What is a Dink in Pickleball: Why, When & How to Dink?

Dinking in Pickleball

Heard of dinking in pickleball but not sure what it is? In this piece below I speak exhaustively about what is a dink and when to best use dinking in a game of pickleball. I also look at the basic steps involved in playing a dink and break that down for you.

If you are just starting out to play pickleball, especially more so if you have graduated from a sport like tennis, the tendency to try and play a ‘hard’ game at pickleball is almost a norm.

And that is not so much a problem because it’s a lot of fun listening to that pickleball come in contact with the sweet spot of the paddle and make that sound, especially while playing a hard smash. That’s what we all love now, don’t we?

However, that is only one part of the strategy to win a point in pickleball. Another way to approach your game, especially against a player who smashes them even better than you is to use the dink.

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Should I Use Dinking as a Tactic in Pickleball?

Have you played tennis? Even if you haven’t, there have been tennis players at various levels who don’t have much of a power game and use the strategy of dinking even in tennis; i.e. they avoid expending too much energy while playing smashing out groundstrokes and instead just push the ball back over the net in the hope of a mistake from their opponent.

Dinking in tennis had a negative connotation associated with it because its regular use exhibited a general sense of fear and acceptance of being an inferior player.

This is not the case with pickleball. In fact when used correctly, dinking is an excellent tactic which can go a long way into making you a complete player.

Here’s more.

What is Dinking in Pickleball?

Dinking is also called the soft game, or a short drop shot from the non-volley line, played without a lot of power and falls in the opponent’s non-volley zone.

The biggest advantage of dinking is to force a player who is hitting the ball harder than you into playing the soft game, i.e. playing at your terms, in a bid to frustrate your opponent into making a mistake.

Typically when people learn about pickleball, and begin learning how to play this sport, one of the first things they learn is to hit the ball hard. In that bid to build one’s power game coupled with accuracy, the art of the softer, dinking game is almost lost.

Which is why having that in your armoury is a good tactic to possess. Especially against those who don’t possess the finesse associated with dinking.

Why Should You Dink?

One of the biggest reasons to dink at an opponent in pickleball is to take him/her away from his high-powered game and force the opponent to play at a slower pace.

Consider what happens when a player dinks. The ball is expected to land in the no-volley zone or very close to the opponent’s feet. In both cases, it becomes difficult for a player to play a high-powered game.

If the ball’s dinked into the kitchen zone, the only way your opponent can respond is to allow it to bounce, while if the ball’s dinked close to the opponent’s feet, he/she would need to play a volley up to get it over the net.

In both cases, it takes the sting out of a power player in pickleball or forces the opponent into either hitting it into the net or lobbing over the baseline.

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When is the Best Time to Dink?

As Your Third Shot

The best time to play a dink is as the third shot while serving.

After you have made a serve, which is the first shot, your opponent will attempt a return as the second shot in the rally and run towards the net while you are still at the baseline.

At this stage, your opponent has an advantage but if you play the dink which lands in the no-volley zone or at his/her feet, it would give you the opportunity to rush towards the net without being afraid of a smash coming back at you.

It also allows you those extra milliseconds thanks to the pace taken off the ball.

While Returning a Dink

As mentioned in the earlier sections, if you try to respond to a perfectly-played – and placed – dink with an aggressive shot as a return, it could go very wrong for you. As far as probability goes, a smash is a tough shot to attempt and the best tactic in response to a dink is by dinking.

Typically this leads to a dinking tussle for those 3-4 shots and levels the playing field as a result. Then, when you have a chance because your opponent has given you that extra inch, you can get back to trying to smash the ball or play an aggressive groundstroke.

While Playing against Very Tall Players

If your opponent has a drastic height advantage, it might become difficult to beat him/her by making him stretch or allowing the opponent to hit a smash. Instead use the dink to force your opponent to bend low and take the smash out of the game.

What that also does is to make returns tougher for a really tall player; if such a player loses position, to bend from a much taller position to return a dink is never easy and that levels the terms.

Patience is the Key

So far we have discussed the advantages of dinking but it’s also important to keep your patience. A good opponent might not have a dinking game but might adjust and try after a while and retaliate with something similar.

In that case, it’s very vital to maintain one’s position and wait for the opponent to commit a mistake or to even to set up the point to hit a winner instead of losing patience.

Preparing to dink is good but preparing to remain patient completes the dinking package and helps a pickleball player no end.

How to Dink in Pickleball?

  • Bend at the Knees
  • Keep the Leading Side of Paddle at 45 degrees
  • Keep a Stiff Wrist, Arm and Swing From the Shoulder
  • Keep the Eyes on the Ball Even as You Followthrough
  • Get Yourself in the Ready Position for the Return

In order to dink and take the pace off the ball, it’s vital to bend but not to do that at the waist but at the knees. Why this helps is it gets your centre of gravity lower and allows you to get your pickleball paddle at a 45 degrees angle. This is the best place from where you can get the pickleball over the net.

While playing the dink, ensure you have a rigid wrist and arm while using your shoulder to play the dink and play the entire shot through to the follow-through.

And when you have done just that, it’s important you keep the eyes on the ball while getting yourself into a ready position to anticipate any kind of a response from the opponent – a dink or an aggressive groundstroke.

As mentioned earlier, keep up your patience and use three or four shots to set up the point.

The most important thing about dinking is to keep practicing it till you get better. It’s one thing to understand its theoretical implication but to make quick decisions on a pickleball court about whether or not to play a dink is something that should be etched in your muscle memory.

And the only way to get to that level is to keep sharpening your skills till you get better at it.

Stan Boone

I am the editor of Racket Sports World. I love my tennis, pickleball and most of the other racket sports played around the world and started this blog as my way to help other racquet sports fans even as I learn, explore and improve by connecting with them. Tweet at https://twitter.com/StanBooneTennis.

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