A question often asked is how to keep the ball low in Pickleball. While this sounds like an easy thing to do in practice, it is very challenging especially when you are at the kitchen line and a ball is hit at your feet or you have to take the ball on a short hop bounce.
The reason why you want to keep the ball low in Pickleball is so you don’t give your opponent an offensive opportunity. If you hit a high ball to advanced players when they are at the kitchen line, they are often able to end the rally and win the point.
The Angle of Your Paddle Face Matters
At its simplest, the trajectory of a Pickleball depends on where your paddle is facing. If you paddle is angled up, then the ball goes up. Most shots hit in Pickleball require your paddle to be angled up or flat unless you are hitting an overhead. The challenge is how to keep the ball low in Pickleball when you still need to hit it over the net.
In the picture below, the player has her paddle face at a steep angle and she is hitting the ball high. The combination of both these things means the ball will not go low over the net. She could actually even hit slightly downward to make the ball go low over the net.
Take the Ball Early
I was playing with a very strong player a few weeks ago. You could see when he was at the kitchen line, he would reach out as far as he could in front of himself to hit a volley. The motion looked exaggerated. However, it was very effective since he contacted the ball at a higher point so it was easier to keep the ball low during a rally.
Keep the Ball Away from Your Body
If someone hits a ball right at you, it often results in a pop up. In the heat of the battle it seems like you have no time to move into better position. However, even one shuffle step to the side can help you to hit the ball lower over the net.
Contact the Ball in Front of You
Keeping the ball in front of you when you hit it is probably the most important thing to do to keep the ball low. I remember after a match against a very advanced player, he commented that I always hit the ball in front of myself. I don’t consciously think about doing, this but I guess after all of the years playing racquetball it comes naturally. For others, this may not be the case so make a conscious effort to hit the ball in front of yourself.
Check Your Tension
The longer rally goes, the tenser your body is likely to get. The result of this is you may have a death grip on your paddle. This means it is more difficult to hit the ball low and over the net. Tension often results in a player hitting the ball into the net. Try keeping your grip loose throughout the point to keep the ball low and over the net.
Don’t Be Afraid of Hitting the Net With the Ball
I remember playing against a pro tennis player who was just starting to play Pickleball. He had amazing control when hitting dink shots. We got into a long dink rally and I realized he was going to be tough to outlast. So, I hit the ball lower and lower over the net until I was finally clipping the net. Then he started clipping the net. It was a crazy rally that his young legs won. However, what I learned from it is that I could purposefully hit the net and have the ball go over. I still use this strategy when I am really focused and playing well. The ball goes over most of the time as long as I have some pace on it.
Learning how to keep the ball low in Pickleball is a key skill in improving your game. With practice you can learn to hit the ball consistently lower over the net by using some of the above tips.
For more instructional articles on Pickleball, refer to the following posts: