Pickleball Third Shot Drop: What To Know

Pickleball’s third shot of a rally is the most important shot for every serving team in the sport.

A good third shot can set you up with an excellent chance of winning the point, but a poor one can quickly finish the rally in your opposition’s favor.

So how can you determine the most effective third shot to play in a rally?

You could play two options: the third shot drop and the third shot drive.

What else can we tell you about the two third-shot options?

We’ll touch on the third shot drive while providing more detail on the third shot drop and when it’s best to play it.

Third Shot Drive

woman playing pickleball
image: Fred Ortlip/Flickr, CC 2.0

The third shot drive is the easier option of the two shots and certainly has its merits, depending on the situation.

With the drive, you will hit with pace and attempt to hit it as flat as you can over the net.

If you hit it well, you could prompt a weak return allowing for a potential winner after that.

Third Shot Drop

The drop is a well-used shot taken after a return of serve that, if executed well, lands softly within your opponent’s kitchen line.

You’ll need to hit the ball to softly land it within the non-volley or kitchen line, preventing your opposition from attacking it.

If well executed, the third shot drop gives you plenty of time to reach the non-volley line to attack the return.

When you attempt drop shots, both teams need to gauge a well-played shot to assess whether attacking the ball is viable.

If you’ve played the drop shot well, you’ll need to get to the kitchen line as fast as possible to anticipate the return.

If you haven’t played it well, it will be best to stay back and defend until you can play a shot that will allow you to move forward.

If you play the drop shot poorly and still move up to the non-volley zone, make sure your reflexes are on point, or you could be nursing bruises after the match ends.

When You Should Hit Third Shot Drops on the Pickleball Court

It would be best if you considered drop shots as your best option in the following conditions:-

  • Some players play great third shot drops compared with their third shot drives. If you’re the same, make more use of your quality drop instead of hitting a hard shot, as you’re likely to move up to the non-volley line easier that way.
  • Use a drop shot if your opponent delivers a low return, especially one with backspin or slice on it. In Pickleball, it is challenging to drive a low ball as you have to hit in an upward motion, which encourages further elevation on your return.
  • If you’re forced back by a good return of serve on the court, you’ll struggle to move into your next shot to play a drive, so a drop is your best option.
  • In this scenario, your drop shot is likely more of a defensive stroke, as you’ll be playing from way back in the Pickleball court. You should anticipate a fierce return from your opponent, so ready yourself to pull an incredibly soft shot out of the bag next up and get to the kitchen line.

Tips for Playing the Third Shot Drop

Drop shots are the most commonly played third shots in Pickleball, but they’re not the easiest to carry out.

They’re used by many players as an alternative when a third shot drive is not a viable option.

Here are some tips for when you need to play the drop:-

  • Hit your drop on the front foot so you can quickly advance to the front of the Pickleball court.
  • Be as precise as you can when placing your drop. Aiming for the sidelines will make it more problematic for your opponent to return with any ease.
  • As part of the serving team, stay behind the baseline, as you’ll be more able to keep forward momentum than if you’ve already taken a step or two into the Pickleball court when the opposition hits the return.


Where should the third shot drop go?

When you play this shot, you will be standing close to the baseline.

Whether the opposition directs a return at you, deep or short, you need to be on your toes to deliver a good return.

Keep your opponent guessing with good wrist movement and drop the ball over the net, as close to the sidelines as possible.

What is the most effective Pickleball serve?

A decent Pickleball serving strategy is deep to your opposition’s backhand.

A deep serve forces your opponents onto the back foot, making returning serve more difficult.

Sharing is caring!

15 easy ways to get active now