Close this search box.

Pickleball Doubles Play: Proper Court Position

Last updated on February 12th, 2024 at 03:54 am

Are you ready to take your pickleball doubles game to the next level? Knowing how to position yourself on the playing doubles pickleball court can make a huge difference in your performance. From starting positions and doubles formations to learning when and where to go, understanding pickleball court positions is critical!

In this blog post, our pickleball masters here at Simply Pickleball will guide you through everything you need to know about successfully navigating the court. So get ready to start out playing singles pickleball like a pro!

Before we get into details, here are the key takeaways for pickleball doubles play:

Keep moving to be in the correct position for every shot and anticipate your opponent’s moves. Capitalize on court positioning by controlling the kitchen or non-volley zone, playing between the kitchen line and baseline, maintaining center court position, moving as a team, using lob shots, and being mindful of your opponent’s weaknesses.

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

Does Wayne Gretzky play pickleball? We have no idea. However, using the same strategy that made him one of the all-time hockey greats can help you improve your pickleball game. If you anticipate where the ball is going, you can get there sooner and have more time to react.

Ok, now that we understand a little more about how to position yourself on a pickleball court like a ninja, let’s learn more about the importance of court positioning.

The importance of court positioning in doubles pickleball

Court positioning is critical in pickleball because it determines where you and your opponent are on the court during the game. It can be the difference between easily hitting the ball and needing help accurately returning your opponents’ shots. It also helps you maintain balance and control on the court.

In the game of pickleball, the court is divided into zones, and players take specific positions according to the ball’s position and their opponents. The goal is to keep you and your partner in an advantageous place that allows you to dominate the game.

Understand the different zones of the court.

The pickleball court is divided into three main zones:

  • Non-volley (or kitchen)

  • Mid-court

  • Backcourt

The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, only the serving team is within seven feet of the net. If you want to hit out of the air, your feet can’t be in the kitchen or even touching the kitchen line. The mid-court is the area between the kitchen and the baseline, while the backcourt extends from the baseline to the back edge of the court.

Understanding the different zones of the court is crucial because it helps you know where to position yourself and your partner during a game. Ideally, you want to stay up by the kitchen as much as possible, but if the ball is hit deep into the backcourt, you’ll need to move back to retrieve it.

Communicate with your partner.

Pickleball is a doubles game, and communication with your partner is essential. You both need to know where each other is on the side of the court. By communicating, you can avoid both players going for the same shot or leaving a gap that your opponents can exploit. It would be best to decide who will take the forehand and the backhand at the beginning of each game. This will ensure that both players effectively cover their areas of the court.

Keep moving.

Pickleball is fast-paced, and you must keep moving to be in the correct position for every shot. Where do you stand to receive a serve in pickleball? As the return-of-serve player, stand in the middle of the court, behind the baseline, ready to move in any direction.

A general rule of thumb, when the ball is in play, is to constantly advance with your partner toward the kitchen, keeping your eye on the ball. If your opponent hits the ball deep, move back together to cover the backcourt.

Anticipate your opponent's shots.

One way to create better court positioning is to anticipate your opponent’s shots. Watch their body language and positioning, and try to predict where they’ll hit the ball. As you become more advanced and play against more formidable opponents, you’ll learn how to force your opponents to hit the ball where you want them to. A good example is getting them to hit a pop-up, the most straightforward shot to return in pickleball. To do this, just hit it at their feet at any opportunity. The lower the ball for the receiving team, the higher the return. And vice-versa.

Doing this lets you position yourself in the proper court area before the ball gets hit.

Pickleball Doubles Strategies for Court Positioning

There are several strategies for capitalizing on court positioning when playing doubles in pickleball. 

One of the common strategies is to control the “kitchen” or the non-volley zone (NVZ). The kitchen is the area closest to the net and where most of the action occurs. An entire pickleball court is 44 feet long, and the kitchen takes up 14 feet (7 feet for each side of the net).

Players cannot volley the ball in the kitchen while standing inside the zone or hit drop shots without touching the kitchen line. You can stand in the kitchen all you want, but you can’t hit the ball unless it bounces first in the kitchen.

Once you get to intermediate and advanced pickleball play, most of the game is played near the kitchen. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. When returning the serve, hit your return-of-serve deep so you have plenty of time to join your partner at the kitchen line.

  2. When dinking up by the kitchen, try to hit as many shots out of the air as possible. This gives your opponent less time to react to your shot.

  3. Be unpredictable. That means mixing well-placed dinks with faster speed-up shots and even stepping back from the line to give yourself more room for certain shots.

Another strategy is to keep your opponents back at the baseline. This is achieved by hitting the ball, preferably low and deep, towards your opponent’s feet, making it difficult for them to return the shot and forcing them to stay back.

It’s easiest to do this when they’re serving, and they have to wait for your second shot to bounce before returning. Just keep hitting deep returns while you’re at the kitchen line, and you’ll keep them off balance in a defensive position.

Move as a Team

Pickleball doubles require coordination and communication between partners. If you and your partner move together as a team, it will help you get into the correct position to hit the ball. When you progress as a team, getting into an excellent place to hit the ball is more accessible, and you as serving team can also cover more court space.

Here are a few tips on how to communicate and move better as a team:

  1. If shots are headed right between you and your partner, either call out, “I got it” or “You got it,” so there’s no confusion, and you stay in position.

  2. If your partner hits a well-placed third shot drop into the kitchen, make sure you move up together to the kitchen line.

  3. If your opponents hit a lob over your partner’s head, make sure you move back with them to get in a defensive position together.

two pickleball doubles teams tapping paddles at the net after a game

Coordination is essential when mastering your technique (click here to read our blog),  especially when returning serve or defending against attacking shots.

Use Lob Shots

Lob shots are essential in capturing court positioning. You can place the ball over your opponent’s head when you hit a lob shot. This makes it difficult for them to return the ball because they have to move quickly backward from the net. The longer it takes them to return, the more you can capitalize on the court’s positioning. Using lob shots as a counter-attack or tactical maneuver can also help you slow down the game’s pace.

However, spend plenty of time practicing your lobs before playing more formidable opponents. If you hit it short, your opponents will be set up for an easy overhead slam and win the point. If you hit it long, it’ll go out. So, make sure to practice your lobs during every warm-up!

Be Mindful of Your Opponent's Weaknesses

The best way to capture court positioning is by capitalizing on your opponent’s weaknesses. The more you know about your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, the better you can position yourself on the court.

For example, if your opponent has a weak backhand, you can target that side with your drop shots. Similarly, if your opponent is slow to move backward from the net, you can hit lob shots to push them back even further.

Other times you may find your opponents don’t communicate well, and one (or both) is a ball hog. In this case, an easy shot between them right down the middle creates enough confusion for them to miss the shot altogether. Even better, they’ll keep arguing after the point about who made drop shot or should have hit the shot.

Practice, practice, practice.

Lastly, the key to creating effective court positioning in pickleball is practice. The more you play, the more you’ll understand the game’s and the court’s nuances. Try practicing with a partner, hitting balls to different court zones, and practicing your movement and communication skills. Pickleball drills and training aids are a way to work on your game when you don’t have a partner. 

As you practice the ideas laid out here, keep an open mind and be confident in refining your thought process to ensure you make intelligent decisions on the court. Remember to stay clever with your moves – sometimes, setting up for a specific shot can open more doors than just playing it safe! Knowing how the opposing team and players react to certain situations gives you an edge when trying to outplay them.

Whether you play singles pickleball or doubles make sure you know all the rules of pickleball such as the double bounce rule, how the serving team’s score and receiving team’s score is affected, how to start if you are the initial serving team, etc.

Use our expert hints and tips and take advantage of picking up essential techniques to the games to help make or break a winning match!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more ways to smash your pickleball goals.

             Simply sign up for our newsletter 

                  Join thousands of fellow pickleball players from around the world. Subscribe today!

Latest Blogs

Converting Tennis Courts for Official Pickleball Play

How to Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court

Last updated on March 9th, 2024 at 08:26 am Ready to play pickleball but only have a tennis court nearby? Converting a tennis court for pickleball

How long do Joola pickleball paddles last? Image showing a pile of paddles

How Long Do Pickleball Paddles Last?

When it comes to pickleball paddles, their longevity can be as variable as the game itself. Typically, paddles can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years

SwingVision AI being used to record a pickleball game

SwingVision Pickleball AI App Review

Unleash your pickleball prowess with SwingVision Pickleball AI! Discover the power of swing analysis, shot tracking, and more in this ultimate review.

Best Portable Pickleball Nets

Top-Rated Portable Pickleball Nets

Are you searching for the best portable pickleball net? This article cuts straight to the chase, helping you compare top choices based on portability, quick setup,

Hey, Wait!

Want to save up to 15% off your next paddle?

Unlock free discount codes by subscribing to our weekly newsletter