The BEST Pickleball Strategy to BEAT Bangers

Written by Adam (HV)

May 3, 2024

pickleball strategy

Bangers in pickleball are those hard hitting players who can be very frustrating if you don’t know how to beat them. By the end of this video you’ll not only have a pickleball strategy for beating them, but you’ll be mentally prepared and confident the next time you get on the court. Let’s get into it. 

I’m going to share a simple 3-step pickleball strategy for beating bangers.  

Watch the full video here.

Banger Pickleball Strategy: Mindset Tips

Before we get into the steps on beating bangers, there are few pickleball strategy mindsets you should remember:

  • Pickleball Strategy Tip 1: Focus on what you can control (your response) 
    • If someone is a banger, that is their style, you can’t control someone’s style or their preferences, but you can control how you respond.
    • If you get frustrated and they see that, they will probably dial it up and keep playing that way.
    • Instead of getting frustrated, focus on what you can control – focus on your response and turn the challenge into an opportunity to expand your game
  • Pickleball Strategy Tip 2: Anticipation – stay on guard and watch for patterns – your awareness is half the battle and if you understand how people play, you will know when a shot is likely coming.

Banger Pickleball Strategy: The Serve Return

It all starts with the serve and the serve return. Often times bangers will have a big, strong serve – a big serve helps them develop this style of play – and it has likely worked for them up to this point.

Their strong serve forces a short serve return that they can then crash and then bang 

  • Remember, you can’t control how they serve, but you can control how you respond to their serve. 

Here’s what you should do

  • Stand off the kitchen line a few extra feet
  • Return the serve deep
  • If you need more time to get to the net, serve it high and deep – these few extra seconds can help you prepare for their attacks
  • What are the benefits here?

    • A deep, high serve keeps them back
    • It gives you time to get to the net and to prepare
    • That space between where the ball bounces and where you are at the kitchen is important because that also gives you more time to react

     If you struggle with returning hard serves, you can consider using a split step just before your serve return like shown here. This is a short hop that gets you in the read position. This can help you move to the ball quickly. 

Banger Pickleball Strategy Overview: Responses to Beat Bangers

Now that you’re at the net, there are 3 different options for responding to a banger — 

The way I remember this is fight, flight, or freeze

  • Response number 1 – fight – You will counter attack the ball
  • Response number 2 – flight – you will get out of the way of the ball
  • Response number 3 – freeze – you will slow the ball down and force them to dink

Banger Pickleball Strategy 1: FIGHT

Remember, you’re fighting, so your goal is to turn this defensive situation into offense.

Your goal should to punch the ball back at their feet and make it harder for them to continue banging

If you’re getting a ball back at your feet with pace, it is hard to drive that ball effectively

So let’s take a closer look at how you actually fight and turn the tables on a banger. You must be in a ready position, paddle up, knees bent and anticipating the shot.

  • I like to keep my feet wide so that I have a firm base 
  • A lot of bangers like to aim for the body, so you can hold your paddle out and shade to your backhand because you can cover more of your body with your backhand
  • Your wrist should be firm and grip around a 6-7
  • Make contact out front
  • Punch the ball
  • Hit down on the ball – aim for their feet
  • Short compact swings – no big follow through because you want to be ready for that next shot to come back at you
  • Another tip for attacking drives, you can slide when making contact – this can help
  • Also, be sure to place the ball back at their feet or even better if you can aim at their non-dominant foot.  

Banger Pickleball Strategy 2: FLIGHT

The second pickleball strategy for beating bangers is flight – to let the ball fly out. But how do you know? 

You’ve probably heard the saying – if it’s shoulder high let it fly – while there is some truth to this, it is not the complete picture. There are some things you must look for in order to make a good prediction every time.

  • Court positioning – Where are they hitting the ball from? mid court or baseline?
  • Are they hitting up on the ball? What’s the angle of their paddle when they make contact?
  • Are they running to hit the ball?
  • What does their backswing look like?
  • Are they a power hitter or do they add a lot of topspin? 

These cues will help you make better predictions when playing bangers. So let’s pull it all together:

Let’s say you’re playing a banger who is a power hitter, that person is at the net, they have a big backswing, they’re hitting up on the ball with their paddle angled up, what would be your prediction? You got it, the ball is probably going out. 

Remember, you’re not always going to get it right, and that’s ok. if you pay attention to the cues, you can make better predictions and beat bangers by letting the ball go out.

Banger Pickleball Strategy 3: FREEZE

The third pickleball strategy to beat bangers is to freeze – to slow the ball down.

There are two ways to freeze the ball:

  • One is more offensive
  • The other is more defensive or a concession.

Let’s start with the defensive freeze.

You’ll see this when someone hits a great drive – their shot is in and you can’t fight it or keep the banger back. The smart decision is to concede, reset the ball, and hit a shot that is unattackable – preferably  to their backhand. If they decide to come to the net, that’s fine. You’re slowing the ball down, which is what they probably hate. If they decide to attack again, you will need to judge if it is an out ball or a shot you can attack. 

The offensive freeze is when you’re slowing the ball down with a drop volley, and forcing them to run to get it. This can be difficult to do, but the way you do it is loosen your grip pressure to a 3 of 4, and drop the ball just over the net. With this shot, you are also giving up the net, but it’s a more offensive shot and if done right, it can be difficult to return.

Banger Pickleball Strategy Recap: Beating Bangers

So to recap, the 3 step pickleball strategy for beating bangers is to fight, flight, or freeze. The key to beating bangers is having a plan and selecting the right shot for the situation.

When you’re fighting, make sure you’re at the net, keep them back, and aim for their feet (their left foot is best).

When you’re letting the ball fly out, make smart predictions with the cues you’re given like their footwork, paddle angle, and their position on the court.

When you’re freezing, be sure to keep your ball unattackable, below the net, and place the ball at their non-dominant hand.

 

path to better pickleball

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