Lobbing in pickleball is generally more difficult when compared to lobbing in tennis. And it’s only made difficult due to the smaller court size. This article provides insights on how to beat a pickleball lobber.
There aren’t that many strategies out there when it comes to beating a pickleball lobber, especially when we look at how many strategies that are available when it comes to beating a pickleball banger. However, we were able to write up some tried and tested solutions when it comes to beating a pickleball lobber.
Basic Tactics, Reminders and Strategies
- Be patient – it is immensely frustrating to play someone who uses their lob a lot. The more frustrated you get, the harder it is to beat them.
- Pay attention to any tells – see if your lobber opponent has any tells before he/ she lobs. For instance, do they tend to lob only on their forehand, do they lob when they are getting stressed or do they lob after 3 or 4 dinks?
- Vary your court position, stay back once in a while – where you stand on the court can change up the pace and play of a pickleball match and staying back takes the lob out of play. Only do this however if you are comfortable playing back vs coming to the non-volley zone.
- Drop step, don’t back peddle – when facing a lobber it’s important to use a drop step footwork. Backing up can cause you to mishit a lob or even fall.
- Communicate – when facing a lobber, communicate with your partner on who is best skilled or best positioned to retrieve the lob shot. Many times, a right-handed player who’s on the left side of the court has the best chance to head back to the baseline to be in position to return the lob.
- Switch court positions, if needed – sometimes when retrieving a lob shot, you and your partner may end up on the same side of the court. If your partner is falling back to get the long AND the ball in on your side of the court, let your partner know that you are “switching” court positions. This also gets you out of the way from getting hit by the return shot.
Returning a Lob Shot
As you are falling back to the baseline to hit the lob return shot, keep a few options in mind. Also, remember your footwork and angle are critical for which return shot to execute.
- Overhead smash – if the lob shot is not deep enough and you are athletic enough to hit an overhead smash, go for it. Remember however, do not over swing or try to get too aggressive if you are off balance or not confident with this shot. Many times if you are off balance you’ll hit the overhead smash into the net or out of bounds. Stay within yourself.
- Return lob shot – a return lob shot is useful when you are out of position on the court, or your partner is out of position, and you need time to reset yourselves to prepare for an overhead smash (which usually happens). However, if you can hit a deep return lob shot, you and your partner can quickly move back up to the kitchen to be in an offensive position.
- Reset shot – a reset shot is similar to a third shot drop. For those who are confident with their third shot drop skills AND they can get their feet / body in the right position, a reset is always a good option.
- Return drive shot – a return drive shot is rare, but possible. Again, this depends on your confidence and foot / body position. Typically you are back at the baseline, so a drive shot can backfire since you are backing away from the net. If your opponent is good at blocking a drive or cutting it to deaden a drive, this is not a wise option.
What follows is a more in-depth strategy that will help you and your doubles partner beat a lobber:
- When playing doubles, it is important to figure out which member of the opposing team is the weakest. Is there forehand/backhand weak? Do they struggle to move laterally or forwards/backwards? During the warmup or the first few games of a match are the best times to figure out your opponents’ weaknesses.
- Whichever player is more prone to lobbing, home in on their weakness. The key to knowing their weakness is to not let the lobber get into a rhythm. Do your best to vary your shots and try something new. Change up the pace, placement, depth, and spin of your shots.
- Now that you’ve found at least one weakness, attack it until the other team is successful at making an adjustment. Some teams may never change tactics, which is a perfect scenario. But they might, which is why it is always a good idea to figure out more than one weakness.
PERSONAL NOTE WHEN PLAYING A LOBBER
When playing a lobber I typically with create a micro-gameplan. Many times a lobber is comfortable only on their forehand. If this is the case, play shots to their backhand. Again, find a pattern, create a strategy then stay away from their lobbing tendency.
Stay patient, stay calm, use your head, discuss your opponents’ weaknesses with your partner – they may see something you don’t – and you will be able to take out a lobber no problem the next time you step onto the pickleball court.