As pickleball grows in popularity, more and more people are looking for ways to get involved. Of course, any new game may seem challenging to those who have never played it before. However, pickleball is one of the easiest games to pick up and play. Once you have learned the basic rules, the process unfolds as it should. One of the most common questions that is asked about pickleball is centered around the successful return of a lob. Knowing how to return a lob in pickleball is the skill that will unlock the rest of the game for you. Having a hard time chasing the lobs down? Are you and your teammates constantly frustrated because you don’t know how to successfully return a lob in pickleball?
If so, this guide is here to help.
Let’s take a closer look at the successful return of a lob, so you can turn your defeats into victories.
Getting Back to Basics
In order to successfully return lobs, you need to be getting back to the basics. After all, you have to crawl before you can walk, right? Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that does not have a simple answer. You are going to have to find your way and get a feel for how to play. The right combination of patience and practice is going to take even the most inexperienced pickleball player a long way.
On the other hand, that does not mean that there are not any tips and pointers to be offered here. There are a few principles that can be applied that will go a long way towards improving your game.
What Are These Principles?
It all starts by understanding your partner and how they prefer to play. Those who do not have a strong understanding of their partner’s responsibilities are not going to have the same success as those who do.
The team that is lobbing wants to sow lots of discord between the other team. It is in their best interests for you and your partner to remain as confused as possible. By eliminating that confusion, you will go a long way towards combating whatever is lobbed your way. Here’s what you and your partner need to be discussing:
Who Should Return the Lob?
For the sake of conservation, let’s just assume that both players are of the same level of experience and agility. Baseline and sideline lobs should obviously be returned by the player that is closer to the action. Otherwise, their partner is going to be left to cover a lot of space within a short period of time. This sets up for an easier return for the opponent.
If the lob is played in the middle of the court, the player who has the easiest path to the lob should be returning it. If one partner is forced to run straight back to get to it, this will also create an easier return shot for the other team. Meanwhile, the partner with a diagonal path is the one who should be making the return.
Lobs that land in the middle with an equal distance between the players should be retrieved by whoever can make a forehand return. Forehand shots are always easier. Partners should also switch sides as needed, so that the opponents are not left with an opening to exploit on their return shot.
The Importance of Footwork
Once both partners have gotten the hang of how to play with one another, the importance of footwork is also sure to come into play. The most crucial thing to remember has to do with backpedaling. It needs to be avoided at all costs. When you are backpedaling, you could trip and fall. This is how serious injuries happen.
Let’s say that the ball has been lobbed over the right shoulder. There is an easy method to use here. Use the left foot to pivot, while opening up your hips to the right. This puts you in perfect position to hit the drop shot. If the ball has lobbed over the left shoulder, you can simply reverse these directions.
Your hips should always be opened in the direction of the ball. Sprint forward, never backward. There is no reason to run in a straight line towards the ball. The objective is simple: you want to beat the ball to the spot and predict where it is going to land before it actually has a chance to. This gives you all of the room that you need to create a proper return shot.
What Are The Best Options For a Return Shot?
There are so many options to choose from and this makes it hard for players to make the right choice during the tense moments of a closely contested match. The more that you know about the following options, the easier it will be to choose the one that is right for you.
Splitting The Difference
We’ll start with the one that causes the most problems for pickleball players. What happens when you have your back to the net but you still need to make that return shot? The solution is a “simple” one. You can hit the ball between your legs. This is not a shot that should be attempted by anyone who does not have full confidence. It’s very difficult to pull off.
These shots are also very tough to land in an effective manner. In a best case scenario, you want to have the chance to reset yourself. Otherwise, chaos will ensue. Yes, experienced players can land these shots anyway but they are not recommended to beginners or intermediate players. It’s the least effective choice out of these options, save for the aforementioned between the legs gambit.
This is a common option for those who are looking to find the best possible ideas for a return shot. Yes, the overhead smash is an awesome but these tend to be tougher to land than they look. It feels good coming off the hand but putting it away is another story. That’s why many will opt for the defensive lob instead. These shots are a great way to extend the game, giving you and your partner the chance to properly reposition yourselves.
Of course, the drop shot is the most reliable in these instances. This is the best choice if the player gets the chance to really take their time and square up. By sending the ball into the non volley zone, this puts the other team on the defensive. They’re forced to hit up, which will give you and your partner all of the time that you need to set up your own volley line. For best results, hit the ball during its descent.
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