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Guide to Timing Your “Erne” Shots Better

You may have heard of the Erne shot. Let's learn how to do one yourself.

You may have seen Lee Whitwell or Tyler Loong hit one in a pro match. Perhaps you have tried one yourself!

Well, now it's time for you to understand the shot better, so you know how and when to do it. Because most likely in the past, your timing was off when you tried it.

Also, not all Erne's are the same. And a lot of players make the mistake of going for Erne's somewhat at random. The timing of your Erne depends on the goal.

So here's a secret not often discussed:

erne pickleball shot

The goal of an Erne is to hit the ball...sometimes.

But not always!

What? Sounds confusing, right? Why would you Erne if you don't plan to hit a shot?

Let's introduce two distinct reasons why a player should go for an Erne. And yes, one of them involves actively not intending to hit a shot.

Done right, these two Erne motives combined can add a tough element to your game, since you take away one of the safest places for the opponent to hit a ball. They now have to be worried about hitting a soft shot directly forward.

So what's the difference between the two?

All Erne's fall into one and only one of these two purposes.

Being able to decide which one mid-point is difficult, but you must try!

It will help you determine the timing of your Erne if you decide the purpose of your shot. Some Erne's are meant as a surprise. And some are a fake-out. It's relatively simple.

Two reasons to go for an Erne:

One, to sneak attack, meet the ball near net, and hit it.

The timing of this shot is aimed at ambushing the opponent in front of you.

You should wait as long as you can until the moment they make contact, then hop the kitchen corner to get outside next to the court, ready to intercept the ball near the net.

If you wait long enough, you will get more of these chances, because they will not expect you to sneak. This shot works really well when you are receiving more balls than your partner.

If you try this a lot and they never seem to feed you chances, you might be leaving your spot too early. Try to jump the corner right before they hit. Look for their eyes to look down, too.

For this shot, you want them hit the ball forward.

Once you sense they will, you can make your move, and try to time the ball near the net.

A few signs to look for when deciding when to try, include: An opponent putting their head down to look at ball (and thus not keeping an eye out on you), or an opponent who is moving towards the sideline and closes off their body, so they must hit the ball forward (if they go diagonal anyways, your partner can deal with it!).

The second type of Erne actually aims to telegraph your movement and influence the ball away from you, off to the other side.

This is the subtle and nuanced version of the same shot.

The timing of this shot actually coaxes the opponent in front of you to hit the ball elsewhere.

So you should make the move earlier, early enough that the opponent sees you. Once you creep the corner, they will often adjust and hit the ball away and across the court.

You are giving away that you are going to jump, hoping to convince them to change their mind and hit the ball elsewhere! You will force more errors, and take pressure off you.

If they don't adjust, you can just hit the Erne!

The two purposes of this Erne are to make an opponent change their mind, causing errors, and to take some "heat" off of you by convincing them to hit the ball to your partner.

You often see this version of the Erne in mixed pro doubles, with Lindsey Newman and Jessie Irvine being top pros who perform this tactic masterfully.

Summary of the two types of Erne shots:

You will go for these two variations of Erne's at various moments in a game.

Sometimes you will want to ambush them and try to win a sneaky point. They might make errors by trying to keep the ball low. They might also not notice you, and you can smash it!

Other times, you may want to actually show the Erne look and see if it distracts the opponent and makes them change their mind on a shot selection. You may cause them to make errors.

Realize that when discussing "leaving early" or "waiting to the last second," the difference is a matter of split-seconds. It is extremely subtle. So don't go way, way too early.

Also don't leave way too late after they hit the ball, or you won't accomplish either purpose.

But for an ambush, try to leave right before they make contact. And for a diversion, try to leave an extended beat or two before, giving them enough time to change their mind.

Erne attempts can serve different purposes.

Not all Erne's have the same purpose. Hence you won't time all Erne's the same.

Decide if your purpose is to sneak them or to divert them. Time your move accordingly.

You will find, if done correctly and in good balance, you can really mess with the opponent.

Erne advice for developing players

For newer players, try out the diversion form of Erne more to begin. Try to just mix it in once in a while. Just creep. Do it early. Make them see you, and think about it. Head games.

Throw it in when the player in front of you is dealing with a decently tough ball. Just jump early and see if it messes up their shot or makes them change their mind.

If they fail to make an adjustment, they may just feed you an Erne. No problem either way!

When you feel comfortable throwing in the diversion Erne, try the ambush Erne once in a while. Tougher timing because you actually are hoping to get and hit the shot.

Bottom line about the Erne shot

It takes practice! You'll mess up sometimes. But see if you can work it into your game.

One caveat for the Erne is to let your partner know in advance that you might go for it sometimes. They need to know to cover the middle if you vacate and go outside.

Otherwise, good luck with the Erne. It's a tricky, fun tool to have at your disposal!


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