Pickleball is a fun sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. One unique shot in pickleball is the lob. A lob is a shot where you put arc on the ball and send it high into the air over your opponent’s head.
Lob shots can be useful both on offense and defense. However, there are some important rules and strategy to keep in mind when attempting a lob in pickleball. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover:
- When to Use a Lob Shot
- How to Execute a Lob Shot
- Tips for Hitting the Perfect Lob
- Rules and Restrictions on Lob Shots
- Offensive Lob Strategy
- Defensive Lob Strategy
- Common Mistakes to Avoid
Let’s dive in and learn how to effectively use the lob shot in pickleball!
When to Use a Lob Shot
First, it’s helpful to understand when a lob can be a useful shot to play:
When Your Opponent Leaves Space in the Backcourt
One of the best times to hit a lob is when your opponent leaves a large gap in the backcourt. Often when players are drawn up to the non-volley zone or kitchen area, they leave extra space behind them. A well-placed lob can take advantage of this space and force your opponent into a tough defensive position.
Mixing Up Your Shots
Throwing in the occasional lob can also help decrease your predictability. If you only hit drives or drops, your opponents will start to anticipate. The element of surprise from a lob can disrupt their flow and create an offensive opportunity.
Buying Time on Defense
On defense, a lob can also buy you precious time and space. When pulled wide or scrambling backward, a high lob can reset the point and allow you to regain your positioning.
As a Third Shot After the Double Bounce
Many players will use a lob as their third shot choice after the double bounce rule has been satisfied, rather than going for a drop shot. The extra hang time in the air from the arc of the lob makes it effective following the double bounce.
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How to Execute a Lob Shot
To hit a proper lob in pickleball, there are some key techniques:
Get in a Balanced Ready Position
You want to be in a balanced, athletic position with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Having a solid ready position will allow you to move quickly to get your paddle in position underneath the ball.
Lift the Ball with Your Legs and Wrists
To generate the necessary height and arc, you’ll need lift from your legs and a loose wrist. Drive up from your legs as you make contact with the paddle face angled slightly up to put topspin on the ball. Keep your wrist loose so the paddle face aligns cleanly under the ball.
Make Contact Slightly In Front of Your Body
The ideal contact point for a lob is slightly in front of your body. This allows room for the head of the paddle to get under the ball. If you have to reach or stretch for the ball, it will be very tough to control the lob.
Lift Over Your Opponent’s Paddle
Aim your trajectory so the arc of the ball carries it well over your opponent’s outstretched paddle. The height should land the ball near the baseline. Lobbing too short in the service court area will allow your opponent to turn it into an offensive overhead smash.
Lob Toward Your Opponent’s Backhand
When possible, hit your lobs to your opponent’s non-paddle side. This will force them to run around and take the ball on their backhand, which is often the weaker groundstroke for most players.
Tips for Hitting the Perfect Lob
Here are some useful strategies and tips to hit quality lob shots consistently:
Disguise Your Lob
Try not to telegraph the lob shot before you hit it. Keep your paddle out in front of you and your knees bent – the same ready position as if you were going to dink or drop the ball. The element of surprise is key.
Use the Elements to Your Advantage
Take into account the wind, sun position, indoor lighting and ceiling height when hitting lobs. Downwind lobs will hang in the air even longer. Sun glare or rafters can make lobs challenging to field.
Avoid Hitting Lobs Too Short
When hitting into the wind, you may need to punch lobs with a bit more pace so they still land near the baseline. Lobbing mid-court just sets up easy overheads for your opponents.
Mix Up Offensive and Defensive Lobs
Vary between offensive lobs hit deep with pace to win the point, and defensive lobs with high arcs to buy time. This variety will keep your opponents guessing.
Practice Both Forehand and Backhand Lobs
Having the ability to lob crosscourt or down the line with both forehands and backhands gives you more options during points. Don’t get lob-sided!
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Rules and Restrictions on Lob Shots
While lobs can clearly be effective, there are some important rules and restrictions to keep in mind:
Lobs Must Land Inbounds
Just like any other shot, lobs must land inside the court boundaries to be considered good. Lobs landing out-of-bounds will result in a loss of point.
Double Bounce Rule Still Applies
Both you and your partner can play lobs during a point, but together you must satisfy the double bounce rule before volleying the ball.
Faults When Serving
You cannot hit a lob on your serve attempt. Any served ball that does not bounce once in the correct service court is a fault.
Disallowed on Drop Shots
You cannot execute a legal drop shot by lobbing the ball. Per the rules, drop shots must have a downward trajectory landing in the non-volley zone.
No Volleying Below Waist Height
Volleys must be hit above the waist. You cannot legally lob the ball close to the net and volley it below waist height – this would be a fault.
Lobs Above Eye Level Restrictions
Very high lobs above your eye level can be challenging to play. In recreational play, it’s polite to avoid excessive high lobs your opponents may have trouble reaching. In tournaments, extremely high lobs can be judged hinders by referees.
Offensive Lob Strategy
When used strategically, lobs can be an extremely effective offensive weapon. Here are some tips for offensive lob play:
Hit Sharp Crosscourt Lobs
Aim lobs crosscourt to pull your opponents wide and open up the court. When players have to backpedal and twist, it’s tougher for them to get in position to deliver a solid reply.
Move Your Opponent Side-to-Side
Mix up forehand and backhand lobs to make your opponents cover both alleyways. Quick side-to-side movement can wear opponents down over the course of a match.
Pound Lobs Toward a Weaker Player
If one opponent clearly has superior groundstrokes, pounce on their weaker partner with a barrage of lobs. This can fluster weaker players into mistakes.
Finish Points With Offensive Lobs
An offensive lob struck deep with good pace can end points outright, catching opponents on their heels near the baseline. Don’t be afraid to go for these aggressive lobs.
Vary Shot Speed and Placement
Mix up high arcing lobs with low skidding lobs, and alternate directions – down the line and crosscourt. This variety keeps opponents off balance.
Defensive Lob Strategy
While less common, lobs can also be smart choices on defense when you’re stretched or scrambling:
Lob to Reset the Point
When pulled way off the court or in a scramble situation, a high floated lob can relieve pressure and reset the point so you can regain positioning.
Lob Deep to the Baseline
When on the run, aim your defensive lobs very deep. This reduces the chance of popping up an easy overhead smash opportunity for your opponents.
Lob High Over Your Opponent’s Head
The higher you can lob the ball on defense, the more time you’ll have to recover. Don’t be afraid to give it a little extra lift.
Move Back as You Lob
Even as you make contact with your lob, immediately start backpedaling. This will help get you back into the point more quickly after your lob.
Use Lob + Lob Combo
On defense, hit an initial high floater lob, then follow it up with a second lob. This repeated lob sequence buys you maximum time to reset.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
While lobs can clearly be powerful weapons, there are some common mistakes players make:
Telegraphing Your Lob Attempts
The element of surprise is critical for lobs to work. Don’t stare at a lob target or back up early. Keep your ready position and disguise the lob.
Hitting Lobs Too Short
Leaving lobs mid-court just allows opponents to smash overhead winners. Make sure you have enough height and depth on your lobs.
Forgetting About the Wind
Always account for wind direction and force. Downwind lobs will stop short unless you adjust your power accordingly.
Not Addressing Your Opponent’s Position
Before hitting a lob, quickly recognize if your opponent is already well-positioned to field the lob easily in their strike zone.
Lobs are most effective when used sparingly to surprise opponents. Don’t become lob-happy or it will be easy for opponents to anticipate.
Neglecting Your Lob Recovery
After hitting a lob, immediately get your feet moving to get back into position. Don’t admire your lob shot.
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Executed properly at the right times, the lob can be an extremely versatile shot in pickleball. Both on offense and defense, lobs allow you to mix things up, keep opponents off balance, and buy time to recover. Remember to use lobs sparingly to maximize their surprise factor. Vary placement and speed of your lobs, and move quickly to recover after lobs. Be mindful of the rules, restrictions, and fault risks on lobs during serves and volleys. Mastering the lob will add another weapon to your pickleball arsenal!