What Is A Drop Shot In Pickleball?

What Is A Drop Shot In Pickleball?

A drop shot in pickleball is a soft shot hit from near the baseline that just makes it over the net and lands in the non-volley zone. Many players believe it is the most important shot in a pickleball game, and the most difficult shot to master.

It requires a “feel” for the ball to hit it from the back of the pickleball court, then drop it just over the net, usually with a back or forward spin. 

It takes a lot of practice to be able to hit a consistent drop shot.

Why Use A Drop Shot?

A drop shot is used for 2 main reasons:

  1. Gives the player time to move to the non-volley line. 

Since most points are scored from the non-volley or kitchen line, it is an advantage to get there as soon as possible. If your opponent hits a hard shot to the back of your court, the higher, arching, drop shot is used to slow down the play when you return the shot, to allow you to move up to the non-volley zone line. 

  1. It forces your opponent to hit the ball up.

A properly executed drop shot will land in your opponent’s non-volley zone and will bounce lower than the height of the net. This means that your opponent will have to hit the ball up to get it over the net. Doing this could give you the possibility to “attack” their return. 

When Would You Use A Drop Shot?

You would use a drop shot when you need time to move from the baseline to the non-volley zone line. It’s usually the serving team that has the first opportunity for a drop shot and that’s when they hit the third shot which is called 3rd shot drop.

Playing from the non-volley zone line is the best positioning since most points are made from there.

A drop shot is used by top pickleball players since it is considered one of the advanced shots.

Beginner players would normally use a third shot drive (a hard shot to the back of the opponent’s court) to allow them enough time to get to the non-volley line.

How To Hit A Proper Drop Shot?

The technique used to hit a drop shot is the same as a dink shot, but the ball needs to be hit harder to make it over the net from the back of the court. Hit low to the ground and upwards while standing towards the baseline.

Here’s the general technique:

  1. The ball is hit low to the ground in an upward trajectory from the back of the court.
  2. The ball should hit its highest point, or apex over your non-volley zone before it starts to descend toward your opponent’s side of the court.
  3. The ball should be aimed to land in your opponent’s non-volley zone, ideally near the net.
  4. While the ball is in the air, players move to the non-volley line since this is the best position to score points.

Drop Shot Placement and Strategies

Generally, the closer you can land a drop shot to the net with the lowest bounce, the more difficult it is for your opponent to return it. 

  • An advanced player may choose to add spin to the shot to change the ball bounce.
  • A top spin (or forward spin) should flatten out the bounce angle while giving a little extra speed to the bounce.
  • A bottom spin (or backspin) should slow the forward bounce or make the ball bounce backward.  

This video shows the various types of pickleball drop shots along with how to perform a well-executed third shot drop. It also demonstrates a simple drill to practice the best way to make these shots.

Drop Shot with No Spin – A Flat Drop Shot

A flat drop shot is a drop shot without spin. It’s the easiest drop shot to learn. Hold the paddle with a light grip for softer contact with the ball.  The paddle should contact the ball with an open paddle face and aim to land in the opponent’s non-volley zone.

  • No additional movement to create spin is required.
  • The ball should reach the apex on your side of the non-volley zone. 
  • If the ball lands in the opponent’s kitchen where the receiving team must hit up, it is considered a good drop shot. 
  • A common mistake is when the ball is hit too high and bounces above the height of the net, potentially giving the opponent a good return shot.
Hitting a drop shot - no spin

Drop Shot with Back Spin – Slice Drop Shots

A slice drop shot is a drop shot with back spin. These shots take a lot of practice to perfect. As with the flat drop, hold the paddle with a light grip pressure. Use a chop motion when the paddle connects with the ball to create back-spin.

  • When the pickleball paddle contacts the ball with a top-down chopping motion, it should roll backward on the face of the paddle causing the backspin.
  • The ball should be aimed to land in the middle of the opponent’s non-volley zone.
  • The apex may be a bit higher on your side of the net than the flat drop shot to ensure the ball makes it over the net while decreasing forward momentum. When properly executed, this can be a very difficult shot to return.  
  • A common mistake is when the ball is hit without a lot of back spin and is too high. Upon landing it could bounce high toward the opponent, potentially giving them the opportunity to hit a good return shot.
Hitting a drop shot with back spin

Drop Shot with Forward Spin – A Top Spin Drop Shot

A top spin drop shot is a drop shot with a forward spin. As with the slice shots, they take much practice, and this is considered the most difficult drop shot to perfect. Connect the paddle with the ball from the bottom upwards and then slightly down.

  • The paddle should be facing forward and slightly down.
  • Essentially, the ball will roll forwards on the face of the paddle causing the forward spin.
  • The apex may be a bit lower on your side of the court than the flat drop shot to because of the forward momentum and spin of the ball.
  • The ball should then be aimed to land in the middle of the opponent’s non-volley zone. With the right amount of forward spin, it could take away the chances of the opponent attacking.   
  • A common mistake is not being in a stable, ready position with paddle in front of your body. Since it is the most technically difficult drop shot, and the least used due to difficulty, a proper setup and follow through will increase your success rate. 
Hitting a drop shot with forward spin

Summary – What Is A Drop Shot In Pickleball?

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful.

If you’re looking to advance your pickleball skills a bit more take a look at this article that describes some of the best pickleball drills that will help you improve your game.

I use many of these drills myself and have found that they’ve helped me improve my game a lot.

And I really like drilling. It’s a nice change from playing a game and I do find the repetitive work helps with the ol’ muscle memory.

And here are a few other articles that have some helpful information for skills improvement:

Check out the USAPA website for some helpful tips on the drop shot.

FAQ – What Is A Drop Shot In Pickleball?

What is the difference between a drop shot and a dink shot?

The difference between a drop shot and a dink shot is where the player stands when making the shot. Both shots land in the opponent’s non-volley zone but a drop shot is made from near the baseline and a dink shot is made from the non-volley zone.

What is the difference between a drop shot and a 3rd shot drop?

The difference between a drop shot and a 3rd shot drop is that a 3rd shot drop is made by the serving team on the third shot of a rally to allow enough time for them to move to their non-volley zone. Both shots should have a slow, high, arc.

What is the return of serve?

The return of serve is the second shot of the rally and is a critical shot for a team to perfect. When the serving team serves the ball, the opponent must be ready to hit a return of serve that makes it difficult for the serving team to hit.

When a team perfects the return of serve, it can be difficult for the serving team to keep earning points and a great way for the receiving team to earn back their serve and start earning points.

What is a third shot drop in pickleball?

A third shot drop in pickleball is the third shot of the rally. The receiver is usually standing close to the baseline when the serving team hits the next shot. The receiver then hits a low ball in a slow moving arc so it lands softly into the non-volley zone.

The top players know that the third shot drop is an essential shot to master and will practice until they have perfected this very important shot.

How do you hit a third shot drop in pickleball?

The receiver is usually standing close to the baseline when the serving team hits the next shot. The receiver then hits a low ball in a slow moving arc so it lands softly into the non-volley zone.