What Is The Most Difficult Shot In Pickleball?

There are many shots and movements involved in pickleball, but the pinnacle move that will take you to the next level and is also the most difficult to master is the one we shall examine today. This is because it deals with being strategic in its execution and is tricky to get the hang of; therefore, let us come to the question, “What is the most difficult shot in pickleball?”

The drop shot, or the third drop shot, is the most difficult in pickleball for most players. This shot is precise and far more gentle than some others. The third drop shot aims to equalize your opponents’ advantage regarding positioning, to drop the ball in their non-volley zone.

This is a highly advanced shot even though it may sound simple in theory and can definitely aid in giving you a leg up on your opponent. What follows is an in-depth read of the third drop shot, why it is so complex, its purpose, and how to execute it. If you are, say, a 3.0 level player, learning this shot and mastering its execution could rank you up and have you tournament ready.

What Is Considered The Most Difficult Shot In Pickleball?

If you want to better your skills and hopefully rank as a 4.0 or 5.0 player, then this shot, the third drop shot, is one of the critical elements that will help you gain a consistent upper hand on your opponent(s). However, you will need to practice this technique to remain ahead of the game.

The shot can be tricky because if you hit it too hard, you may deliver a gorgeous lob that your opponent will relish and take full advantage of. If you hit it too gently, you risk having the ball collide with the net – losing you the serve or allowing the opposing side to gain a point. So there is a minute margin for error with this particular shot.  

The third drop shot is named as it is because this is the point in the game when it is typically made use of; on the third shot of the game, where you were on the serving side. It will place your opponent(s) in a predicament and offer you the chance to transition to the kitchen line (just before the non-volley zone).

How Do You Execute The Third Drop Shot?

You have to watch your timing with this shot as it all comes down to ensuring that the pickleball is at the right height when you strike it. You also want to make sure that you have positioned yourself comfortably enough to allow for ease of play.

  • First, allow the shot from your opponent to bounce and only be prepared to hit it once it begins to descend following the bounce – this is the recommended strike zone.
  • Then, be sure that you do not “carry” the ball or double hit it, but rather push or “bowl” the ball. You want to sort of guide the ball and not strike it vigorously.
  • Allow your non-dominant foot to take a step forward during the motion to ensure enough forward momentum on the ball.
  • Note: when striking, ensure your paddle face is vertical and not facing up in any way, as you want the ball to drop just over the net, and turning the paddle to face upward, will counter the point of this strike.

Why Is Learning The Drop Shot So Important?

A well-played drop shot allows you to gain control of the net and it slows play down so that you can realign yourself if need be. Thus the two primary reasons for mastering the drop shot are to equip you to receive a return shot that you can capitalize on, and you want to force your player to a point where they make a critical error.

They are likely to play a softer shot and at an upward motion, as they need to get under the ball after it bounces once in the kitchen. Due to your more gentle delivery, the ball will likely not bounce very high, and therefore, the return shot will set you nicely for that attack ball.

Being in the kitchen is the prime spot in pickleball and where you want to dominate; here, you stand the best chance of scoring points or serves. Some would even say that the team that can maintain their position at the net is most likely to win the game. As far as the third drop shot goes, this gives you the ability to traverse the court and reach that critical space.

What Is The Purpose Of The Third Drop Shot?

Whenever a fast shot is delivered to you, one thing you want to try and do is to take the pace off of it and cause it to drop in your opponent(s) non-volley zone. This is why the drop shot is crucial to learn in general (not just on the third shot). Knowing how to execute the drop shot will be highly advantageous if you are at the net and your opponent hits a fastball your way.

The drop shot also helps to equalize things in a game, and if your opponent has any positional advantage over you, then this is the shot to try and execute. However, you’ll need to commit to it and ensure that you pull it off correctly, as you do not want the contrary to occur. While the other team or player is scrambling to play the ball, you can use this as a chance to advance.

When You Ought To Utilize The Drop Shot

So we know the why and the how, but what about the when? The ideal time to utilize a drop shot is when your partner and yourself are at the baseline and would like to progress to the front of the court and get to the kitchen line. That is why it is often referred to as the third drop shot, as you will have just served and need to wait for the ball to be returned, and then you can press forward.

Therefore you are far more likely to use a drop shot when you are on the serving team; however, this is not always the case. Thus, you may find that the return shots from your opponent(s) are deep returns, and therefore you may need to wait for a few shots to pass before you are adequately prepared to play that drop shot, which will allow you to gain the advantage.

Other Tough Shots Worth Adding To Your Pickleball Arsenal

There are various shots in pickleball, and we wish that we could cover all of them, but below you shall find a few that are also somewhat challenging but can be highly effective if executed correctly.

The Dink Shot

Sometimes, people confuse a dink and what is classified as a drop shot, which is because their primary purpose and how they are played are highly similar. The dink is performed at the non-volley zone, while a drop shot is played from the back half or baseline.

Like the drop shot, a dink is slower and has less power driving it than other shots. The dink, though, is played at the kitchen, and it is intended to drop down just after passing the net and is in your opponent(s) kitchen. They are then required to let the ball bounce once before they are allowed to play it, and this often results in them hitting an upward shot.

You can make things interesting by alternating playing the shot to the other players’ back and forehand; this way, you will find out which side they are more adept at returning. Find their weaker side and then continue to place pressure there.

The Cross-Court Dink

This brings us to the next shot, which is very similar; the cross-court dink. This is where you play a dink as you usually would, but then you play it to the opposite side of your opponents’ court. This one is challenging to learn and master, though, but if you manage to pull it off correctly, it has the potential to be immensely effective.

The primary reason people struggle with the cross-court dink as opposed to the regular dink is that the ball needs to travel almost twice the distance, yet you still need to play it soft enough so that it drops over as you desire. Therefore you need to gauge how much power and drive you put behind the ball.

Mixing up between dinks and cross-court dinks is an excellent way to surprise your opponent(s), especially if you continuously play the one and then, now and then, catch them off guard once they settle in to expect the one or the other.

The Dink Fake

So we have covered the dink and the cross-court dink, but there is another trick that we can put up our sleeve, which is something known as a dink fake. This is a fantastic shot to play; however, it is slightly tricky to get the hang of.

To set up the shot, position yourself in a manner that appears that you will perform a dink (you will need to learn how to do this first) and then switch things up. Instead of playing the dink, or even a cross-court dink, you will drive the semi-high ball (usually the best shot to do this to).

There are two considerations you will need to make before executing this shot, though, and these are that the ball you are receiving has been played high enough to drive it, and secondly, you need to know how to apply topspin to the ball.

The height of the ball when you hit it is essential, as you do not wish to drive it into the net, and the topspin is to get it curving over the net but not passing the baseline. It is a quick and hasty change up and one that will come with practice – you may fail dismally the first few times you give it a try, but over time it will become a valuable component in your toolbox. 

The Block Shot

So we have delved into the drop shot and various others, including touching on the drive, but how does one defend against a hard shot from the opposing team? Well, that is where the block shot comes into play and is vital for us to learn and get used to performing it well, as it will save us some serious headaches.

A drive from your opponent is usually done to send you to the back half of the court and struggle to get the ball back over the net to them in time before it potentially bounces and goes out of the play area. You will appreciate this shot because it is not too complex or challenging to get the hang of; in reality, it is pretty simple.

All you need to do to play a block shot is to put your paddle out in front of you and play the shot in a backhand movement. We say “movement”, but really all you are going to do is let the ball strike your paddle and have its momentum reverse and return to your opponents’ side of the court.

Whatever you do, though, do not include a swinging motion as you are likely to play the ball upwards, and this will set the other team up for a kill shot. Instead, allow the ball to simply bounce back over the net and fall flat into their kitchen. This will act much like a drop shot, as they will have a hard time returning the ball in a desirable fashion.


If you place your (third) drop shot correctly, you will have the chance to advance toward the kitchen line, but you will also put your opponent(s) in a predicament where they must ensure the ball bounces once in their non-volley zone. They will then more than likely hit the ball in an upward movement, resulting in a perfect attack ball for you to capitalize on.

This shot can be very tricky to get the hang of and even more complicated when it comes to knowing how and when to use it, but with time and patience, if you are willing to practice, you can ultimately become a master of the drop shot. We hope you enjoyed this informative read and feel enthusiastic about trying out more complex shots.


Similar Posts