Don't Make the Warm-Up All About You

By Mark Renneson

No, this isn't a lecture about being a considerate opponent who gives their partner lots of balls to hit. This is about an under-used opportunity to tilt the odds in your favour. 

While hitting balls prior to your match starting is a good way for you to get loose, it is also an amazing chance to acquire some intelligence on your opponents. Here are 5 things you should look for before the game even starts:

Glaring Weaknesses. Are there any shots that your opponent clearly hits poorly? Did they miss every practice drop they hit? Did their volleys always pop up when they received a fast ball? If they hit a certain shot badly before there is any pressure, plan on testing them early in the match to see if they can rise to the occasion.

Movement. How agile does your opponent look? Are they moving easily around the court of do they look stiff and a little cold? If they aren't getting to balls before the second bounce, that can be a sign that they aren't feeling very fast and that you should plan on running them.

Avoidance. Did that person hit any overhead smashes? Did they only play forehand returns of serve? If your opponents avoided some shots in the warm up, it is probably a good idea  for you to know. That way, you'll have an idea about what shots are 'cold' when game time begins. 

Tells. Much of pickleball is about disguise and deception. See if your opponents give away when they will dink the ball or flick it. See if you can guess when they will hit a drop or a drive. Perhaps they set up their body or paddle differently depending on the shot they will hit. If you can identify these 'tells', you'll have a leg up once the scoring starts. 

Strengths. Are there certain shots that your opponents seem to hit really well? Perhaps they are amazing at blocking fast balls? Maybe they are great at using spin on the return of serve. It is helpful to see what they look most comfortable with so that you know what to stay away from.

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