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How to Defend Against Pickleball Spin in 5 Easy Steps

Written by Adam (HV)

September 15, 2022

pickleball spin

In pickleball there’s nothing worse than when your opponent returns your serve with backspin and you dump it into the net.

If you don’t know how to defend this shot, it can be frustrating and feel impossible to win points.

Today we’re going to cover how to hit third shot drops when your opponent can hit killer backspin and we’ll break it down into simple steps so that you can return that slice, hit better third shot drops, and get to the net every time with confidence.

Watch the full video here.

The Goals with Handling Backspin / Pickleball Spin

A slice return is when your opponent returns your serve with backspin.

A ball that has backspin will bounce differently: it may bounce lower than normal, it may bounce slightly backwards, or it may even skid if it’s hit hard enough. In pickleball, the ball must bounce after the serve return, so if your opponent can slice your first shot (aka your serve), it could make your third shot difficult.

Your goals with this shot are not different from any other third shot: You want to neutralize your opponent and get to  the net so you can win the point. Thankfully, defending this shot can be simple if you’re prepared and have a plan.

1. Watch Your Opponent

By watching your opponent and how they hit your serve, you will be able to prepare for your shot.

  • Are they stepping to the side of the ball? In order to slice it, you must step to the side of the ball.
  • Are they cutting under the ball? If so, there’s a good chance it’s coming back with backspin.
  • The ball may “float” which means you need to call your shot early and commit to returning it.

 2. Approach the Ball & Set Your Feet

Due to the backspin on the ball, it will bounce differently than normal, so it’s best to be prepared and to keep the ball out front.

  • The goal here is to get the ball inside your optimal swing zone. It may take some practice to get the timing and position down.
  • You want your weight to be forward, not back.
  • Keep the ball out front.

3. Watch the Ball Bounce & Wait for It to Peak

Since the ball bounces differently, you’ll want to maintain your focus.

  • you’ll want to let it bounce at its peak.
  • At this point it will have reached it’s peak velocity and it will have stopped spinning, which sets you up nicely to return the ball

4. Get Low & Bend Your Knees

In order to return the ball effectively, you’ll want to get slightly lower than normal

  • Bend your knees to get under the ball
  • You’ll want to have your paddle face slightly open and out front

5. Return the Ball (Aim High)

To hit the ball, you’ll use the same mechanics as a long dink or a third shot drop. But there are a few things you’ll want to emphasize due to the backspin.

  • Brush up on the ball
  • Lift slightly with your legs
  • You’ll want to slightly overemphasize the followthrough
  • Last but not least, it’s important to give the ball plenty of margin for error over the net. It’s better to keep the ball in play than to hit it into the net and to end the point. By getting it over the net and keeping it in, you force your opponent to hit the ball, which could end favorably for you, giving you a point.

 If you’d like to learn more about the mechanics for your third shot drop, check out the video I did on that. I’ll leave a link in the description.

  • Give it a little more height to get the ball over the net – this will counteract the backspin
  • Keep the ball in play – it’s better to get the ball over the net than

Were These Pickleball Tips Helpful? Pickleball Spin

Which tip was helpful for you? Let me know in the comments.

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