In any sport, errors are common. Some of these errors are forced while some are unforced. Forced errors are those that involve returning a well-placed or aggressive shot that is difficult to play. Unforced errors are errors that happen while returning an easy or non-aggressive shot, or they are committed during a serve.
Forced errors require the player to stretch or lunge beyond their reach or capacity. Unforced errors are not physically demanding. The player can easily return the opponent’s shot without much effort, but they end up either hitting the ball into the net or hitting it out of the court. Forced errors are forced on the player by the opponent’s superior technique. They are not caused by a slip-up on the player’s part as such. But unforced errors are wholly the player’s fault. They happen due to the player’s wrong judgment or negligence.
As in all sports, the trick to winning any game is to eliminate unforced errors. Committing too many unforced errors will set you back by a lot of points. That is why you need to be watchful of the common pitfalls. Reducing unforced errors will automatically improve your game. A study has revealed that 7 out of 10 winning teams commit less number of unforced errors than the losing teams. This proves the huge impact unforced errors have on a game.
Depending on the level of play, an error can either be classified as forced or unforced. For instance, an unforced error in an advanced 4.0 or 5.0 level of play might be considered a forced error at a 3.0 level. In other words, a 5.0 level player may be fully capable of returning a shot that for a 3.0 level player may be difficult. A lapse on the part of the advanced level player will then be considered an unforced error, but the same will be taken as a forced error in case of a beginner or intermediate level player.
Tips to Avoid Pickleball Unforced Errors
In the following points we have enlisted the things you can do to steer clear of unforced errors.
Be consistent in your game. Keep the ball in play. Do not rush or hit a reckless shot. Remember, patience is the key to avoiding unforced errors. Focus on getting the ball over the net and wait for your opponent to make a mistake. Play with a steady hand and be in full control of the ball. When you maintain consistency, sooner or later your opponents are bound to lose focus and mess up.
2. Hit to the middle
Hitting the ball down the middle is an excellent way to avoid making unforced errors. But do not simply hit the ball to the middle of the court or blindly aim the ball at the middle line. By hitting to the middle we mean hitting to the middle of the area between your two opponents. Take their positions into account and accordingly place the ball in the middle of the area between them. This will potentially confuse your opponents. Both might assume the other will return the shot and as a result they might miss it.
However, a note of caution: if you are only trying to hit the ball to the middle of the court, chances are you might be making it easier for your opponents to return it. Hitting the ball to the middle is a good strategy if you are a beginner. But if you are an advanced level player, you may want to place the ball a little away from the midpoint between the two players, i.e. a little towards the player with the backhand in the middle (assuming your opponents are both right-handed and their forehands are better than their backhands).
Another reason why you should play the ball down the middle is that the net is up to 2 inches lower at the centre. Therefore, it is less likely that you will hit the ball into the net. Also, when you hit a sharp angle it makes your team vulnerable, in that it exposes your partner’s sidelines and leaves it open for the other party to take advantage of. But, when you hit the ball to the middle, it gives you more control over your point and limits the attacking options available to your opponent.
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3. Hit the ball soft
When you hit a soft shot, your opponent has no pace to work with. Such soft shots have the highest percentage. Just keep hitting the ball softly to the middle and chances are one of your opponents will lose patience and hit the ball too high.
4. Aim for your opponents’ feet
Hitting the ball towards your opponents’ feet, preferably their left feet, is always safer than angle shots.
5. Playing position
As soon as you have served, step back behind the baseline. While waiting to return a serve, keep one foot on either side of the baseline.
6. Avoid angle shots
If you are not a level 4.0 or 5.0 player, avoid playing powerful angle shots. Get better at them by practicing regularly. Do not attempt an angle shot when the ball is below the net. You need to be defensive then. Do not play a difficult angle shot until you have coerced the opposite party out of position.
7. Hold your paddle well
Aim the front face of your paddle towards your opponent and keep it absolutely still for a second before making contact with the ball. Never play your shots in a hurry. Be calm and play a steady game.
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8. Verbal acknowledgement
When you hit the ball, make an audible sound to acknowledge the moment the ball touches the paddle. This will put you in the habit of keeping your eyes glued to the ball when it makes contact with your paddle.
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- While playing your return of serve, be in your ready position beforehand and hit the ball as slow as it takes you to reach the no volley zone. Avoid playing in no man’s land. Maintain your position an inch behind the no volley zone.
- Always swing your ground shots and punch at your volleys.
- Play a new shot only if you are confident about it. If you cannot successfully land it 6 out of 10 times, do not attempt the shot in a game. Perfect it during your practice sessions and then play it professionally.