There are a lot of theories of pickleball dink and with time, it has been altered, for what does dink mean in pickleball today in 2022? Previously, it’s considered a less effective shot, like you’re making a half-fried egg and it turns out to be a scrambled one. People used to be ashamed when they’re hitting a groundstroke and it ends up as a dink. It’s the same as how “noob” feels today for a beginner.
Now as time passes, dink becomes an integral part of pickleball. It represents the legacy of pickleball–one of the compliments that differentiate pickleball from racquet sports. In fact, there are tournaments that are totally based on dinks–no other shots allowed. Yes, you gotta be good at dink to entitle your name to pickleball wins, so let’s start our journey with…
What is a dink shot in pickleball?
A dink is a gentle shot that you play by letting the ball bounce first when it lands in your court. Per the definition of dink, it’s also the short drop-serve, since it’s very similar to the drop shots. There are two types of cross-court and straightaway dink shots, with cross-court being the best one. Dink shot makes the game slow and is the best strategy to drain the energy of the opposites, while technically it’s the ideal form of play for senior players. And, yes. dink is not what google tells. That dink is d.i.n.k.s which is an acronym for Dual Income No Kids.
There are many strategies for hitting the dink too which ranks them on a scale of 1 to 10 from poor to best. The 10-ranked dinks are those that the player hits near the nets of the opposite side. This makes the opponent enter in the kitchen to hit it back, and that’s where most of the pickleball rallies are won.
Dink isn’t the shot that lets you win, though. It’s a defensive play that keeps you from losing the game. While I said “drain the energy”, dink is also the strategy that will most likely make your opponent make a mistake. Either your opponent makes an unforced error or steps into the kitchen and game over! You won. Now let’s learn…
How to dink in pickleball?
Dinking in pickleball is by far the easiest to get a hang on. Think of the double bounce rule in pickleball. What do players do? They let the ball bounce first before it reaches their paddle and they send them back. Dink is similar, however, you’ve to stay near the NVZ line, where you can hit a legitimate dink. Here’s the step for a perfect dink.
Position and posture:
First, get to the nets and leave 2-3 inches only. Make sure you’ve enough space that you can control your body from entering into the kitchen and respond to the dink back while it has enough energy to be sent back, because after the first bounce, the ball starts to lose energy and before it goes dead; you gotta hit it back. This is why, the earlier you send the ball back after it bounced, the better.
Coming to your posture which would be normal tennis and pickleball posture. You’ve to bend on your knees and stay relaxed. Meanwhile, keep your paddle open-faced right in front of you, so you’re more responsive to the shots. For a better dink, adopt a continental grip and play backhand.
Focus on the ball
At the nets, players mostly begin volleys. If you’re a receiver, you’ve to keep a solid focus on the pace of the ball for how it’s coming towards you. Normally, you’d dink back only if the server has sent you a dink. In case, if you’re the server, you’ve to take the pace in your control and find a consistent stroke to begin the dink rallies. Don’t dink the ball if the opponents send you a too high or too fast ball.
Aim at the opponent’s non-volley zone
Now that you’ve a good room to hit the dink, aim at the opponents’ kitchen. Hit the ball gently and focus on the nearest spot at the nets. The nearer the better. This is because entry into the kitchen is banned and your opponent has to wait till the ball bounces back and reach their paddle. It not only buys you extra time to make the ball land on the opponent’s paddle, but also makes the ball dead. Even if it’s not dead, the return of that shot will be so slow that whether the ball goes into the nets or you’ll have an opportunity for another greater dink.
Give the net clearance:
The final consideration is the net clearance. Because 78% of the time the dink goes straight into the nets no matter how good your arc is. This is because the speed automatically goes up when you’re in a dink rally, let aside your opponent can hit you with a volley anytime, and you won’t know when the ball gets in the net when you return it.
Here’s the troubleshooter: aim a little high over the net–normally 2-3 inches. That way, even if the ball travels with a speed, the ball just lands fine on the other side without you making a fault.
When to play dink shot?
Honestly, anytime. You can begin dink at any moment you feel is right when you and your opponent are at the NVZ line. This will normally begin after the third shot and here you’ll have a choice: begin volleys or dinks. However, there are times when a dink will benefit you, so here let me spill out.
The best time to dink:
A dink isn’t a winning shot, however, under the following 4 conditions, it’ll serve you a win on the plate.
When you’re against a taller player:
A taller player finds it hard to bend. No, it’ll be offensive if you consider this as a reason why pickleball is a game of aged players. I mean, yeah that’s one of the characteristics but if the old men hear it, he might throw you out with a really nice bent after which you won’t be able to bend. Anyway, back to our taller opponent. So, a taller player tends to play harder strokes, and he prefers volleys while you, being short, can take advantage of your height and take your taller opponent on his/her knees. And I’m sorry if you were taller.
When the opponent is ex-tennis:
The game isn’t over for tall players, though. The dink is one of your best bets when you’re against a former tennis player. Their gameplay is naturally fast and they’re not much used to dink rallies, while you drag them into the dink rallies is going to exhaust them. The results? They’ll make faults and Tada!–you won!
For a third shot:
Well, dink is the second best shot after the drop shot to play as your third shot. However, it’ll be beneficial for both sides. Your opponent can make it to the kitchen, while you, with no risk of getting a harder smash, can approach towards the nets.
To slow down the game:
Finally, the best time to develop a dink game is when the pace goes out of control. When the volleys go wild, and you’d think you’ll make a mistake, that’s when you’ve to hit a dink shot.
Despite dink being a controllable and finesse tactic, things can go wrong too when you play dinks. In fact, 50% of the unforced errors are the dinking errors.
If you’re naturally an impatient player, you can’t really have a good edge on dinking. The reason is, the time the ball will take to bounce and reach your paddle, you’re already annoyed. You can’t wait for that long, and most likely you’ll end up in the kitchen.
This was the case with me in my initial period. I was super impatient and the dinks feel like me and my rivals are in a time stuck situation. So how did I become the dink master? Well, practice, consistency, and yes, my friends. We had a squad of 4 and we used to play just dink rallies for hours and hours. Switching positions for straight and cross-court dinks, waiting for the ball to bounce, and not just rushing towards the ball were the key-points so far I could conclude after my 1 month of constant practice. Yes, it was that quick, because your body is naturally well-disciplined and it’ll behave whatever you’ll teach it too. Try it sometime.
Hitting dinks on fast shots:
Suppose your opponent has sent you a volley, your best shot is the volley back or a groundstroke. If you dink that shot, there’s a 90% chance the ball will go straight to the nets. Plus, your opponent will, in either ways, benefit from this shot. He’ll win or have a lot of time to strategize the next shot.
When playing against advanced or young players:
Advanced players and young lads are very pro at dinks–especially the cross-court ones. They’ll smash you back with your dink at the back of your court and you’ll have nothing but a lost point. The ball may also end up in your kitchen’s sideline from where the only shot you’ll have is a simple serve or a straightaway serve. Not to mention, if you’re new to the game or in a learning stage, you’ll either miss it or make a fault.
Hitting the dinks when your opponent is on baseline:
When your opponent is on the baseline, you must avoid dink shots at all costs. It’s like giving your opponent a free pass to rule the game. Because, he’ll then approach the nets, and boom! You lost your leverage.
Types of dink shots:
Dink shots are of two types: cross-court and straightaway.
The straightaway dinks are the easiest pickleball shots. No angles. No strategies. Just throw the ball straight over the nets to the kitchen. That’s it.
Cross-courts are strategic besides being easier. Instead of the straight shot, you’ll send the ball in a cross direction to the second player of the other side in the double’s play. Cross-court shots have advantages in both singles and doubles play. In doubles, it’ll confuse your opponent while opening up room for other shots. While in singles, you can take advantage from cross-court shots by freeing up the area in front of you to play lobs and overheads.
Difference between dink and drop shot:
Dink and drop are two most similar shots in pickleball. I, too, used to think of them as similar shots during my early time playing the game, until one of the players I played with corrected me. Dink shots are played with the front hand and when you’re near the NVZ line. Once you go back to the back of the court, it’s called drop shot.
Remember the third shot drop? It’s because you’re at the back of the court and hence it becomes a “drop shot”. You can’t legitimately call it a dink shot when it’s played far away from the nets.
Pickleball Dink: Wrapping up
Well, it’s time to wrap up. Together we covered what is a dink shot in pickleball and how to play it effectively. Here I’ve given you all my tips and techniques and with that I expect you to be the next best dink master. Till then, practice on your dinks, have patience, and build consistency. This will lead you to farm, not only in pickleball but also if you’ve other sports in your buckets. Happy Dinking!
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