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Pickleball Strategy Insights

ALTA pickleball players

How to select the best shot when at the non-volley-zone 

By Casey Kay, Assistant Director of Racquet Sports, Piedmont Driving Club

When all four players are at the non-volley-zone (also known as “the kitchen”) during a doubles match, knowing the best shot to play is essential. Due to the rules about play in this zone, there is a good amount of strategy surrounding shot selection and ball placement.

Knowing the three zones and the importance of contact height
In pickleball, there are three, different zones which are determined by the height of your contact point with the ball.

  • Red Zone – When you contact the ball below the net or below your knees.
  • Yellow Zone – When you contact the ball around net height or between your knees and waist.
  • Green Zone – When you contact the ball above the net or above your waist.

Shot selection
The best shot for you to play is determined by which zone the ball is hit from. If the ball is in the:

  • Red zone – Almost always dink and look to be patient.
  • Yellow zone – You have two main options: speed-up or dink.
  • Green zone – Look to attack and put the ball away!
  • Traditionally, the red and green zones require less decision-making than the yellow zone.

Navigating the yellow zone
When the ball is in the yellow zone, it can be tricky to know exactly which shot to go for. Generally, you have two main options:

  1. Dink – A dink is a soft shot back at your opponents’ feet. You can use cross-court dinks to be more aggressive in forcing a pop up from your opponent.
  2. Speed Up – A speed up is when you add pace to the ball without necessarily going for a winner.

Hitting a speed-up shot takes time away from your opponent and puts them in an uncomfortable position. The goal of this shot is to generate a green zone shot that is easier for you to put away. A great target to aim for is right at someone or more specifically their dominant hand-side hip or shoulder.

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