One of the keys to playing at higher levels is learning to attack low balls. Why? Because pop ups simply do not happen or occur very rarely at higher levels. In the video below, Jordan Briones and Riley Newman give us some helpful tips for when and how to attack.
Generally, attackable balls are
- shots that peak after the bounce at or above net height
- volleys that you can contact at or above net height
However, you can also attack some balls (whether it’s after the bounce or as a volley) that you contact slightly below the net if
- you are very balanced
- can contact/hit the ball in front
- are confident that you can jam up your opponent and force a reset or miss
- you feel that a counter attack is unlikely
It’s a slippery slope from aggressiveness to recklessness so it is crucial that you are judicious and disciplined when attacking. Rather than attacking every ball like a crazed lunatic, use the criteria listed above as a guide for what to look for and when to attack.
Here are some things to remember if you decide to attack from below the net:
- Do not attack too soon. Experience pickleball players know that patience is a virtue and will wait for the right moment to attack.
- Do not attack when you are off balance. If you are not set up well for the attack or not set up to defend a counter attack, then you should hold off and wait for another opportunity.
- Do not attack if it’s a bad contact point. If you will make contact with the ball late, if you are having to reach (causing you to be off balance), or if you are jammed, considering hitting a safe dink instead. Attacking in any of these situations will only spell trouble for you and your partner.
- Do not go for an outright winner. You will sometimes see openings and hit outright winners but do not expect this to be the result of your attacks 100% of the time. Clean winners do happen, but always expect the ball to come back and be ready for that next (hopefully, finishing) shot.
You might be wondering, if I’m not going for an outright winner, then what am I going for exactly? Rather than going for an opening (which sometimes do not present themselves because at the higher levels the players do a very good job of covering the court and ensuring there are no holes), look to attack the opponent’s weakness. Going for the right shoulder or right hip of the player directly across from you is usually a good target because it can jam up even the best players.
You may end up hitting a winning shot but you aren’t looking for a winner. You are looking for weak reset or cause a pop up that will allow you to hit an even better attack or perhaps the finishing shot.
The “sniper” drill that Riley and Jordan demonstrate in the video is a great way to practice attacking low balls and developing fast reaction times for the “firefights” that ensue. As with any drill, you can gamify this to make it less monotonous by playing to a specific number of points (e.g. first to reach 7 or 11 points wins). Attacking low balls is an important skill to develop if you’re playing at higher levels. I hope that this article and the video above helps to improve your game. Until next time, see you on the pickleball courts!