IVGID Tip of the Week: Adapting tennis skills for pickleball
Special to the Tribune
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — More tennis players are giving pickleball a try, and loving it. To their surprise, they find that pickleball is not “tennis light,” or a sport for players too old to cover the tennis court. It is a fast game requiring skill and finesse.
What works in tennis doesn’t necessarily work in pickleball, although fitness and coordination are good for both sports.
Let’s start with the racquet. In pickleball, it’s a paddle — short-handled with a hard surface. Many tennis buffs start out making a swing and a miss, complaining they need a longer paddle. It takes some time to adjust. Keep your eye on the ball until it meets your paddle.
Long back swings for groundstrokes work well in tennis. But there is no time to take that windup in pickleball. The balls comes at you quickly. You must react by blocking the shot rather than using the momentum from a long backswing.
Tennis players often like to lob. But that’s a low percentage shot in pickleball. When your opponent is at the kitchen line — the ideal offensive position — there is less than 15 feet of court behind them. It’s very difficult to lob above your opponent’s reach and still land inside the court.
Pickleball may be easier on your shoulder with the required underhand serve, but the ball doesn’t bounce very high so you will do more bending. If you don’t use your knees properly, your back will feel it and your shots will go into the net.
Many tennis players are comfortable playing from the baseline. Experienced pickleball players master the short game. Most points are won at the net. That’s the place to be. At the baseline in pickleball, you are on the defense. At the net, you control the game.
So, forget the backswing; leave the lob at home; bend at the knees; and play a net and volley game.
Pickleballers also chat it up. The court is small, making it easy to communicate with your partner and work together. You’ll hear a lot of good-natured laughter on the court. That’s the sound of people having fun.