Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Third Ball Mentality 

Coach Wayne’s Quick Tips

Photo by Wayne Clark

There are many theories and strategies out there regarding what to do with the third ball shot? 

There is third ball drop, third ball drive, third ball lob. Do I go crosscourt, down the line, up the middle? Should I apply topspin, underspin, no spin? This is a lot of information to process and you have to decide in a short period of time! 

Most beginnerlevel players have not yet mastered the techniques and abilities to apply a verity of spins on the ball. So, for better or worse, this somewhat limits the amount of choices available to them when executing a shot. 

Fundamentally speaking, the most important thing to consider when hitting a third ball shot is making sure that I will be in the best position possible for my next shot, (aka, the fifth ball). Along with that, I need to anticipate if I will strategically be in an offensive position, a defensive position, or a neutral position for my fifth ball shot.  

Either way, the goal of my third ball shot, is to create a scenario which will improve my strategical position for my fifth, seventh, ninth, etc. ball shots. 

For beginner level players, my recommendation is to keep your third ball shot low and up the middle, for the three following reasons. 

  1. Hitting a low shot up the middle lowers our chances of making an unforced error. Because with this shot, we should not be missing long or wide. 
  2. Hitting a low shot up the middle will generally cause confusion from our opponents as to who should play the ball. 
  3. Hitting a low shot up the middle take’s angles away from our opponents next shot. 

Keeping your third ball shot simple and effective, will help you to feel more confident and in control as you begin to finish points battling it out in the NVZ. 

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years’ experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-61. 

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