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May 30, 2023

How to Create an Attackable Ball with a Dink

By PPR’s Josh Deutsch

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When I asked my students what their favorite shot to hit in a match is, they unanimously said, “THE SMASH!” This got me thinking—how did we get to the point of attacking?


Can dinks be offensive? When everyone gets up to the non-volley line in a game, do you hit your dink right to someone, or do you hit it away from them? Are you looking for the next shot to come high to your forehand or backhand? Did you hit your dink far enough out wide or at their backhand foot?


The first thing you should think about when dinking is what you are trying to accomplish. There are many different scenarios that can stem from each shot you hit. We want to be proactive instead of reactive.


What makes a dink offensive? An offensive dink is a ball we hit out of the air or off the bounce at the non-volley line and are trying to be aggressive to set up an easier shot above the net. When hitting an offensive dink, you want your opponent to lose their positioning, become off-balance and make contact anywhere but in front of their body. One of the most important things in pickleball is to keep your chest up and facing the court. If someone forces your posture to break, they have an instant advantage.


When hitting an offensive dink, we are being patient and looking to become aggressive and structure the point in our favor. This can be a normal dink or even a roll dink that pushes our opponent into an uncomfortable position. Something to keep in mind is from non-volley line to non-volley line is 14 feet with the higher part of the net. From the corner of one side of the kitchen to the other corner crosscourt is 24 feet and over the lowest part of the net. More court and the lower part of the net sounds like a great shot to me.


A great start to being offensive is hitting your dink in front of the back corner of the kitchen. Targeting this spot allows you to push your opponent farther out wide and deeper, which creates a gap in the middle of the court and forces them off-balance. Both create great opportunities for an attackable ball that you or your partner could take advantage of. I also like hitting this spot because it has a lower percentage chance to be hit around the post compared to a ball that was hit short in the kitchen and off the court.


Implementing strategy before playing a point can be crucial to your success. Try to determine your opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them. Hitting two to three shots out wide and then another to the player’s inside foot (especially if it’s the backhand) that lands close to the non-volley line will result in your opponent being off-balance and using more wrist, causing more flicking and less control on the shot. This will result in a higher ball that will allow you and your partner to start attacking. As a right-handed player in this scenario, this means if I am on the right side and a soft ball is coming to me, I am looking for my backhand to take it out of the air and attack.


When I am watching my students play points, they hit dinks right to each other and expect to win the point. Most pickleball athletes should be able to cover the area in front of them the easiest. If you visually split the kitchen on one side into thirds, this creates boundaries and targets. Attempting to never hit the ball in the middle area means that every time you hit the ball, your opponent will be moving instead of staying in one spot and dictating the point. Think about patterns and how you can back opponents off the non-volley line.


How can we practice this?


Drill 1:

Simply put targets or tape on the court, dividing the kitchen into thirds and practice not hitting in the middle. After practicing you can play points, and if you hit a dink in the middle of the kitchen, then you lose the point.


Drill 2:

One of my favorite drills to run students through is called “Say it.” In this drill we dink straight ahead or crosscourt and say either “offense” or “defense” every time we hit the ball. This gets students thinking about the shot they are hitting, and it becomes an extremely easy way to judge how well you are doing. Are you getting a high ball after you say “offense” a few times in a row, which is great, or are you constantly hearing your opponent say “offense” right after you say it and need to change something?To be offensive with your dinks at the non-volley zone, it is important to use these drills to train your mind into the patterns. A big part in creating an attackable ball with a dink is to be visualizing and mentally preparing for the next shot. Try these drills the next time you drill with your partner and think about this strategy. Go get that attackable ball and win the game!  •

Josh Deutsch is a PPR clinician at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, Texas.

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