Want to improve your pickleball strategy? How many times have you had your opponents hit a great shot down the middle, where you and your partner just watch it go by? And how many times have your opponents hit a great passing shot down the line, while you were trying to cover the middle?
How ARE you supposed to know when to cover the middle and when to cover the line?? (Because, if you haven’t noticed, even as small as a pickleball court is, it’s hard to cover both at the same time.)
Here’s the secret:
Pickleball Strategy Tip: Cover the Line When…
When the ball is being hit by the opponent directly opposite YOU, cover your line and let your partner cover the middle, as shown in Diagram 1. (Click image to view full size.)
Pickleball Strategy Tip: Cover the Middle When…
When you and your partner cover the line and the middle, the only shot that your opponent has available, which isn’t covered, is a very difficult cross-court shot that is a low percentage shot. (Remember, the net is about 2 inches higher on the sides than in the middle, so chances are good that it will go into the net or too wide.)
The closer the ball is to the outside of the court (as in Diagram 1), the more important this strategy is. When the ball is closer to middle of the court, as in Diagram 2, you and your partner can shift your positioning slightly more toward the middle of the court. Just remember that if one of you shifts and one doesn’t, you will have left a large hole in the middle of your court–Bad News!
Of course, this pickleball strategy works best if your partner knows when to cover the line and when to cover the middle, so make sure to forward this article to the person you play with most.
What do I do if I’m covering my line, but my opponent hits that difficult cross-court shot, and makes it?
First: give yourself a pat on the back, because you are most likely playing against the top 15% of players in the country (seriously).
Second: (Okay, you should probably save the pat on the back for after the point, and do this first!) Your partner should hustle over to catch that ball after the bounce, and you should slide over to cover the middle again.
This might be a good opportunity for your partner to hit the ball down the line if the person opposite them doesn’t look ready for that shot, or if they DO look ready for that shot, your partner can just gently “dink” the ball back over the net toward the middle of the court.
But my forehand is in the middle, why should my partner cover the middle with their backhand?
If your forehand is in the middle, that means any shot down the line is going to your backhand side. That is a tough enough shot to get if you are near the line, but there is no way you can cover the line WITH YOUR BACKHAND if you are standing near the middle of court trying to hit a ball that your partner can reach. (Remember, that position is correct when the ball is opposite your partner, but when the ball is opposite YOU, if you’re near the middle, you’ve just given your opponent at least 5 feet of net that is WIDE OPEN.)