What Is A 3rd Shot In Pickleball?

In pickleball, the third shot plays a crucial role in strategic gameplay. You might have a query regarding what is a 3rd shot in pickleball. To resolve your query, we are going to explain in this blog about 3rd shot in pickleball, types of third shots in pickleball, and when you can use a third shot in pickleball.

3rd Shot In Pickleball

We are also going to explain how to execute the 3rd shot while playing pickleball. Read this blog, and you will get to know in detail about 3rd shot in pickleball.

What Is a Third Shot in Pickleball?

In pickleball, a “third shot” refers to the shot hit by the serving team after the return of serve. It is an important shot in the game and is typically played to transition from a defensive position to an offensive one. The third shot is often hit softly and lands in the opponent’s kitchen (the non-volley zone) near the baseline.

The main objective of the third shot is to allow the serving team to advance towards the net while the opposing team is still positioned at the baseline. This is because players are not allowed to hit the ball out of the air (volley) while positioned inside the kitchen. By hitting a softer shot that lands in the kitchen, the serving team can maneuver into a better position near the net and gain control of the point.

The third shot is usually hit with an underhand motion, using a technique called the “drop shot.” This shot involves hitting the ball with a backspin, causing it to land softly and bounce low, making it more challenging for the opponents to attack.

Mastering the third shot is crucial in pickleball strategy, as it helps the serving team gain control and set up their offensive plays while minimizing the risk of a quick counterattack from the opposing team.

Types of 3rd Shots in Pickleball

There are several types of third shots in pickleball that players can utilize based on their skill level, playing style, and the specific game situation. Here are some common types of third shots in pickleball:

Drop Shot: The drop shot is widely recognized as the most common and frequently utilized third shot in pickleball. It involves hitting the ball softly with an underhand motion, causing it to land in the opponent’s kitchen near the baseline. The objective is to force the opponents to hit the ball from a defensive position and give the serving team an opportunity to move closer to the net.

Drop Shot As The Type Of Third Shot In Pickleball

Drive Shot: The drive shot is a more aggressive third shot option. Instead of hitting the ball softly, players hit it with more pace and aim to drive it deeper into the opponent’s court. This shot can put pressure on the opposing team, preventing them from attacking and giving the serving team a chance to gain control of the point.

Lob Shot: The lob shot is a type of shot in pickleball where the ball is hit high over the opponent’s head and lands far into their court. Although not commonly used as the drop or drive shot, the lob shot can be highly effective in specific scenarios. It proves advantageous when the opposing team is positioned too close to the net or when the serving team aims to disrupt the opponents’ rhythm and gameplay.

Slice Shot: The slice shot in pickleball involves generating side spin on the ball by making contact with the paddle in a sweeping or gliding motion along its side. This creates unpredictable bounces, making it harder for opponents to handle. It serves as a variation of the drop shot, offering strategic opportunities and adding complexity to the game.

It is important to note that the choice of a third shot in pickleball depends on various factors, including the players’ skill level, positioning, and the specific situation in the game. Skilled pickleball players often have a repertoire of different third shots that they can utilize to keep their opponents off balance and gain an advantage in the point.

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When to Use Pickleball Third Shot?

The pickleball third shot is commonly used when:

Serving Team’s Return Is Short: If the receiving team’s return is short and does not reach the baseline, the serving team has an opportunity to move forward and hit a softer shot, usually a drop shot, that lands in the kitchen. This forces the opponents to return the ball from a defensive position.

Server’s Team Is At A Disadvantage: If the serving team is at a disadvantage, such as being out of position or on the defensive, the server can hit a third shot that lands softly in the kitchen, allowing their team to regain control of the game.

Defensive Strategy: In certain situations, when the serving team is under pressure or wants to slow down the pace of the game, they can choose to hit a third shot that forces the opponents to hit a softer return, giving the serving team an opportunity to gain control and dictate the pace of the rally.

Remember, the third shot is a strategic choice and may not be necessary in every rally. It depends on the specific game situation, the skill levels of the players, and their overall strategy. Adapting to different scenarios and utilizing the third shot effectively can greatly improve your chances of success in pickleball. Use third shot carefully only when required otherwise there are chances that it may cause wrist pain from pickleball.

How to Execute 3rd Shot in Pickleball?

Executing the third shot in pickleball involves a combination of technique, strategy, and positioning. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to execute the 3rd shot in pickleball effectively:

Assess The Situation: To execute the third shot effectively in pickleball, it is crucial to assess the game situation beforehand. Before hitting the third shot in pickleball, it is crucial to consider factors like where your opponents are standing, where your partner is positioned, and the overall speed of the game. This evaluation helps you to decide how to best execute the shot based on the situation.

Pickleball 3rd Shot Strategy

Move Forward: If the serve and return permit, it is advantageous to move towards the non-volley zone or the kitchen. This positioning offers better control over the third shot, allowing you to execute it effectively and with greater precision.

Use A Drop Shot: The drop shot is the most frequently used third shot in pickleball. It involves hitting a gentle and low shot that clears the net by a small margin and lands in the opponent’s kitchen. The objective is to make it challenging for the opponents to launch aggressive attacks or powerful smashes in response to the shot.

Aim For Accuracy And Height: Focus on accuracy rather than power when hitting the drop shot. Aim for a specific spot in the opponent’s kitchen, preferably close to the net. Additionally, try to achieve a moderate height over the net to allow the ball to drop quickly.

Minimize Backspin: While some backspin can help to control the shot, excessive backspin can cause the ball to bounce higher, allowing the opponents to attack. Aim for minimal backspin on the third shot in pickleball.

Follow Through And Recover: After executing the third shot, maintain a good follow-through and be prepared to quickly recover to your ready position if the opponents return the ball aggressively.

Communicate With Your Partner: Effective communication with your partner is crucial in executing the third shot successfully. Let your partner know your intentions and ensure that both of you are aligned in positioning and strategy.

Remember, the execution of the third shot may vary depending on your skill level, playing style, and specific game situation. It is essential to practice and adapt your technique based on your own strengths and the dynamics of the game.


When Should I Use A Lob Shot As The Third Shot?

As the third shot, a lob shot is typically used when the serving team is under pressure or out of position. By hitting a high-arcing shot, players create distance and gain time to regain control of the rally. The lob shot allows for a reset and an opportunity to establish a better court position.

Is It Possible To Hit A Drive Shot As The Third Shot?

Yes, you can opt for a drive shot as your third shot in pickleball, especially when you aim to surprise your opponents or take them by surprise. However, it requires good timing, control, and precision to execute it effectively. Experienced and aggressive players may more commonly use it.

What If My Opponents Anticipate The Drop Shot And Move Forward Quickly?

If your opponents anticipate the drop shot and move forward quickly, you can consider mixing up your shots to keep them guessing. You can try hitting a drive shot to catch them off guard or a lob shot to create more distance. Additionally, varying the placement and spin of your shots can make it more difficult for opponents to anticipate your next move.

Can The Third Shot Be A Defensive Shot?

Yes, the third shot can be used defensively to regain control of the rally and establish a better position on the court. Employing a defensive third shot, such as a lob or a precisely positioned soft shot, can provide valuable time and create an opportunity to transition from a defensive to an offensive position.

Is The Third Shot Always Necessary In Pickleball?

While the third shot is a valuable strategy in pickleball, it is not required in every rally. The decision to use the third shot depends on the specific game situation, player’s skill level, and overall strategy. There may be instances where a different shot or approach is more appropriate.


Developing proficiency in the 3rd shot in pickleball is crucial for success in the game. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the 3rd shot in pickleball and its types, knowing the appropriate moments to employ the third shot in pickleball, and executing this shot with precision can provide you with a valuable strategic edge during pickleball matches.

By dedicating sufficient time to practice and customizing these techniques to fit your playing style, you can significantly improve your pickleball skills and elevate your level of competitiveness during matches.

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