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How to Hit the Third Shot Drop Like a Pro in 3 Easy Steps

Written by Adam (HV)

December 15, 2021

You know what’s frustrating? You’ve heard of a third shot drop or a long dink and every time you try it, it either goes into the net or your opponent smashes it out of the air. Does this sound familiar? I’ve been there and I know the feeling. Here’s the good news: If you can hit a dink at the kitchen, you can hit a successful third shot drop.

Today we’re going to unpack the third shot drop, how to hit better drops or long dinks in a few steps, and why this shot is so critical to the game of pickleball. My hope for you is that you gain a new shot for your game or some new techniques that will help improve your game and compete at a higher level. Let’s get into it.

What is the third shot drop or long dink?

This shot is a finesse shot. It’s a soft shot further away from the net. This shot lands in your opponent’s kitchen or near it and one of the key elements of this shot when it is successful is that it is UNATTACKABLE.

Why is the third shot drop or long dink so important?

There are 3 big reasons. A successful third shot drop (TSD): 

  1. Neutralizes your opponent’s defense. 
  2. Gives you the chance to run from the baseline to the kitchen line where you have more opportunities to control the net. Control the net and you can control the game, effectively creating opportunities to attack the ball.
  3. Bounces off of your opponent’s paddle in a way that is upward with less force, giving you a chance to return with a dink or an attack. 

Not only is the TSD the most important, it’s also the hardest to hit consistently because it’s a soft shot further away from the net. This is where the frustration comes in. 

1. Loosen Your Grip Pressure 

First things first, you should know that your grip pressure on your paddle plays a HUGE part in your pickleball game. The long dink is a soft shot. 

On a scale from 1-10 (10 being super tight), your grip pressure should be

  • 2-4 when you are hitting a drop shot or dink, and
  • 5-8 for drives, serves, and other shots. 

If your grip pressure is too tight when you hit a TSD, the ball will likely bounce high off of your paddle, setting up a kill shot for your opponent. If you’re popping up shots at the kitchen or hitting balls out of bounds more than average, it’s likely due to an overly tight grip pressure. You will constantly need to adjust your grip depending on where you are on the court and how hard it is being hit. 

REMEMBER: 

  • Grip pressure is 3-4 for dinks. 
  • If you pop up shots a lot in the kitchen, try loosening your grip.

2. FFSS: Feet First, Swing Second

If you can dink at the kitchen, you can hit a successful third shot drop. 

Why? The third shot drop is essentially the same shot as a dink but further away from the kitchen with more follow through. 

FEET 

  • Stand in ready position with your feet shoulder width apart  
  • Bend your knees in an athletic stance 
  • Your non-dominant foot is forward and your dominant foot is slightly back

SWING

Once your stance is comfortable, focus on these things

When you make contact with the ball, it should be a relaxed “push” — a controlled movement from low to high similar to a bean bag toss. (Remember grip pressure is a 3-4.) 

  • Contact the ball out in front of you. 
  • Avoid hitting the ball when your entire body is in motion. 
  • Make sure NOT to reach or fall back out of balance when connecting with the ball. 

REMEMBER 

  • Relaxed stance 
  • Knees bent 
  • Swing low to high 
  • Don’t fall back

 

3. Apex on your side.

When you’re hitting your drop shots, you’ll need to combine the principles from steps 1 and 2 but you’ll also want to focus on getting the ball to peak in its height on YOUR side of the net. 

Essentially, you want the ball to apex on your side and begin its trajectory down as it moves into your opponent’s side. When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about the height of the ball over the net. As long as it hits the apex on your side and lands in your opponent’s kitchen, you can figure out the details from there by trial and error of your stance, grip, and swing.

Ultimately, the goal for this shot is that it is UNATTACKABLE. You want this ball to land in a place where your opponent CANNOT attack it.

Bonus: Struggle with mechanics? Try these drills.

BALL TOSS DRILL 

If you struggle with the mechanics of the TSD, try tossing the balls into your opponent’s kitchen in the same way you would toss a cornhole bean bag. 

  • Place buckets or cones in the kitchen and toss balls at them. 
  • Feel free to stand from various distances on the court. 
  • After 20-30 tosses, you should begin to feel some momentum that you can use when you pick up a paddle. 
  • Once you pick up a paddle, bounce the ball on the ground first in front of you, and then hit the TSD with a forward motion. 

LONG DINK DRILL 

  • Start at the kitchen dinking across court from a partner 
  • Hit 2-4 dinks, then take 2 steps back 
  • Hit 2-4 dinks, then take 2 steps back 
  • Continue this pattern until you make it to the baseline 
  • Once you’ve hit enough, do the same drill again, but you’re taking steps back to the kitchen

Conclusion

Once you understand and apply these drop shot principles, you’ll be well on your way to:

  • Hitting shots that neutralize your opponent’s defense Controlling the net
  • Winning more points
  • Competing with better players
  • And having a lot more fun! 

Let Me Know

What part of the third shot drop do you struggle with the most? Let me know in the comments.

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