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January 23, 2023

Beating the Bangers

By Wayne Dollard

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One of the questions I get from campers all the time is, “How do you beat the bangers?”


This refers to opponents who slam third shots and are extremely aggressive at the non-volley line.


First, I give credit to those players. Aggressive play takes skill, and assertive play is often rewarded on the scoreboard. Although aggressive play works well at the beginner and intermediate levels, it struggles at the advanced levels. The reason is that advanced players know how to beat the bangers.


There are four ways you can make it difficult for bangers:


1. Serve deep.

Good serves keep your opponents back a little longer and make it more difficult for them to hit hard returns. And if they do hit hard, they won’t have enough time to close in on the non-volley line before you hit your third shot.


2. Have deep serve returns.

I love it when my opponents return my serve short. It makes it easy for me to drive the ball back at them. If you can return deep to the back six feet of the court, you’ll make it very difficult for the bangers to blast away.


3. Have a consistent backhand punch volley.

If you can remain composed and compact when a hard drive comes your way, it will increase your odds of winning the point. When I see a close-up or hard drive coming at me, I turn my paddle parallel to the net and simply block-punch the ball. My goal is to send the ball straight back deep to my opponents.


4. Have low, wide dinks.

When all four players are at the non-volley line, the bangers are generally trying to speed up play to capitalize on their aggressive play. Hitting wide dinks against the bangers will make it much more difficult for them to attack. Get them to reach for the ball and your odds of winning the point will go up.


To sum it up, when battling the bangers, focus on deep serves, deep returns, and wide dinks. At the same time, be ready with backhand volleys and keep them compact with a short punch motion. Work on these things and you’ll be beating the bangers.  •

Wayne Dollard is a 50+ and 5.0 US Open Champion, and 5x National and US Open gold medalist. He is also the founder of LevelUp Pickleball Camps and publisher of Pickleball Magazine.

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