What Is A Third Shot Drop In Pickleball-5 Secrets

What Is A Third Shot Drop In Pickleball

Ever wondered how top pickleball players gain the upper hand with the elusive ‘Third Shot Drop’? What Is A Third Shot Drop In Pickleball, and how can it transform your game?

A “Third Shot Drop” in pickleball is a strategic play used after the serve and return. It involves hitting the ball softly and accurately over the net, aiming to land it in the opponent’s kitchen close to the net. Mastering this skill can make all the difference in your pickleball journey

Here I’ll break down the Third Shot Drop in simple terms. I’ll explain what it is, why it matters, how to do it right when to use it strategically, and the common mistakes to avoid. Mastering this technique can be your ticket to outplaying your opponents and taking your pickleball game to the next level.

What Is a Third Shot Drop in Pickleball? You Need To Know

A third shot drop is a type of shot in pickleball that is used to transition from the baseline to the net. It is usually performed as the third shot of the rally, after the serve and the return.

The goal of the third shot drop is to hit the ball softly and low over the net so that it lands in the non-volley zone (also known as the kitchen line) of the opponent’s court. 

This forces the opponent to either hit the ball up, giving the advantage to the net player, or to let the ball bounce, allowing the baseline player to move forward and join the net player. 

The third shot drop is a crucial skill to master in pickleball, as it helps to gain control of the rally and move to a more offensive position.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Advantages Of The Third Shot Drop

  • Transition to the Net: It allows you to move from the baseline to the non-volley zone, also known as the “kitchen,” which is the ideal position to control the rally.
  • Control and Placement: A well-executed Third Shot can be placed strategically to challenge your opponent’s positioning and make it difficult for them to attack.
  • Minimizing Errors: By opting for a high-percentage shot rather than a power shot, you reduce the risk of unforced errors, maintaining consistency in your game.

Disadvantages Of The Third Shot Drop

  • Skill Requirement: Effectively executing the Third Shot Drop demands practice and precision, which I think is challenging for beginners.
  • Footwork And Mobility: Effective execution of the pickleball third shot often requires quick footwork and mobility to get to the non-volley zone in time.

How To Hit A Third Shot Drop In Pickleball-5 Tips

The third shot drop is one of the most important and challenging shots in pickleball. However, it is not easy to execute, and it requires a lot of practice and precision.

Here are five tips According to PBU to help you master the third shot drop in pickleball:

1. Use a continental grip

A continental grip is when you hold the paddle as if you are shaking hands with it, with the base knuckle of your index finger on the edge of the paddle face. 

A continental grip is also ideal for hitting the third drop shot, as it helps you create the right spin and trajectory for the ball.

2. Aim for a high contact point

A high contact point is when you hit the ball at or above the level of your shoulder and extend your arm and wrist forward and slightly downward. 

This gives you more control and angle over the net and helps you hit the ball low and short.

A high contact point also allows you to generate more spin and touch on the ball, which is essential for the 3rd shot drop.

3. Swing with a smooth and relaxed motion

A smooth and relaxed motion is when you swing with your whole body, not just your arm, and avoid jerky or tense movements. 

This helps you generate more spin and touch on the ball and prevents you from hitting the ball too hard or too soft. 

A smooth and relaxed motion also helps you maintain your balance and timing, and follow through with your paddle toward your target. 

Keep your head and eyes on the ball until you hit the third shot, and don’t look up too soon

4. Hit the ball with a slight backspin or topspin

A slight backspin or topspin is when you brush the ball from high to low or low to high, respectively, with a slightly open or closed paddle face, respectively.

This creates a spin that helps the ball clear the net and drop into the non-volley zone. A slight backspin or topspin also makes the ball harder for the opponent to hit, as it bounces low and away from them. 

5. Aim for the center of the non-volley zone

The center of the non-volley zone is the area that is about 2 feet inside the non-volley zone line, and about 2 feet over the net.

This is the ideal target for the third shot in pickleball, as it gives you more margin for error and reduces the opponent’s angles. 

Adjust your shot and dink according to the height and speed of the incoming ball, and vary your shot according to the situation and the opponent.

When To Use The Third Shot Drop

The strategic employment of the Third Shot Drop is pivotal for success in pickleball. Consider integrating this technique in the following scenarios:

  • After the Serve: Immediately following your serve, employ the Third Shot Drop to transition to the net and establish control over the rally.
  • During a Rapid Rally: In moments when the game’s pace accelerates, selecting the Third Shot Drop can aid in regaining control and moderating the tempo.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Hitting The Third Shot Drop

In the world of pickleball, I’ve seen players, including myself even with the best intentions, players frequently stumble upon common mistakes when attempting the Third Shot Drop.

Let’s take a closer look at these pitfalls and how to steer clear of them:

  • Excessive Power: Attempting to infuse power into the Third Shot can lead to inaccuracies. Prioritize placement over force.
  • Lack of Variation: Over-reliance on the Third Shot Drop can render your gameplay predictable. Incorporate variations to keep your adversaries guessing.
  • Net Position: Failing to advance to the net after executing the Third Shot can nullify its advantages. Always follow through to the kitchen.


The Third Shot Drop is more than just a technique; it’s a game-changer in pickleball. By understanding its nuances, practicing diligently, and implementing the tips I have provided,

you can elevate your pickleball game to new heights. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced player, the Third Shot Drop will become a valuable asset in your pickleball arsenal.


What to do after a third shot drop?

After executing a third shot drop in pickleball, it’s important to follow through by advancing to the net, also known as the kitchen. This strategic move allows you to maintain a dominant position on the court, control the rally, and be ready for subsequent shots.

Can you do a second shot drop in pickleball?

Yes, a second shot drop, or 2nd shot drop, is a finesse shot used in pickleball. It’s aimed at making the third shot more challenging for the serving team by delivering a soft, low shot that drops quickly into the kitchen. It’s particularly challenging at higher levels of play.

Can I use the Third Shot Drop in singles pickleball?

Certainly, although more commonly associated with doubles, the Third Shot Drop can be effectively employed in singles play.



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