Here are six questions to test your pickleball prowess. Remember, a great deal depends on the skill, age and size of the player, as well as outdoor conditions.

1. The receiver in blue has a very strong forehand but a weak backhand. He stands near the corner to protect his weak backhand. Where should Kitty serve?

ANSWER
The server should serve down the center of the court near the center tick (not the center of the service court) to the receiver’s forehand. This will prevent the receiver from being able to hit an angle with his strong forehand. It will also expose his weakness for your next shot to his backhand. It will force him to hit his weaker shot on the run. You assume he will run around his backhand, so you hit to his strength to expose his weakness.

2. The referee, on the right, has tossed the coin for mixed doubles in a strong headwind blowing north to south the length of the court. You win the toss. Do you choose to serve or receive, or do you choose the side?

ANSWER
This is so individual. Under normal weather conditions, choosing the serve gives you a chance to get on the scoreboard right off the bat. Some players think you should choose to receive to give you time to get your act together since only one person gets to serve. I suggest getting your act together before you walk on the court and be ready to play. If conditions are such that the wind is a major player, then choose the side. Which side? Guys tend to want to hit into the wind because they can hit out full bore. This scenario is mixed doubles. I would choose to hit with the wind in order to take charge of play as soon as possible. The wind may change. You need to remember that junk shots are more effective in the wind than nice deep, clean hits. Let the wind be your partner rather than fight to overcome it.

3. These men’s doubles players have good mobility all around. Both players on the far side are at the NVZ line. Vic is a banger. Where should he hit this ball?

ANSWER
Vic is going down the middle. He is able to step into the ball and power it down the middle. However, Roland (on the right) needs to be ready for a drop volley. Vic could diversify his game by hitting a drop and closing in since both he and his partner move well. But a solid down-the-middle shot does not give much angle for the opponents to work with, and it might set up a high shot for Vic to take advantage of as he moves in to take control at the net. This could be a Shake and Bake play.

4. Kitty has served the ball to Mike (in blue). The dominant player on the court is Bart, Kitty’s partner in red. There is money on this match. Where should Mike return this serve?

ANSWER
In order to keep Bart back on the baseline as long as possible, Mike should return the ball deep to Bart, preferably deep to Bart’s backhand. If Mike returns deep to Kitty, Bart will immediately get to the NVZ line and begin to control play. Mike could even lift the ball high and deep to give himself more time to get to the NVZ line and force Bart to generate his own pace on the ball. If the ball bounces high to Bart’s backhand, he will either have to step around and take it on his forehand or hit a less powerful shoulder-high backhand. Either way, Bart’s position is far less dominant than it would have been if Mike had returned the ball to Kitty, who would have had a crosscourt forehand. Because you cannot serve and volley in pickleball, it allows you to trap a dominant player.

5. Bart is not wearing a hat, but Vic is. Do you think a hat or visor makes the dink more deceptive?

ANSWER
Bart says he watches the ball. Vic says he watches the paddle face. I think I watch the eyes so I find a visor more deceptive. A visor or cap is illegal in table tennis. I think it is an advantage to wear a visor because it keeps the opponent from
“reading” you.

6. Christy is left-handed, so she and Mike each have their forehands down the middle in Mixed Doubles when Christy is on the even side. The ball is coming down the middle of the court. Who has priority?

ANSWER The player who is closer to the net has priority. In this case, it is Christy. Her footwork is established while Mike is still moving forward. One could argue that Mike is the more powerful player, but pickleball is more about timing, placement, and court position than about power. Christy is prepared so she has priority. Mike should back her up if he feels she might defer. It is always good to verbally communicate on every questionable situation: “Yours,” “Mine,” etc. Practicing regularly with your partner should lead to an understanding of both priority and backup. Both players should shift depending on the placement of the ball and both players’ court positions.