Dinking Technique and Strategy in Pickleball
By Steve Dawson
For pickleball players looking to create an edge against their opponents, learning how to effectively return the ball from their own kitchen is an asset. This technique is known as dinking. It’s intended to accomplish two things:
- Force opponents to move when attempting to return the ball.
- Eliminate their ability to attack.
Dinking is best used when players are defending against shots that land in their kitchen but don’t bounce high enough to be played back as an attack.
When players are first approaching the kitchen to return a ball, they should keep their knees bent and engage all of their muscles so their body remains low to the ground. This allows them to have a more level approach to the ball rather than remaining upright and having to swing upward.
Dinks should clear the net with as little room to spare as possible. As mentioned, this reduces the chances that opponents can attack. To keep a dink close to the net, players should take as little of a backswing as possible and minimize their follow-through after contact.
“It’s almost like you’re attempting to do nothing except barely nudge the ball over [the net],” says Steve Dawson, professional pickleball player and owner of Bobby Riggs Paddle Club in San Diego.
Dinking with a light touch is an effective technique for putting opponents in a defensive position.
Place your dink strategically
Let’s talk strategy for applying this shot to game action. The goal of dinking is to play effective defense and extend points until an opponent makes a mistake, either hitting into the net, out of play, or too high over the net. It’s important that a low, soft dink lands in the opponent’s kitchen, but good dinks should also be close to the outside lines or down the center. This forces the opponent to, at best, reach beyond their immediate swing path and, in some cases, move a step or two before attempting their shot. This adds difficulty to their return and forces them to maintain good dinking technique while on the move.
In pickleball, as in other racquet or paddle sports, it’s easiest to maintain good technique when you don’t have to change your position or move in an unexpected direction. Executing a dink shot well allows players to capitalize on the mistakes that come when an opponent has to return a ball at any cost.
When done improperly, dinks can leave a player exposed to an attack. For instance, dinks played too far onto the other side or hit too high in the air give opponents the upper hand.
Once the ball has landed in a player’s kitchen, their strategy should be to continue to play dink shots that leave opponents out of position and unable to attack until the opponent gives the player an opportunity to take advantage. By extending the point and sticking to the proper technique, dinking is the most effective way of playing defense at the net and increasing the chances that opponents will make a hasty play or get baited into a mistake.
- Players should immediately think about dinking when the ball is approaching the kitchen on their side of the court.
- Getting into a low, athletic position before hitting and keeping the swing short gives players a chance to execute a good shot.
- To make dinking even more effective, shots should be played away from the opponents – to the center or outside lines. The player who loses the dinking volley is much more likely to have an aerial attack shot played back to their side of the court, and that usually results in a lost point.
Staying true to the technique, keeping opponents off balance, and remaining patient during these dinking rallies will help players score more points from the kitchen.