Pickleball Strategy - The Dink Shot
What is the Dink Shot?
The dink shot is a soft and controlled shot that is intended to move downward shortly after it clears the net, landing in the no-volley zone (ideally at your opponents feet). This slow moving shot can be an effective weapon that you should strongly consider adding to your game. The dink shot is heavily utilized by many of the best pickleball players in the game.
Why use the Dink Shot?
You will win more points! The dink is especially useful against overly aggressive players. Because the dink is a slow/low shot, the natural tendency in the return is to hit it upward - that way the return can clear and return over the net. If an opponent wants to play the power game they will often hit the return of the dink out or in the net - it is very hard to hit a low/slow shot upward with power and accuracy.
The best return of a dink is quite often another dink. Patience is key with the dink shot - stay steady and wait for your opponent to make an unforced error or set you up for a smash. In basic terms, if you can't hit down on the ball do so with force. If you can't hit down on the ball you'll likely want to utilize a dink shot.
In some circles (especially among former tennis players) dinking gets a negative rap. Some see it as a crutch for players who can't really hit and rally - instead preferring to wait for their opponent to make an unforced error. We disagree with this point of view. In reality this is a shot that takes skill and practice and when utilized properly can lead to more success for pickleballers.
When to use the Dink Shot?
Generally the play progresses as follows:
Shot #1: Serve.
Shot #2: Return of serve (often returned back to serving team deep and down the middle or towards weaker player). Usually the receiving team will then charge to the net.
Shot #3: Drop shot. Given the receiving team will likely be up at the net, the serving team will try to drop the ball in the kitchen to equalize the play. The serving will try to come to the net after a successfully executed third shot drop. (Note if your opponents are not at the net, the drop shot is not the optimal shot. Instead keep them deep. You never want to bring your opponents to the net!)
Shot #4: Dink shot. If the serving team properly executes a drop and is now up at the net, the dink shot is a great shot to utilize. If you go for a power return on a great drop shot you'll often find the ball coming back at you faster than you sent it out! Tough to win many points like that. Instead try the dink shot.
Shot #5: If shot #4 was a well executed dink, shot #5 is a good spot to use another dink.
Shot #6+: Work in the dink shot as appropriate. Usually you want to go cross court and ideally to the backhand of your opponent. If you can successful drive the ball (ideally at the feet of your opponent) you should take advantage of the opportunity. You don't want to use a dink shot when you can instead crush a winner!
Utilizing the dink shot can be a great neutralizer. And if you're better at dinking that your opponents they will often recognize this and go for a power shot when it may not be warranted. Often they'll make an error in that case. After all, it's no fun getting into a prolonged dinking battle with players who can out-dink you! These players are often prone to take more chances.
Less talented dinkers may also pop up a dink (we all do this, even the pros!). If you get a popped up dink and can hit down on the ball with force, take advantage of that opportunity and go for the winner. You don't want to keep dinking away if your opponents give you a juicy pop up where you can win the point. You'll often need to hit a number of soft/dink shots until the opportunity presents itself to unleash a power shot!
Just Dink It!
The dink shot is so important in playing winning pickleball. Next game or practice try hitting a few well placed dinks into the kitchen. You'll be amazed how perfecting this shot can take your pickleball game to new heights. Happy Pickleballing!