Pickleball Strategy-What’s a Dink Shot and Why Hit it?

Last Updated on August 20, 2019 by Cathy Jo Johnson

When you hear the word DINK, many people think Double Income No Kids, but that’s not what it means in Pickleball!

We talk about the dink shot, we practice it, and you see a lot of sayings on t-shirts but what’s a dink and why exactly do we use it? A dink is typically a higher softer shot hit from the non-volley zone (kitchen), it lifts over the net and drops quickly, forcing our opponents to hit up on the next shot to return it.

There are several slow-motion dink shot rallies in the video below. As you watch them play pay particular attention to these areas;

1. The trajectory of the ball. It travels high enough to get over the net and then drops softly. The soft shot and downward trajectory make the apex of the bounce stay below the net. Therefore it requires an upward movement to return the shot.
2.  The next item to watch is the players paddle angle. You’ll notice that to hit the dink; the paddle angle is up. The motion of the player’s body and the upward angle of the paddle lift the ball softly over the net.

Now you know what a dink shot is why do we hit it?

1.  The dink is a high percentage response to a well-hit drop shot.
As you’ll see in the video, when someone executes a great drop shot, the apex of the bounce stays below the net. Therefore, the dink becomes a logical return.
2. The dink is an offensive strategy
Not only is the dink a great answer to a well-hit drop shot, but it’s also an offensive strategy. Think of it a little like chess; you move the pieces to expose your opponent’s weaknesses and eventually get checkmate. The same thing happens in a good dink rally.
a. You’re trying to either get your opponent to miss the dink return by not hitting up enough on the ball.
b. Since the paddle is already traveling at an upward angle, you’re trying to get your opponent to hit a dink that’s a little too high and then take advantage of a putaway
c. Move your opponents around to test their teamwork skills and potentially create an opening between them for a winning shot.

This last clip in this video is one of my favorites because we don’t often see an aerial view of a pickleball match.

Gigi Lemaster is on the left and Cookie Drake on the right. A well-hit drop shot by Bill Ritchie brings the serving team to the non-volley zone line. Then he begins a dinking game with Gigi, who is one of the most consistent dinkers in the sport. As you watch the rally, pay particular attention to Cookie’s movement. Every time Bill hits the ball cross court to Gigi, Cookie takes a step toward the center to cover the middle and keep from creating a gap in their team. When Gigi returns it to Bill, Cookie takes a step toward the line to cover the line. Bill continues to try to move Gigi further off the court attempting to catch Cookie out of position and create an opening down the line.

When I first started playing, my group had a contest to see which two players could keep a dink rally going the longest. I think most of us were only able to get 3-5 shots. However,  you’ll find the longer you play, and the better you become, the longer your dink rallies will become, so even if you aren’t doing a lot of dinking yet it’s a perfect time to start working on this shot.

Next week, I’ll show you how to hit the dink shot and some of my favorite practice drills!

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