Paddle 101

Paddle Chess
Paul Wallack plays platform tennis out of the Huntington Y on Long Island. He has been playing for 10 years, bringing with him the racquet experience of teaching tennis after playing in college. He's been ranked in paddle as high as 4th in the 55s. Paul views paddle as a combination of tennis and chess; a view shared by many players who have found that strategy and careful shot making are indispensable to a successful game.

Paul gives free instruction to new players at the Y to get them going in the right direction. In preparation for conducting a clinic for new and inexperienced players, Paul wrote down this list of points, which he has graciously shared with us,  as his guide. While these are specifically tips for newer players, many are reminders from which we can all benefit.

By Paul Wallack
Long Island, NY
November, 2008


  • Put it in a place where they can’t drive it for a winner. Mix up your placements. Don’t let the returner get into a rhythm.
  • The more spin the better.
  • Always serve and volley – unless they’re killing the returns then both stay back and get into the point.
  • Get to the courts early, get a basket of balls and practice the serve. Having only one serve takes time to get used to.
  • The net partner should try to pick off the returner’s drive down the middle.

Return of serve:

  • Drive it if you can do it effectively, otherwise lob it and get into the point.
  • Don’t give away the point.
  • The best return is to the server’s feet. You and/or your partner can blitz on that return as they have to hit it up.
  • Attack the net man when you have the advantage, otherwise keep it away from him.
  • Your partner should be just inside the baseline to cover a short volley off the returner’s drive. He should be ready to blitz if he sees you are going to drive, but should step back if he sees you are putting up a lob. If you know your partner is blitzing, keep it away from the net man or your partner is dead.

Backcourt Play:

  • Be patient. Embrace the long point.
  • Play overheads off the screens if you can’t hit an effective drive or lob off the court
  • Drive from the inside the baseline (only if you have the advantage), lob from behind the baseline (unless they’re out of position).
  • When in doubt lob, don’t drive.
  • Push them back with the lob, then hit to their feet and come forward (blitz).
  • Learn to drive off the screens.
  • Drive to the righty’s right hip. Lefty’s left hip.
  • Try to lob deep down the line. This will often set up your partner with a short ball he can drive.
  • On a lob over their heads or a drive past them you both take the net, but be ready for a drive coming back.
  • On a short ball where your options are limited, either lob the ball or drive the ball through the opponents at the net, looking for gaps between or around them.

Net Play:

  • Be patient, embrace the long point
  • Don’t give them a forehand to drive.
  • Shoulder high let it fly.
  • Hit mostly backhand volleys. Use the sweep volley.
  • Don’t try to hit a miracle volley. Let good drives go by you and come off the screen to buy time.
  • If playing two righties the safe shots are to hit softly to the ad court side screen and down the middle to the deuce court player’s backhand. Playing a lefty and righty, hit to both side screens. Good players will see your tendencies so you have to mix it up.
  • Move in tandem; cover the two thirds of the court where the ball is. If they hit a winner to the other third more power to them. The percentage is against them.
  • The player on the ball side will be closer to the net, the partner a step deeper.
  • Call all balls that aren’t obvious as to who will take it.
  • Cover the lobs to your side.
  • Switch if one of you is a lefty to get him to the deuce court. You don’t want both backhands in the middle. Call for the switch on a well placed soft overhead.
  • When your partner is driven back by a deep lob the next shot will be to his feet. Try to cut it off.
  • Tell your partner whether or not to hit a deep lob or to let it go. If it’s going to be in you want to hit it; don’t let it drop.
  • On lobs over your head or a drive past you, both of you move back.


  • More points are lost than won. Don’t lose them.
  • Patience is key. Embrace the long point.
  • Like tennis, don’t get caught in no man’s land.
  • The screens are your friend; they buy you time. The screens are the difference between tennis and paddle. Learn them. Use them. Quick recognition and good positioning are the keys.
  • At the top level there is no advantage to being up at net.
  • At the top level serve is held just 50% of the time.
  • Watch better players play. Pick one that plays your side and study his positioning and tactics.
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