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Pickleball Strategy: Topspin or Backspin Third Shots?

Curious to learn more about the third shot drop? In this guide, we discuss the pros and cons of hitting the drop shot with topspin or backspin. Each can be useful. Let's dive right in.

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One of the most important shots in pickleball is the drop shot, hitting the ball softly over the net so that it barely clears it, and lands just inside the opponent's kitchen.

The drop shot is quite similar to the dink, just with more distance and more options!

But what's better, topspin or backspin?

Which is more 'correct'?

The reality: Neither topspin or backspin is always right, and each can be used. Get comfortable with and make use of both. Let's take a look at the pros and cons.

drop shot pickleball shot

Backspin Drop Shot:

The backspin drop shot involves hitting the ball with a backspin, which causes the ball to spin backwards as it travels over the net.

This entails a compact swing that brushes under the ball. It's a touch shot, more of a push or a lift than a full-on swing. More like golf putting or chipping than driving.

One advantage of a backspin drop shot is that it can make the ball's bounce remain low after it lands. The backspin can make the ball skid, hugging the ground.

This would make it difficult for the opponent to reach down or in and hit the ball in the air. It makes your shot harder to attack or return at all.

However, one of the main disadvantages of a backspin drop shot is that the ball can tend to soar up off the paddle. This can happen if your swing is too vertical, or if your paddle face is tilted too far upward. Be careful not to float your shots up too high.

If the opponent has enough reach, they may be able to hit the ball before it drops down, and hit a tough shot back at you.

Topspin Drop Shot:

The topspin drop shot causes the ball to spin forwards and downwards as it travels.

Your swing will be in a 'down to up' direction, brushing against the back and top of the ball. Though you may swing hard, this shot is still a touch shot.

You need to aim a bit higher than you think, as the spin will bring the ball back down. This shot is easy to miss into the net without making such an adjustment.

One key advantage of a topspin shot is the ball will 'jump' off the bounce. Opponents may be forced backwards if they let your drop shot bounce.

Another advantage is you can disguise this shot by mixing it in with flat, powerful drives. For further insight on hard shots, check out: Complete Guide on Aggressive Pickleball.

The topspin drop shot can be useful in situations where the opponent is a bit back from the kitchen line, as you can drop the ball down onto their feet. The topspin drop shot is also good for players who wish to naturally swing harder. The topspin brings the ball back down.

Which drop shot is more effective?

Neither backspin nor topspin drop shot is necessarily more effective than the other.

Both shots have their pros and cons, and the best shot to use depends on the situation, your opponent's weaknesses, where they are positioned, and how tough the ball is coming at you.

Both shots can be landed right on their feet. Both shots can be accurate.

The topspin may involve a longer, harder swing. You can swing pretty hard with topspin. The backspin might feel more like a push or a lift. This will feel like a gentle shot.

Third shot drops summary:

Hitting a drop shot with either backspin or topspin can be effective in pickleball, and neither is more correct than the other.

A developing player (newer players should consider these paddles) may be better off working on the backspin drop shots from both forehand and backhand sides first, as they resemble basic dink technique.

Then, as that becomes comfortable, branch out into hitting more topspin.

With practice, you can get quicker at deciding which one to use in a real game setting. When doing drills, alternate between the two.

Over time, your drop shot will become a valuable weapon! Share this with your pickleball partner if you'd like them to start hitting drop shots more effectively!


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