If you have spent much time on the Pickleball court, you probably played against someone called a “banger”. According to Pickleball pro Helle Sparre, a banger is someone who drives the ball hard in situations where there are better alternatives. The most common time bangers hit the ball hard is when they are on the serving team and back at the baseline. The receiving team, on the other hand, should be at the kitchen line. So, it is the receiving team who bears the brunt of the banger hitting the ball hard.
Beating Bangers: Beginning and Intermediate Strategy
The question then is how do you beat bangers at the beginning and intermediate levels as this style of play can often be a winning strategy? First, you need to know the hard shot is coming to you. If a player is taking a large backswing from the baseline, it will be a hard shot. If your opponent has a history of hitting hard balls then it is likely you will get another one since they have a one-dimensional game.
Once you know a hard drive is coming at you as the receiving team, you need to make sure you are ready to return the hard shot. The best way to do this is to be at the kitchen line and prepare to hit a backhand. Helle said, “You need to shield yourself and think of a backhand. So backhand covers a lot of the body. 80% of your body can be covered with a backhand.” When preparing to hit the backhand, be sure to keep your paddle up. If your paddle is too low, then you will be hitting up on the ball, and it may fly out of the court. Keep your paddle high, and do not get too low in your stance. Ideally, you want to hit down on the ball.
The backhand you hit should be a punch volley so the ball lands near the kitchen line and stays low. You want to make sure you do not hit the ball so deep in the court that the banger can volley it. The shot you hit ideally should be one you hit straight in front of you rather than cross-court because you give the banging team less time to react.
Beating Bangers: Advanced Strategy
As you move up in skill level to the 4.0 level or above, you do have some other shots you can hit against bangers. One thing you can do when hitting down on the ball when doing a punch volley is to tilt the face of your paddle up a bit to cut the ball. It will also help to keep the ball low. Another alternative is to hit a soft shot in the kitchen. However, Helle does not recommend this for lower-level players as the ball will likely go too high and allow the opponent to attack.
Playing against bangers can be scary at first because of the pace of the ball. However, you are in control as the receiving team because both players are at the net. Just be sure to hit a punch volley that stays low. If the banger runs forward to hit another hard shot, it is likely going out of the court. If it is high, let it fly.