
Attacking the middle involves hitting shots directly between the two opponents, forcing them to communicate beforehand and in the moment, and hopefully causing confusion.
Attacking the body is self-explanatory. It is tough to block one's body, and players will have to always be concerned that you'll attack them.
Choosing which one to use depends on your opponent's playing style. But most likely, you'll be mixing it up and balancing between the two anyways.
Make opponents prove they can defend themselves.
When attacking an opponent, look to hit it at their dominant-side hip or shoulder. It is very hard to block this side due to the limitations of our wrist and elbow.
Hence you will sometimes catch the opponent in a "chicken wing" where their elbow and arm are up, bent weirdly, and it's just hard for them to make good contact on the ball.
If an opponent really blocks an attack back well, consider that they may have been "camped out" on your shot. Perhaps you telegraphed it.
Try to envision your backswing and how you look when preparing to attack. Practice hitting varying shots with the same backswing. Use some wrist flick to disguise your backswing.
By using techniques such as wrist flicks, air punches, and targeted shots, you can gain an advantage over your opponents in the arena of attacking.
By attacking more, you will put pressure on your opponents to either attack more themselves or defend better. Neither is easy, and you will be tougher to play against.