Relishing Pickleball: The Lob—Part 3

David Zapatka

Continuing our study of Pickleball Fundamentals Master the basics and compete with confidence by Mary Littlewood, following is a summary of her advice regarding how to defend against the lob.

How should you defend against the opponents lobbing over your heads? In a word, “communication.” Both partners must communicate with one another. The first priority is for the person being lobbed to take the overhead if it can be reached with only a step or two back. If so, this partner can shout, “Mine!” or “Me!” They then turn their body to point at the ball with their off arm and smash an overhead while the ball is still above them. If the lob is going to land deep in the court and the player being lobbed cannot reach it in a step or two, that player should shout, “Help!” or “Yours!” Their partner is now the one who should be hitting the ball out of the air if possible and if not, off the bounce. Backpedaling more than a step or two is difficult and dangerous, increasing the risk of a fall and injury. The diagonal route a partner can take to get to the ball is much more safe and effective. If the partner can smash this ball, they will. If not, a resetting lob or drop is in order for both partners to get back into position. Partners will likely have to change sides of the court as a result of the hitting partner crossing the center line. It is helpful for the partner in the backcourt to shout, “Switch!” to make this clear. After resetting the rally, get back to the non-volley line where you can once again compete for the point.

What should you do against lobbing opponents who are making your life difficult? Ms. Littlewood advises, “While you can use a lob effectively in a game, you should not overuse it. It becomes evident early in a game that a team likes to lob and will do it endlessly. Smart opponents who see that this is happening will, instead of moving to a position a foot behind the non-volley zone line, stay farther back—3 feet or so behind the non-volley zone line—so that they’re in a strong position to return the lob with an offensive shot. Their objective should be to force their lobbing opponents out of their comfort zone and make them hit something else! Use the lob when you simply have no other choice or at a time when it is unexpected.”

I watched a pro women’s doubles match recently where one pair relentlessly lobbed the other pair who was looking into the sun. When nothing else worked, they started lobbing. Guess what? It worked! Consider using this effective strategy.

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].