The 4th shot is probably one of the most underrated shots in all of pickleball. Everyone talks about never missing the return of serve. Well, duh! If you miss your return then you lose a point and who wants that? There’s also so much that has been written and said about the 3rd shot and how it is the most important shot of all. Today, I figured we could focus on the 4th shot because it doesn’t really get talked about a lot.
The 4th shot is super important because it can mean ending the rally and earning that sideout, and it is also crucial for setting the stage for that rally and constructing the point. If you’re mainly a banger, then you probably don’t need to read the rest of this but, if you want to play pickleball the way it was meant to be played, then the concept of point construction will matter to you. Read on.
At the point of the 4th shot, you and your partner have the advantage (assuming you have any kind of mobility and you followed your return of serve in to the non-volley zone — aka NVZ — like you are supposed to) because you are both already at the NVZ line. You have several options.
- If the opposing team hits a good 3rd shot drop, you can hit a dink (a soft shot that lands in the NVZ area).
- If they hit a drive, then you can punch the ball back deep and keep the opposing team on the defensive.
- If they give you a yum-yum (this is what my friend Greta class those high balls and the best scenario of all), then you can hit an overhead smash winner and attempt to end the rally right then. Remember Chris Heck’s #1 rule: Don’t miss!
When playing pickleball, nothing drives me more crazy than a missed opportunity. But I get it. Things are happening very fast and it’s hard to make those split-second decisions (good ones) in the heat of play. Trust me. I make my fair share of bad decisions when playing (but this is why I look for drills and seek advice to get better).
Here is a drill that will help you make 4th shot decisions easier during play. In the video, they have three people performing the drill but this drill can easily be done with two people as well.
With three people, you’ll have a single person at the NVZ line (this is the person working on their 4th shot decision making) and two people on the opposite side: one person at the baseline (this will be the person driving or dropping the ball) and then another person at the NVZ line on the other half of the court to dink the ball back to the person on the other side of the court who is working on their 4th shot (this is probably the most passive and my least favorite role of all in this drill but you can rotate to make sure no one gets stuck with the boring job). After a predetermined amount of time, rotate roles so that everyone gets a chance to work on their 4th shot decisions.
With only two people, there is no designated dinker, so you could either (a) have the baseline person come in when they hit a good 3rd shot and finish the rally at the NVZ or (b) come in and just catch the ball and start over (basically re-feed). I tend to get bored easily so I actually prefer to do this drill with just two people. And when I am not the person at the NVZ working on my 4th shot, I use it as an opportunity to work on my drive (which I absolutely positively suck at) and my soft reset drop shot into the NVZ when someone punches or smashes the ball at me. Interestingly enough, this soft reset shot has started to become my signature, specialty shot. I don’t know when it happened but I’ve found that I do it a lot when I’m playing.
But I digress… Here is a video of the 4th shot drill I just described courtesy of Pickleball Magazine. Enjoy!