4 Pro Tips for the Offensive Lob in Pickleball and How to Defend It

The lob is an important part of pickleball and can often be the deciding factor in a game. When executed correctly, it can be difficult for your opponent to get to the ball and return it, resulting in an easy point.

When executed poorly, you risk giving your opponent an easy putaway.

Before we get into the tips, let’s quickly go over what a lob is.

What is a Lob Shot?

A lob is a shot with a high arc that is designed to go over your opponent’s heads. It’s most often used when play is happening at the non-volley zone (NVZ) line because there is space to land the lob shot between your opponent and the baseline.

Ideally, the goal of the lob shot is to put your opponent in a tough position trying to return the ball and to help you get in a stronger position on the court.

Here are 4 pro tips for using the lob effectively:

Pro Tip #1 – Hide Your Intentions

If you’re dinking the ball, you want to use the same swing, so that it disguises your intentions. But, the lob goes higher and deeper. Keep your body low, like you would at the kitchen line, and simply lift your body more aggressively through the ball to execute the lob instead of another dink.

Pro Tip #2 – Use a Higher Arc

A lob should have a higher arc than your average dink. The goal is to lob it high enough that your opponent cannot reach it with their paddle. This takes a lot of practice (and depends on the height of your opponent). Because you also need to keep the ball in play.

Pro Tip #3 – Aim for the Baseline

When you lob, you want to aim for the baseline. This way, your opponent will have to run back to get to the ball, giving them an awkward attempt at their next shot. Even if you don’t score with this shot, you should be in a great position to score on their return.

Pro Tip #4 – Timing is Key

Like all shots in pickleball, timing is key when hitting a lob. If you lob too early or too late, your opponent will have an easy time hitting it back and could even execute an overhead slam on you. But, timing is also important as to when you use it.

The best times to use a lob shot is when you and your opponents are at the kitchen line, and one of the following occurs:

●  You notice your opponent is leaning forward

●  Your opponent retreated but is now rushing back to the NVZ line

●  There is extra room in the back corner due to poor positioning

Of course, you don’t want to always hit lobs in these situations, because you want to remain unpredictable. But, those situations give you some of the best opportunities to catch your opponents off-guard.

Defending a Lob Shot

When defending against a lob, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a good chance at hitting the ball.

Pro Tip #1 – Hit the Ball Out of the Air

Once the lob begins to go over your head, your first step is vital. Instead of backpedaling (and potentially hurting yourself), you need to pivot with one foot and run back, carefully as not to cross your feet. Think of your body as a gate and your back foot pivoting like opening that gate.

This will prevent you from twisting up your feet and potentially falling, and it will give you the best chance possible to get back far enough under the ball to hit it out of the air. Once the ball bounces, it becomes much harder to return.

Pro Tip #2 – You Have 3 Return Shot Choices

Suppose you make it back there and you’re in a position to make a shot. You have three options.

  • Drive the ball back with power (offensive)
  • Lob it back (defensive)
  • Drop shot it back (defensive)

Quickly, you need to decide what you want to do with the ball, but most of the time, you’ll want to choose a defensive shot that allows you time to get back in position and try to set up a point later in the rally. It’s very difficult to score from this position and you’re often better trying to simply put a good solid shot on the ball to keep the round going.

This is why the lob shot is such a strong move–it puts your opponent in a compromising situation.

Pro Tip #3 – Make It Un-Attackable

Whichever shot you choose, ultimately the goal is to make it un-attackable. It doesn’t do you or your team much good if you softly hit the ball back and they simply put it away for an easy score. Instead, aim for the sides or deep into their court. It’s unlikely that you can put them away from your retreating shot, but you can make the next shot harder to get to for your opponent.

Pro Tip #4 – Get Back In Position

Congratulations, you’ve successfully retreated and returned their scoring lob attempt. Now what? Get back to a good position either back up at the NVZ line or somewhere between the line and the back. Too often, we see people sit back at the baseline in a bad position admiring what they had just accomplished.

Great job getting the return back–but don’t forget there is still action going on.

There you are! 4 tips on how to use the lob effectively and 4 tips on how to play it defensively. Hopefully, these tips help you score more points and help you frustrate your opponent’s into submission.

To see these tips demonstrated and explained in more detail, check out this video from High Five Pickleball.

Stay safe and have fun on the courts!

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