3 Pickleball Doubles Strategy Tips That Pros Use (And You Can Too)

Written by Adam (HV)

April 17, 2023

pickleball doubles strategy

Professional pickleball is incredibly fun to watch. Not only is it entertaining, but if you know what to watch for, it can benefit your game.

Today we’re going to cover 3 pickleball doubles strategy tips, demonstrated by pros that can easily translate to your game. It’s my hope that you can apply these tactics the next time you play and take your game to the next level.

Watch the full video here.

Why Should Anyone Watch Professional Pickleball Players?

This goes without saying but the pros play at a completely different level and there is often a lot of money on the line for championship matches, so if they’re using a particular strategy, it is intentional and it’s meant to help them win. In this video we’ll look at the tactics that can easily translate to amateur recreational games and tournaments. Also I want to give a big shout out to Jim Ramsey, the statistician for the PPA Tour. Any stats I use in this video come from Jim and his great work so if you’re interested in seeing more of the analysis, check out his facebook group, pro pickleball stats.

Pickleball Doubles Strategy Tip #1: Returns

Choosing who you return the ball to in a rally can play a big part in how the point plays out and overall this is a pickleball doubles strategy you’ll see in pro matches. For example, in the 2022 PPA tournament of champions, Matt Wright and Riley Newman took on the Johns brothers. In this four-game match, the Johns brothers returned 94 serves to Riley Newman. They returned 2 serves to Matt Wright.

The reason for this is If Riley has to hit third shots, it makes him less of a threat to poach on the next shot and it keeps him back. 

So what’s the lesson? If one of your opponents is more aggressive and more of a threat to poach, you can hit the serve return deep to that person and keep them back, away from the net. 

Pickleball Doubles Strategy Tip #2: Shake ‘n Bake

The shake ‘n bake is a fun pickleball doubles strategy that can help you earn points fast and even help you build momentum in a game. In the recent Selkirk Red Rock open, the number 6 seed team Tyson McGuffin and Brandon Long were able to take out the number 1 seed and they used this strategy throughout the tournament.

There are two parts to every shake and bake with variations in between.

First, there’s the shake where player A drives the serve return to the person who is in motion. While the speed up is happening, player B is moving into position, and anticipating a pop up. Once the pop up happens, they take advantage with a bake and hit the ball at their opponent’s feet or down the middle.

Again, there are multiple variations of this tactic, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • This is a high risk, high reward tactic, so be sure that your shaker has a good, consistent drive
  • The baker must have good position and can anticipate shots

After you hit your pickleball return of serve, you want to get to the net, but if your return is hit low and hard, your opponent will be able to respond and catch you in the transition zone. Instead, you want to give the ball plenty of lift so you have time to get to the NVZ.

Pickleball Doubles Strategy Tip #3: Speed Ups

In a pro doubles matches, during a regular dinking rally, a dink is accelerated and that shot or the ensuing hand battle leads directly to the end of the rally. This is what Jim Ramsey considers a successful speed up and he’s been keeping record of speed ups on the PPA tour and the success rates of different teams.

For doubles teams, the average success rate of a speed up is between 50 and 60%. According to Jim, when a team performs more than 5% better than their opponent at initiating speed-ups – it leads directly to winning a rally-ending hands battle. They also win the match 88% of the time.

So what does all this mean from a macro level?

At the highest level, the game is won and lost at the net. Based on the stats, pros take more risks at the net and whoever can win the game at the net will win the match. The game is also getting faster at the net. With the evolution of paddle technology, hands battles are a deciding factor of wins vs. losses.

What does this mean for your pickleball doubles strategy?

Putting all of this together, it appears to come down to decision making of the speed up and how to be unpredictable to your opponent.

Before stepping into a match, consider a few things and adjust your pickleball doubles strategy game plan:

  • Are you planning to speed up the ball first or will you counter-attack your opponent?
  • If you are speeding up the ball, what is your plan and what’s the who, what, when, where around that?
  • What does it look like to be 5% better than your opponent at the net?
  • And are you on the same page as your partner?
  • Having a gameplan before the match and being in sync with your partner will not only help you win hands battles but it can help you win games.
  • Pickleball Return of Serve Mistake #5: Poor Technique

What Pickleball Doubles Strategy Is Your Favorite?

 Do you have a favorite pickleball doubles strategy tip? Let me know in the comments! 

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