How to Hit a Backhand Drive in Pickleball: The Ultimate Guide

Published on:

Updated on:

To improve your pickleball game, it’s important to learn the basics of every shot.

An underrated technique is the pickleball backhand drive. When mastered, it can add variety and power to your game.

In this guide, we’ll break down the backhand drive. We’ll explain what it is, when to use it, and the technique behind it.

Ready to add a crushing backhand to your game? Let’s get started.

What is a backhand drive in pickleball?

The pickleball backhand drive involves forcefully swinging forward from your backhand side, or the side opposite of your forehand.

It’s a powerful offensive shot that puts pressure on your opponent and creates scoring opportunities in both singles and doubles.

Similar to tennis, the backhand drive can be hit with one or two hands.

One-handed backhand drive vs two-handed backhand drive

The backhand drive can be hit with one or two hands.

In the modern game, and especially at the professional level, the two-handed backhand is more popular due to the extra stability and control it provides.

Ultimately, it’s up to the player whether to use one or two hands. Both options are effective at all levels of the game.

The player’s racquet and paddle sports background may also affect their backhand approach.

For example, many tennis players use a two-handed backhand in pickleball. But for table tennis players, a one-handed backhand may be a more natural fit.

Female pickleball player wearing a dark, long-sleeve top hitting a two-handed backhand drive or counter while positioned near the net during a game of doubles.

The importance of a strong backhand in pickleball

There are several reasons why a strong backhand benefits your pickleball game:

  • Minimizes weaknesses: For many players, their backhand is less reliable than their forehand. Opponents may target this side, trying to force weak returns. Developing a strong backhand drive reduces the number of weaknesses your opponent can exploit.
  • Offensive firepower: If you prefer to hit third shot drives, being able to drive from both the forehand and backhand side will benefit your play style. And if you’re a banger, a good backhand drive will benefit your fifth shot, seventh shot, and beyond.
  • Keep opponent guessing: If you can confidently hit both a third shot drop and third shot drive from the backhand side, it will keep your opponent on their toes. This variety and unpredictability will help you gain strategic advantages and win more points.
  • Passing shot in singles: In singles, you need strong passing shots to be successful. That means driving with both the forehand and backhand. Even if you’re stretched to the backhand side, driving the ball will put pressure on your opponent and may keep you in the point.

When should you hit a backhand drive in pickleball?

Similar to the forehand drive, most pickleball players hit the backhand drive as their third shot, also known as a “third shot drive.” The sequence goes like this:

  1. You or your partner serves the ball.
  2. Your opponent returns serve.
  3. You hit a backhand drive.

This strategy is popular in the modern game because it puts immediate pressure on your opponents.

In most cases, you’ll direct your shot toward the returning player as they run to the net. It’s more difficult for them to defend a drive while they’re moving forward and their feet are not set.

This strategy may earn you free points or force a pop-up that you or your partner can attack.

When to hit backhand vs forehand drive

In most cases, you or your partner should hit a forehand when driving the ball. It’s the stronger and more consistent stroke for most players.

However, there are certain scenarios where the backhand may the more strategic option in doubles:

ScenarioShot NumberCourt PositionHandednessDescription.
Serve return goes to your backhand sideThirdLeftRightIf the return of serve goes to your backhand on the left side, driving with your backhand is usually better than running around to hit a forehand.
Your backhand is significantly better than your partner’s forehandThirdRightRightIf the return of serve goes to the middle of the court, and your backhand is stronger than your partner’s forehand, the backhand drive may be more effective. This is uncommon and should be discussed with your partner beforehand.
Your partner is out of position and the ball is in the middle to your backhandFifth, Seventh, etc.EitherEitherIf your partner is pulled off the court to return a sharply-angled shot, and your backhand is in the middle, a backhand drive can continue applying pressure to your opponents.

Many of these strategies focus on right-handed players, with the stronger forehand player positioned on the left side.

If you and your partner are left-handed, these tactics will still work; your positioning will just be reversed.

Whenever possible, it’s still best to have the stronger forehand in the middle of the court.

Where should you hit a backhand drive in pickleball?

Similar to its forehand counterpart, the best place to hit your backhand drive is toward the serve returner as they run to the net.

It’s difficult for them to defend a powerful shot as they’re moving forward.

The returning player may commit an error or pop the ball up for an overhead smash.

There are additional targets where you can maximize the impact of your shot:

  • At the net player for a different look, possibly catching them off-guard.
  • In between both players at the net, forcing possible miscommunication and errors.
  • Up the line past a net player for an unexpected passing shot attempt (albeit a low-percentage play).

How to hold the paddle for a pickleball backhand drive

How you grip the pickleball paddle depends on whether you use one or two hands for your backhand drive. Both techniques are effective in pickleball.

Your approach depends on your personal preference, previous racquet and paddle sports experience, and play style.

Grip for a two-handed backhand

For a two-handed backhand in pickleball, begin by gripping the paddle in your dominant hand using a continental forehand grip.

Next, place your non-dominant hand above your dominant hand using a “reverse” eastern forehand grip (i.e., the opposite side of the handle from the normal eastern forehand grip).

Due to the short length of the paddle handle, some pros place one or two fingers of their non-dominant hand on the paddle face. Pros like Anna-Leigh Waters are perfect examples of this technique.

You can choose to adopt a similar technique or grip the paddle closer to its throat, depending on what feels more comfortable for you.

Grip for a one-handed backhand

The continental grip is a beginner-friendly option for hitting a one-handed backhand drive.

This grip opens the paddle face, helping you achieve net clearance and pace with minimal wrist movement.

If you need more power and spin, the eastern backhand grip may be a better option. This grip technique involves placing the knuckle of your pointer finger on the top of the handle.

When holding the paddle with an eastern backhand grip, the paddle face is perpendicular to the ground.

Female pickleball player wearing a black top and black visor hitting a one-handed backhand return of serve from the back-right corner of the court.

How to hit a pickleball backhand drive: the fundamentals

Hitting a powerful backhand drive in pickleball can be broken down into these steps:

  1. Early preparation and unit rotation
  2. Non-dominant hand for support (two-handed backhand)
  3. Move forward and step into the shot
  4. Make contact out in front
  5. Follow through

Early preparation and unit rotation

Similar to other racquet and paddle sports, early preparation is a key to success in pickleball.

Once you commit to hitting a backhand drive, take small, controlled steps to receive the ball. Rotate your body so that your dominant shoulder and foot are closer to the ball (closed stance).

Begin your backswing, making a compact loop with your pickleball paddle. Position your paddle head slightly below the contact point. Keep your knees bent, generating power from your lower body.

Non-dominant hand for support (two-handed backhand)

When hitting a two-handed backhand in pickleball, it is important to utilize your non-dominant hand for support.

By placing your non-dominant hand on the paddle grip on top of your dominant hand, you can ensure that your palm is behind the paddle handle when making contact with the pickleball.

This hand position helps provide stability and control for your shot, allowing your dominant hand to focus on generating power.

Additionally, consider placing your index finger of your non-dominant hand on the back of the paddle for added control on your backhand shots.

Using your non-dominant hand in this way can improve the consistency and effectiveness of your two-handed backhand in pickleball.

Step into the shot

When stepping into the shot in pickleball, it is important to focus on weight transfer and body alignment to maximize power and stability.

By creating a “reverse L” with your body, positioning your foot towards the target and transferring weight into the swing, you can ensure a successful backhand shot.

Utilizing dynamic footwork patterns and allowing your wrist to drop down to activate the forearm can also help generate extra pop and leverage in your shots.

Remember to focus on grip pressure and paddle face angle when executing shots, whether it be a drive, slice, or block, to develop a feel for what needs to be done based on the incoming ball.

Make contact out in front

To effectively make contact out in front in pickleball, it is crucial to focus on weight transfer and body positioning.

By creating a “reverse L” with your body, aligning your foot towards the target and transferring weight into the swing, you can maximize power, stability, and balance in your shots.

Additionally, utilizing dynamic footwork patterns and allowing the wrist to drop down can help generate extra pop and leverage in your shots. By practicing these techniques and focusing on grip pressure and paddle face angle, players can improve their game and enhance their shot execution.

Follow through

In order to maximize the power and accuracy of your two-handed backhand drive in pickleball, it is crucial to focus on the follow-through.

Many players make the mistake of cutting their follow-through short, resulting in missed opportunities and lost points.

To ensure a successful shot, lift the paddle head up and through the ball, providing topspin to help get the ball over the net and onto the other side of the court.

Avoid whipping the paddle around your body and instead focus on a smooth and controlled follow-through.

By emphasizing this key aspect of the shot, you can improve your overall performance on the court and increase your chances of success in the game.

Check out our other pickleball guides!

Common mistakes with the backhand drive

Over-swinging

Over-swinging is a common issue that many pickleball players face, especially when it comes to their backhand shots.

When players over-swing, they are trying to generate more power than necessary, which can lead to inconsistent and inaccurate shots.

To prevent over-swinging on your two-handed backhand, focus on maintaining a smooth and controlled swing. Instead of trying to muscle the ball, focus on using the power from your legs and core to drive the shot.

By staying relaxed and fluid in your swing, you can avoid the tendency to over-swing and improve the consistency of your backhand shots.

Another key aspect to preventing over-swinging is to have a strong contact point.

By ensuring that you make contact with the ball at the right distance and angle from your body, you can generate power and control without the need for excessive force.

Additionally, be sure to finish your swing properly by following through and rotating your body to your paddle side.

By focusing on technique and precision rather than brute force, you can avoid over-swinging and develop a more effective and consistent two-handed shot in pickleball.

Poor ball contact

In pickleball, poor ball contact can significantly impact the effectiveness of your two-handed backhand shot.

When you pull your eyes off contact too soon, you run the risk of hitting the ball off-center or off the sweet spot, leading to erratic shots and decreased consistency.

It is crucial to commit to keeping your eyes on the ball for just a fraction longer, maintaining proper form with your chin down and eyes focused on contact until after the ball has been struck.

By doing so, you can avoid sailing the ball longer than intended and increase the likelihood of solid, well-executed shots.

Additionally, having a strong and consistent contact point is key to mastering the two-handed backhand in pickleball.

Ensuring that you contact the ball at about the same distance and angle from your body each time can lead to improved accuracy and power in your shots.

By transferring your weight forward through the pickleball to your paddle side leg, making contact out in front of your body, and rotating your body to your paddle side, you can generate power from your legs and core rather than relying solely on your arms.

Staying low through the point of contact, finishing your paddle swing across your body, and using two hands on most backhand shots are essential techniques to practice for a strong and effective two-handed backhand drive game.

Lack of follow-through

One common mistake that pickleball players make on their backhand shots is a lack of follow-through.

A proper follow-through is crucial for generating power and accuracy on your shots.

When hitting a backhand, make sure to extend your arm fully and follow through with your paddle in the direction of your target. This will help ensure that your shot has the necessary force to reach your opponent’s side of the court.

Additionally, a good follow-through can also help with consistency in your shots.

By completing your swing and following through, you are more likely to hit the ball cleanly and with the right amount of spin.

Practice your follow-through on your backhand shots to improve your overall game and become a more well-rounded player on the pickleball court.

Rushing through the shot

When it comes to rushing through the shot, many players tend to make the mistake of not giving themselves enough time to properly set up and execute the shot.

Whether it’s a backhand drive or a forehand volley, rushing through the shot can lead to poor footwork, lack of balance, and ultimately, a less effective shot. It’s crucial to take the time to get into position, prepare for the shot, and then follow through with proper technique to ensure a successful outcome.

By rushing through the shot, players also run the risk of pulling their eyes off the contact too soon, leading to off-center hits and missed opportunities.

It’s important to stay focused on the ball until after making contact to ensure a clean and precise shot.

Additionally, failing to follow through with the paddle can result in missed shots and lost points.

Remember to fully extend your follow-through to generate power and control over the ball, leading to more successful shots on the court.

Inconsistent stance

One of the biggest challenges players face on the pickleball court is maintaining a consistent stance while hitting shots.

With the fast-paced nature of the game and the need for quick footwork, it can be difficult to always be in the perfect position to strike the ball with balance and stability.

However, by focusing on dynamic footwork patterns and staying light on your feet, you can improve your ability to adjust your stance and stay balanced throughout the shot.

This means being able to hit shots while on the move, whether it’s to the left or right, and still maintain your balance and positioning for a solid strike.

It’s important to remember that even if you’re not always able to set up perfectly for a shot, you can still maintain a strong and stable stance by using your non-dominant arm effectively, keeping your eyes on the ball, and following through with your paddle.

By staying focused on these key aspects of your technique, you can improve your consistency and accuracy on the court, even when faced with challenging shots or unexpected movements.

So next time you find yourself in an inconsistent stance, remember to rely on your footwork, arm positioning, and follow-through to help you maintain balance and control throughout your shots.

Tips for hitting with more power on your backhand drive

Some helpful tips and tricks for hitting with more power on your pickleball backhand drive include:

  • Focus on getting a solid shoulder turn before making contact with the ball.
  • Ensure that your feet are set well behind the ball to generate more power.
  • Bend your knees and get low to the ground to maximize power and control.
  • Use a non-overlapping grip on your paddle for better control and power.
  • Rotate your body and pull the paddle back by your non-paddle side waist to prepare for a powerful backhand drive

Tips for hitting with more topspin on your backhand drive

Some helpful tips and tricks for hitting with more topspin on your pickleball backhand drive include:

  • Start by adjusting your grip to a more continental grip, allowing for better wrist flexibility and control
  • Focus on brushing up on the back of the pickleball with your paddle, rather than hitting it flat
  • Use a slight upward motion on your swing to generate more topspin
  • Keep your paddle face slightly closed at contact to help create more topspin
  • Aim to make contact slightly below the center of the pickleball to maximize the amount of topspin
  • Finish your swing high and follow through to help generate more topspin
  • Practice hitting with topspin during drills and game play to improve your consistency and effectiveness

Frequently asked questions

Do you change your grip for a backhand in pickleball?

The need to change your grip for a backhand in pickleball depends on your preferred forehand grip technique.

If you use a continental grip for both forehands and backhands, there is no need to change your grip for different shots. This is also true if you use a two-handed backhand, as the foundation of the two-handed grip technique is a continental grip.

However, if you use an eastern or semi-western forehand grip, you’ll likely need to change your grip for a backhand. Trying to hit a backhand with either grip technique will prove difficult.

When you’re at the baseline, you usually have enough time to switch grips without much trouble.

When you’re at the kitchen, however, you have much less time to adjust your grip.

When you’re at the net, maintaining a continental grip for both forehand and backhand volleys and dinks is usually the best approach.

Is a one-handed or two-handed backhand better in pickleball?

When comparing a one-handed versus a two-handed backhand in pickleball, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual playing style.

The two-handed backhand offers more power and stability, making it effective for drives, volleys, and overhead shots. However, it does limit reach and could potentially telegraph shots.

On the other hand, the one-handed backhand provides greater reach and flexibility, allowing for more variety in shots.

Ultimately, players should experiment with both techniques to determine which works best for their game and playing style.

Why use a two-handed backhand in pickleball?

Using a two-handed backhand in pickleball can be beneficial for players looking to generate more power and control on their shots.

The two-handed grip allows for a more stable paddle, resulting in better control over the ball and the ability to handle pace more effectively.

Additionally, the two-handed backhand can provide players with a stronger shot, making it a valuable weapon in both doubles and singles pickleball games.

While there are some limitations, such as limited reach and potentially telegraphing shots, mastering the two-handed backhand can enhance a player’s overall game and improve their performance on the court.

Male pickleball player wearing a white and red top and gray hat hitting a two-handed backhand third shot drive in a game of doubles. His female partner is positioned to his right, with both players advancing to the kitchen line.

What is a disadvantage of using a two-handed backhand?

One disadvantage of using a two-handed backhand in pickleball is the limited reach it provides compared to a one-handed backhand.

With two hands on the paddle, players may not be able to reach as far as they could with just one hand.

This limitation can make it challenging to return shots that are out of reach, potentially putting the player at a disadvantage during a game.

Do any pros use a one-handed backhand?

Yes! Several professional pickleball players like Tyson McGuffin and Jay Devilliers use a one-handed backhand.

While the two-handed backhand is more popular at the pro level, the one-handed backhand still has a place in the modern game.

When should you use a backhand slice in pickleball?

The backhand slice is a versatile shot in pickleball that can be used in a variety of situations on the court.

Here are some instances when you should consider using a backhand slice in your pickleball game:

  1. Defensive shots: When you are stretched out wide on the court and need to quickly return a ball that is low and close to the net, a backhand slice can be an effective shot to keep the ball in play. The slice allows you to generate backspin on the ball, making it harder for your opponent to attack the shot.
  2. Approach shots: When approaching the net in doubles play, using a backhand slice can help you set up for a volley at the net. The slice will keep the ball low and slow, making it difficult for your opponents to attack the shot and giving you time to move into position at the net.
  3. Changing up the pace: Mixing in a backhand slice with your regular shots can help you keep your opponents off balance and guessing. The change of pace can disrupt your opponent’s rhythm and force them to adjust their positioning and timing.
  4. Dinking: When engaged in a dinking rally at the non-volley zone, using a backhand slice can help you keep the ball low over the net and force your opponents to hit up on the ball. This can create opportunities for you to set up for a put-away shot at the net.

How do you improve your backhand in pickleball?

Improving your backhand in pickleball is crucial for enhancing your overall game and increasing your chances of winning games.

Here are some tips and drills to help you improve your backhand technique:

  1. Early Preparation: As mentioned in the background info, early preparation is key to a successful backhand shot. Make sure to turn your body and paddle early as the ball approaches your backhand side to maximize your power and control.
  2. Use Non-Dominant Hand for Support: Utilize your non-dominant hand for support during your backhand shot. This will help stabilize your paddle and improve your shot accuracy.
  3. Finish Your Shot: Remember to follow through with your paddle swing after making contact with the ball. This will ensure proper placement and power on your backhand shots.

Drills to improve your backhand drive

  1. Backhand Wall Drill: Stand near a wall and practice hitting the ball against the wall with your backhand. Focus on your technique and aim for consistency in your shots.
  2. Cross-Court Backhand Drill: Have a practice partner hit balls to your backhand side, and practice hitting cross-court backhand shots. This will help you improve your shot placement and accuracy.
  3. Drop Shot Drill: Work on your drop shot technique by practicing hitting soft shots over the net with your backhand. This drill will help you develop touch and finesse on your backhand shots.

By incorporating these tips and drills into your practice routine, you can work towards improving your backhand in pickleball and becoming a more well-rounded player on the court. Stay patient, practice consistently, and watch as your backhand shot becomes a valuable weapon in your pickleball arsenal.

Key takeaways

  • Learning the basics of every shot, including the underrated pickleball backhand drive, can significantly improve your game by adding variety and power.
  • The pickleball backhand drive is a powerful offensive shot designed to pressure opponents and create scoring opportunities, involving a forward swing from the backhand side.
  • Players can execute the backhand drive with one or two hands, with the two-handed version offering extra stability and control, making it popular at the professional level.
  • A strong backhand minimizes weaknesses, enhances offensive capabilities, keeps opponents guessing, and is crucial for passing shots in singles play.
  • The backhand drive is typically used as a third shot to apply immediate pressure on opponents, often directed at the serve returner as they approach the net.
  • Effective backhand drives can target the net player, between both net players, or up the line past a net player for varied strategic impacts.
  • Grip techniques vary with one or two-handed backhands, influenced by personal preference and the player’s background in racquet and paddle sports.
  • Proper execution of a backhand drive includes early preparation, step into the shot, making contact out in front, and a follow-through.
  • Common mistakes in executing the backhand drive include over-swinging, poor ball contact, lack of follow-through, rushing the shot, and inconsistent stance.
  • Improving the backhand drive involves focusing on power, topspin, and leveraging drills for practice, with the choice between one-handed and two-handed backhands depending on personal preference and play style.
Scroll to Top