Pickleball Mastery: Advanced Tips for Taking Your Game to the Next Level

As an advanced pickleball player, you’ve developed a solid foundation of skills and strategies. Now it’s time to refine your technique, sharpen your strategic thinking, and explore advanced tactics to truly master the game and unlock your full potential. Pickleball offers a rich tapestry of possibilities for those who want to take their game to the next level. By embracing advanced techniques, strategic thinking, and a relentless pursuit of improvement, you can achieve mastery and stand out as a true pickleball champion.


Advanced Pickleball Techniques: Refining Your Arsenal

Mastering the Dink: Adding Spin, Pace, and Deception

The dink is often referred to as the chess game of pickleball. Unlike power shots that rely on strength, the dink requires precision, finesse, and control. By mastering this technique, you can dominate the pace of the game and keep your opponents guessing.

  • Use of Spin: Incorporate topspin and backspin into your dinks to confuse your opponents. Topspin can make the ball bounce towards the opponent quicker, while backspin can make it die off quickly. This variation will keep them on their toes.
  • Varying Pace: Adjust the pace of your dinks to upset your opponent’s rhythm. Mix soft, floating dinks with quicker, more aggressive ones. This will disrupt their timing and force errors.
  • Deception: Deception is key in advanced pickleball. Look as if you are about to execute a standard dink, then at the last moment, change your paddle angle to send the ball in an unexpected direction. This misdirection can make a significant difference in high-level play.

The Art of the Volley: Combining Power and Finesse

The volley is a critical component of an advanced player’s arsenal. It’s not just about hitting the ball back; it’s about doing so in a way that asserts control over the game.

  • Power with Control: Focus on hitting powerful volleys that stay in bounds. Use your legs to generate power and maintain a solid stance to ensure stability. Pivot from your torso for added strength without losing control.
  • Soft Volleys: Soft volleys serve as a change-up against power shots. A soft, well-placed volley can force your opponent to scramble, thereby creating an opening for a more aggressive follow-up shot.
  • Angles and Placement: Instead of hitting straight back, aim your volleys at sharp angles or target your opponent’s weaker side. An advanced player uses placement to dictate the flow of the game and create winning opportunities.

The Return: Becoming a Master of Response and Counterattack

Returning serves is where the rally often begins and, in advanced play, how you return can set the tone for the entire point.

  • Anticipation: Anticipate your opponent’s serve by reading their body language and paddle position. This helps you prepare your return shot and limits your opponent’s advantage.
  • Variety in Returns: Don’t always return the serve the same way. Mix deep returns with short, angled ones. Incorporate lobs and drives to keep your opponent guessing and off-balance.
  • Counterattacks: Use your return as the initial thrust in your offensive strategy. A well-placed return can push your opponent back, setting you up to take control of the point with your third shot or groundstroke.

The Third Shot Drop: A Deceptive and Effective Play

The third shot drop is often considered the “great equalizer” in pickleball. It transforms defensive positions into offensive opportunities and is a hallmark of advanced play.

  • Precision Execution: Aim for a soft, precise shot that lands just over the net into the non-volley zone (the kitchen). This forces your opponents to hit upward, making it difficult for them to attack.
  • Practice and Consistency: Regularly practice this technique to develop a reliable third shot drop. Start with drills that emphasize accuracy and gradually increase the difficulty by adding movement and different angles.
  • Strategic Use: Use the third shot drop not as a default play but as a strategic weapon. Analyze your opponent’s position and anticipate their response to maximize the impact of this shot.

Strategic Mastery: Outsmarting Your Opponents with Advanced Tactics

Reading Your Opponent’s Body Language: Anticipating Their Shots

Understanding your opponent’s intentions can give you a significant edge. Body language often provides subtle clues about the type of shot they are preparing to hit.

  • Observing Cues: Look at their stance, paddle position, and angle just before they make contact with the ball. These factors can give you an idea of where they are likely to hit.
  • Predicting Patterns: Every player has tendencies and patterns. Observe these throughout the match and use the information to anticipate likely shot selections.
  • Reacting Quickly: Trust your instincts and be prepared to move quickly once you have discerned their intentions. Quick reflexes and readiness can turn anticipation into advantageous positioning.

Creating Opportunities: Using Strategic Positioning and Shot Selection

Strategic positioning and shot selection are the backbone of advanced pickleball strategy. By deliberately placing yourself and your shots, you can dictate the pace and flow of the game.

  • Optimal Positioning: Maintain positioning that allows you to cover most of the court efficiently. At the kitchen line, be prepared to drop back if needed but focus on controlling the net.
  • Shot Variety: Diversify your shots to keep your opponent guessing. Use dinks, volleys, drives, and lobs to mix things up. This unpredictability disrupts their rhythm and forces errors.
  • Creating Angles: Use wide and sharp angles to pull your opponents out of position. This not only creates openings on their side of the court but also forces them to expend more energy.

Adapting to Different Opponents: Mastering a Variety of Play Styles

An advanced player knows that flexibility and adaptability are keys to success against diverse opponents. Whether facing a power hitter or a finesse player, having a versatile approach can make all the difference.

  • Against Power Hitters: Use their power against them by employing softer shots and changing the pace. Focus on placement rather than matching their power.
  • Against Finesse Players: Be prepared for lots of dinks and strategic play. Maintain patience and look for opportunities to finish points with well-timed aggressive shots.
  • Against Balanced Players: Adapt your strategy in real-time by assessing which aspect of their game you can exploit. Mix defensive and offensive tactics to keep them from getting comfortable.

Developing a Doubles Strategy: Communication, Positioning, and Teamwork

In doubles play, teamwork and communication are vital components of a winning strategy. Your ability to work effectively with your partner can significantly enhance your performance.

  • Clear Communication: Always communicate with your partner before, during, and after points. This cohesion ensures you’re both on the same page concerning positioning and shot selection.
  • Positioning: Coordinate your movements so that you cover the court efficiently. Utilize formations like the “stack” to optimize strengths and minimize weaknesses.
  • Teamwork: Commit to a unified strategy that leverages each partner’s strengths. Practice specific drills to improve coordination and understanding between you and your partner.

Pickleball Mindset: Developing a Champion’s Mentality

Confidence and Focus: Believing in Your Abilities

Confidence and focus are crucial attributes for any advanced pickleball player. Believing in your abilities can elevate your game and help you perform at your best under pressure.

  • Building Confidence: Regularly practice your shots and strategies to build muscle memory and confidence. Familiarity with your techniques can instill a sense of assurance during competitive play.
  • Maintaining Focus: Concentrate on the present moment and the shot at hand. Avoid dwelling on past errors or future outcomes. This single-minded focus can greatly enhance your execution and consistency.
  • Positive Self-talk: Use affirmations and positive self-talk to maintain a winning mindset. Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes to stay motivated and confident.

Persistence and Improvement: Never Stop Learning

Advanced pickleball players understand the value of continuous learning and improvement. The journey towards mastery is ongoing, requiring dedication and persistent effort.

  • Consistent Practice: Regular practice is non-negotiable. Focus on specific aspects of your game that need improvement, and set measurable goals to track your progress.
  • Learning from Others: Watch and learn from other advanced players. Analyze their techniques, strategies, and decision-making processes.
  • Embrace Feedback: Be open to receiving feedback from coaches, partners, and even your opponents. Constructive criticism can provide valuable insights into areas where you can improve.

Sportsmanship and Respect: Creating a Positive Atmosphere

Good sportsmanship and respect for fellow players are essential for fostering a positive and enjoyable pickleball environment.

  • Respect: Show respect for your opponents, partners, and officials. Observing these courtesies not only upholds the integrity of the game but also cultivates a positive atmosphere.
  • Positive Attitude: Maintain a positive attitude, regardless of the outcome of the match. Acknowledge good play and encourage others.
  • Community: Be an active and supportive member of the pickleball community. Share your knowledge, encourage new players, and contribute to the growth of the sport.

Common Questions

Is it possible to teach myself advanced pickleball techniques?

Yes, it is possible to teach yourself advanced pickleball techniques. However, it may be beneficial to seek guidance from experienced players or a coach to fine-tune your skills and ensure you’re executing techniques correctly.

What is a “soft volley” and how is it different from a traditional volley?

A “soft volley” is a gentle shot executed with a light touch, aimed at placing the ball softly into the opponent’s court, typically into the kitchen. It contrasts with a traditional volley, which may be hit with greater force and directed deeper into the court to maintain offensive pressure.

What are some of the most important things to focus on when improving my pickleball game?

When improving your pickleball game, focus on:

  • Enhancing your footwork and positioning.
  • Finessing your dinks, volleys, and serves.
  • Developing a solid third shot drop.
  • Strengthening your mental game.
  • Increasing your adaptability and strategic thinking.

How do advanced pickleball strategies differ from those used in other racquet sports?

Advanced pickleball strategies are unique in their emphasis on placement, pace control, and soft shots, such as dinks and drop shots. Unlike other racquet sports that may rely more on power and speed, advanced pickleball often requires a combination of finesse, patience, and tactical positioning.


Pickleball is a game that offers endless opportunities for growth and enjoyment. By embracing advanced techniques, developing a solid strategy, and fostering a positive mindset, you can elevate your game to new heights and experience the full rewards of this dynamic sport. Keep practicing, stay curious, and embrace the challenges of pickleball. The more you learn and improve, the more you’ll appreciate the depth and excitement of this wonderful sport.