By Jim Hackenberg
The cross-court dink is a very effective shot when trying to move your opponents off to one side—creating the opening down the middle. What do you do when your opponent has hit a very effective cross-court that’s pulled you out of position and way out to the sideline? There are three options you can deploy to either win the point or at least buy you time to get back in position at the no-volley zone.
Option 1: Hit a Return Cross-Court Dink
Do not dink it directly across. If you do, you won’t have time to get back into position. Your partner may have moved over to cover most of the middle, but hitting it directly across from you allows your opponent to hit a sharp angle out of reach of your partner. Instead, it's best to hit a cross-court dink back to your opponent, giving you and your partner time to get back into a strong defensive position. A long, cross-court dink will take more time and buys you and your partner time to reset. Note: Make sure the cross-court dink is low and "unattackable!"
Option 2: Around the Post Shot
If the cross-court dink from your opponent carries outside your sideline, you could execute the Around the Post Shot. This shot usually requires you to have enough angle to hit it deep into the back portion of your opponent’s court. Try to execute this shot by waiting until the ball is almost about to bounce a second time. This will keep your shot very low, making it extremely difficult for your opponent to return.
Option 3: Down the Line Lob
If your opponent has pulled you off the court with a sharp cross-court dink—while you don't want to hit it directly across to your opponent—an effective shot is a lob down the line, driving your opponent off the NVZ. This shot is especially effective if the lob is over your down-the-line opponent's backhand. Be careful to get the ball up and high enough that your opponent cannot sneak up the sideline and cut your shot off at the net.
So, the next time you're confronted with an effective cross-court dink from your opponent, consider one of these three options to help you win the point.
A member of Team Onix, Jim Hackenberg has been playing tournament pickleball for 10 years at the 5.0 level, and is a Gold medal winner in numerous USAPA Nationals, U.S. Opens, and Huntsman World Senior Games. Jim is also a Great Lakes Regional Ambassador and Tournament Director for the Great Lakes Regional Tournament as well as an IPTPA Certified Instructor, conducting numerous clinics with his wife, Yvonne.