There’s No Dinking in Pickleball

Don’t you love that title? There’s no dinking in pickleball. Well the funny thing is, at both the 2017 Bainbridge Cup and the Spanish Open in Madrid, Spain several “confused” European players came up to me asking “where is all this dinking that they’ve heard they need to do?” The American’s were not always dinking which contributed to a handful of perplexed players who were wondering where the heck the soft third shot was. Well, I am here to tell you there is no “have to” third shot. Yes, many people are taught that you HAVE TO DROP YOUR THIRD SHOT – not true!

In tournament play its important to try strategies your opponent doesn’t expect or that may highlight your strength and/or their weaknesses—do what you need to win. This applies to your third shot and beyond. One must remember that the reason you are dinking is to better control the pace of the game while waiting for your opponent to hit a high dink that you can put away. Patience is a big part of the “dink” game. So if your opponent does not dink very well dinking would be a good strategy. On the other hand, if they have trouble with a hard hit ground stroke and return it high then bring on the hard shot so you can finish the point. So, if you can win by banging – then bang away! In the end, it’s more about playing to your strengths and your opponents weaknesses. That said, you still need a great third shot drop and an effective dink to compete—the question is just when to use it.

In one scenario this past weekend, a lady player from England asked me why I didn’t dink much in the finals of the Professional Pickleball Federation (PPF) Open Mixed Doubles. Great question! In that match my partner, the awesome Polish stud – Marcin Rozpedski is one of the best men’s players and he excels at hitting hard. My strength and preference is hitting hard so we went with our strengths to see what happens, adjusting as necessary. In addition, our opponents (Oliver and Irina) are good dinkers so knowing that Marcin and I both have quick reaction to their hard balls, we mostly played that strategy—as did they. In doing so, we took the finals to a third game, which we lost, but we put up a good fight against two great players.

The men’s PPF doubles finals had both a soft game – lots of dinks and hard hits, the winners were Daniel Moore and Marcin Rozpedski. The women’s PPF doubles final was hard hitting by Christine McGrath and Irina Tereschenko powering through. That was their strategy to achieve victory the quickest way possible.

So, to summarize there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG way to play pickleball when you are talking about dropping the third shot or a powerful, driving ground stroke. Again, if you are playing a hard hitter/banger and you prefer the soft game you need to absorb their speed, drop their shot in the kitchen to create a dink or soft game. Your soft game (and patience) will force them to play the game to your strength.

So, there could be no dinking in pickleball – Do what you need to do to win!

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25 comments on “There’s No Dinking in Pickleball”

  1. Jennifer …this is my first time reading your blog even though I’ve seen you play some great PB against other greats on YouTube. I’m really impressed with your writing and thoughts as well. It seems to me though…that even though you said it…”YOU MUST have a reliable 3rd shot drop”… the bangers will use the permission to bang to ignore THAT part of the game…as well as jumping the gun on red zone dinks!
    I actually own a “marcin” blade from Engage with a 1/2 ounce more lead on the tip so by any definition…I am a banger. But I learned as I played against more advanced players that I couldn’t bang from the baseline and win more than 1/2 the points anymore. And reactions to my shorter bangs were quicker and the blocks were more frequent and got me in trouble. I still bang when appropriate…but I now drop most of the time and it works. Still a work in progress.
    I’ve been following the stats being developed from pro mens games and am finding that a typical top 10 matchup features somewhere OVER 80% third shot drops to 20% drives. The lowest stat I saw was 66%. To me…that says it all. For you pro’s …with good deep returns…the 3rd shot drop is generally the most sensible shot to get to the net with and win points. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Great post, it’s easy to get caught up in what you are suppose to do…or the RIGHT way to play- rather than playing the best shot based on the opponent and specific game scenario. Good advice. ..

  3. This sounds so familiar to me. I have always played this type of game and jennifer but never read such tips, I am feeling more motivated to see someone posting things which I apply playing. Great job keep posting!

  4. I’m a newbie but I love to play this pickleball, And I also love to call dinking. Because of its fun and give me the joy to do that.

    One of my friends share me your link and after reading this I’m astonished.

    ITs still thinking that What I have read. But nice way to pull up facts. Appreciate

  5. At first, when I saw the Title I got shocked. That makes me force to open this article. Because I have read so many articles on dinking.

    The thing I like most about your article is that you talk about the strategies facts. Very Rare person actually think in that way, Honestly, You’re the first one for me who talk so in-depth.

    The muster blow is your conclusion. I’m sure it will help lots of players to grow there skill.

    One more thing, I was actually looking for a social media button to share on my social network. Adding this will help many.

    Thank you, keep doing awesome job jennifer…

  6. Love this article! It’s great to finally read something that legitimizes the fact that you can be a power player and still find success. The age old battle between dinkers and bangers lives on! It’s nice to read something about playing to your strengths. Thanks Jennifer!

  7. Great post, it’s easy to get caught up in what you are suppose to do…or the RIGHT way to play- rather than playing the best shot based on the opponent and specific game scenario. Good advice. ..

  8. One of my favorite third shots bridges the gap between the soft dropper and the hard topspin drive, and I use it after a few hard dippers in previous points. I serve and on the return I load up as if going BIG. Instead, I “smooth” my stroke and loft a medium high, off pace looper directly between my two opponents who are both at the kitchen line. The ideal outcome is both players freeze, both assuming the other guy is going to get the ball. The ball then slowly arcs to the back half of the court for a slow speed clean winner. One cannot use this shot very often, and of course sometimes one gets a pickleball sandwich. But when it does work, it is soooo much fun!

  9. In case anyone misses her point, to reiterate what she said, you still need a soft game. It’s not “don’t use the third shot drop”, it’s use what helps you win. Some games, it’ll be a third shot drive. Others, the drop. It’s just playing smart based on your opponents. For instance, you can neutralize a 5.0’s power forehand if you can get him to the net and keep it low—like my partner and I did this morning. If it’s a opponent who can’t handle a rocket drive, then use that. Play smart.

  10. I love this — I, too prefer a “harder” game, however, know that it’s imperative to be able to effect whatever stroke is dictated by the circumstances and my opponents, so I have a soft game as well,. I tire of hearing that there is a right way and a wrong way to play pickleball, where the right way is dinking and the wrong way is ground strokes, or hard hits at the kitchen line. Thanks for an informative article.

  11. I too have been only a 3rd shot dropper but realize that as I move up in skill level, now a 4.5, I need to play more hard shots. Looking forward to receiving more good tips, thanks Jennifer.

  12. Pickleball is changing with more tennis players and younger players joining the sport. It was bound to go this way but it’s just happening faster than I anticipated. The best players can do it all and it’s much more fun to watch.

  13. I think this is great. We play in a small town and have a mix of levels so are adjusting our game constantly. If you are playing people a bit better than you, enjoy the challenge and learn. If you are playing weaker players use it as an opportunity to practise the shots you are weak at….drop shot, dinking, a drive down the line.

  14. Finally! Someone who says “to do what it takes” and not be REQUIRED to follow a set of “rules.” Get to know your opponents. Always best to have a well-rounded game then you can play just about anyone at your level and possibly beyond.

  15. Great blog, I’m maybe a good 3.5 player and when I play “loose” I can skim the net with a power shot with a accuracy of 75 percent and its great fun playing this way but you have to hit the shot hard enough where your opponent fumbles some on the return. To me if you think you can do the shot and dont spend too much time thinking whether you can or cant then you’ll do fine mostly. Unfortunately for me I play with some players who practically insist you do the 3rd drop shot every time. I’ve played for about 4 years and only played “loose” once in all that time and that day was great. We all love to win but it should always be fun too along with improving your game. One odd note, I play pingpong too with some good players( I’m a average player) but one day I did notice my pickleball playing transferred over to pingpong skills as I moved faster yet in pingpong. Dave c

  16. Well argued, Jen. I have heard many times that the “only” way to neutralize the inherent advantage afforded to the returning team by the two bounce rule is to loft a soft, preferably back spinning drop shot into the kitchen to give you and your partner adequate time to get to the kitchen line and “level the playing field.” Well, what if both you and your partner are quick enough to smack a hard top spin ball down the middle and still get to the kitchen line? Which of the two balls is easier to return: a soft, looper that bounces gently in the kitchen or a hard dipping smoker that and your opponents have to work out who’s going to return?

    Finally, variety being the spice of life, why not mix up the soft dropper and the hard banger to keep ‘em guessing?

  17. Jennifer,

    Nice job on subject that needed to be approached! Some players in isolated living communities become very comfortable with the soft game and think that bangers should be castigated. I believe the game is continually changing and that is what makes it so very much fun!

    Thank You,

    Frank Street, Ambassador, Spokane Valley & Liberty Lake Wa.

  18. I love this article, Jennifer! In fact, I am going to print it and carry it in my pickleball bag! I am a former tennis player who lives in The Villages and took up pickleball. There are a lot of bangers here, but every once in a while I play with a partner who questions why I don’t use the third shot drop. I try to explain that it is very difficult to use the third shot drop when someone is returning a bullet to the baseline. Now all I have to say is, “Because Jennifer said it was o.k.!” Haha! Susan

  19. makes sense of course—-too often I and most likely many others just play on autopilot, doing what we usually do without any thought of doing anything different, let alone of thinking strategically. We should be thinking out there instead of just trying to hit winners !

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