The Third Shot

Pickleball Fundamentals: The Third Shot

by Heman Lee. USAPA Ambassador, Sacramento

What in the world is the third shot?

The “Third Shot” strategy is an essential part of the game.  If you want to play Pickleball at competitive level (3.5+), you need to master this shot.

What is it?

Often called the “Third Shot Drop” it’s a shot that lands in the kitchen forcing receiving team to dink.  The third shot is actually the first shot for the serving team if you don’t count the serve.  It is a soft shot that will result in the ball falling into the kitchen at a steep angle, thus preventing or delaying the receiving team from hitting an offensive shot.


The “Third Shot” allows your team to get to the kitchen line and start a “dinking” game.   Remember that the serving team has the disadvantage because the receiving team is usually the first to be at the offensive position at the “No Volley Line”, so  driving the ball hard at a team that has mastered the offensive volley is suicide.


  1. Use the continental grip so that the paddle face is slightly open on each side.
  2. Stay down low to the ball. It like a dink, so try to minimize the back swing.
  3. Try to hit under the ball at 6 o’clock.  Prem Cardot recommends waiting until the ball passes the high point of the arc right before the second bounce.  This will give you more control.
  4. Don’t Swing! Lift your arm up from your shoulders while keeping your wrist and elbow relatively straight.
    The apex of the arc must be before the net, so that the ball descends into the kitchen.

The Third Shot Diagram

Third Shot Sequence

Notice the high apex created by Timothy Nelson’s “Third Shot Drop” and the result on the receiving team

Descending Ball “Third Shot”

Descending ball third shot Kyle Yates

Top ranked 5.0 player Kyle Yates hit an extremely high apex on this “Third Shot Drop” creating a descending ball into the kitchen forcing Brian Staub to squat down very low and hitting the ball up.

Common Faults

Most players hit the ball too low and too hard, which does not create a “descending ball” and the apex is over the net.   A low ball result in a “horizontal ball” rather than a “descending ball”.  In other words, your opponent can easily smash a “horizontal ball”.

Bad Third Shot