Doubles Strategies-Go Up or Stay Back?  by: Gregg Whitfield

Doubles Strategies-Go Up or Stay Back? by: Gregg Whitfield

The game of pickleball has different strategies and you will be a better player if you understand these concepts.

It really gets down to a few questions. Answering these questions gets to the nuances of the game and how strategies will vary.

Do you only play with players in your skill set?
Do you play with a variety of age and skill levels?
Do you try to put the ball away as soon as possible?
Do you ever reset a ball that you could have put away to extend the rally?
Do you ever work on ball control and placement verses power shots?
Do you ever take time to teach or work with beginners?


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There are players that simply value their time and only want to play competitive games. They take no prisoners and are out to win the point as soon as possible. Then there are players that “play down” to their “opponents” and hit balls that challenge them, but gives them a realistic chance to return the shot.

One thing for sure, if all players move to the net as soon as possible and hit every ball hard, there will be shorter rallies. The sole strategy of hitting all 3rd shots and automatically moving forward seems to be taught by most players, but certified teaching professionals have some additional strategies. First off, the best pros can walk to the net and hit numerous shots against 3.0 to 4.0 players as they get to their NVZ line. The best players could also hit a couple of Drives and stay back and there is no shot that you could hit that they wouldn’t be able to defend.

But that brings us to the question for the majority of players, should you go in or stay back? I teach to play both styles. The vast majority of players only play recreational games and not tournaments. And many games are played against weaker players. So slow down and enjoy some games where you form a solid defense and keep the ball in play, reset your shots, extend the points, and have longer rallies. Why have all 4 players rush to the net and try to put the ball away as soon as possible?


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When other strategies are employed, players have options to position themselves to form a defense to extend and win points. For example, staying back at your baseline when you have not developed a consistent Drop Shot is a better strategy verses hitting a ball too high and automatically moving forward. Strategies should be developed according to the player’s skill levels.

Hit a third shot drive and stay back and play the returning volley just like you do when your opponent is serving or returning your serve.
Hit a good third shot drop and move in.
Hit a third shot lob and stay back. (And listen for the complaints because a good lob is difficult to put away)
Hit a medium high ball and move forward giving your opponent an easy ball to hit hard at you and win the point.

Don't fall into the "sheeple mentality" trap and move forward on every ball. You have options.


  • Ellen

    Great Article. Thanks for that comment Julia. I have been playing since August so I still have a lot to learn. We play more than practice and we play with different skill levels. I enjoy introducing people to the game and they end up living it. I have been to a couple of tournaments and pickleball gatherings where there have been some Pickleball snobs. Lol. Not mean people but not so welcoming to beginners. We have so much fun playing and love the friendly competition. You’re right, most people play recreational pickleball which is obviously a different mentality than real pro competitions. We love the game!!


    I, certainly agree, with you, ( I had to learn the hard way though ) and also I don’t always like the 3 shot, like you say it’s according to you skill player potentials. I generally (if I haven’t played with them before) use several different serves and defense shots to see exactly what you GOT…LOL… really hate to say this, (some will not play with others that’s blow there skills…sad) I always try to keep in mind I was there once… so what I do is refocus…. to placing and strategy and control……. and less power…… I love helping others at this game it also allows me to keep some things in my head again….. plus I WANT EVEYONE TO LOVE this game as much as I DO.. :-)

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