Pickleball is easy to play but hard to master! It is a sport with so many nuisances that despite potentially coming from another racquet sport can make it challenging to get some wins on the board.
Despite having an extensive squash and tennis background there were certain strategic elements I really struggled to get my head around the first few times I played. Below I want to give you 3 tips to help you feel more confident on the court and start to develop your own playing style. The below list is by no means extensive and I am sure many avid players would prioritise other aspects of the game however from my experience these made the biggest improvements in my game.
How do I approach the kitchen after I serve? There are so many different ways to do this and it's worth mentioning that the tactics used in singles vs doubles are completely different. A lot of players told me about the "third shot drop" and whilst the concept is simple (after serving make your next shot land in or as close to the kitchen as possible to give you time to approach), the reality is it is extremely difficult to hit. Furthermore, unless you get a weak return off your serve it's a very low-percentage shot. Over time you will improve your feel and control and be able to execute the third shot drop when needed however as a player starting out don't feel it's the only option. A good drive or slice always beats a mediocre third-shot drop and often it will set you up with an opportunity to come into the kitchen on your next shot.
Don't try and put every ball away when in the kitchen. One of the most disheartening things for a new player is throwing away a golden opportunity. Too often I see players take massive swings at the kitchen line only for the ball to go into the net or out of court. Often applying pressure (moving the ball around) and limiting your mistakes is one of the best long-term strategies. The team or player who makes less errors is often going to come out the victor, so instead of trying to be ultra-aggressive at the kitchen prioritise placement and moving your opponents out of position over going for outright winners.
Play your way in. Momentum is a huge deal in Pickleball. The scoring system can make it extremely challenging once you fall behind and so every point needs to be treated with the utmost care. By being a touch more conservative with your shot choice and margin for error you force your opponent to beat you. A player who makes minimal errors and is consistently putting pressure on their opponent is extremely hard to beat.
The above points are by no means an exhaustive list and each of them could be their own post however I hope these tips and tricks help you get a few more wins in your next game.