KITCHEN LINE ADVICE
Our celebrity coach answers your toughest questions, from on court strategy to diplomacy
MATTHEW MANASSE is a Los Angeles–based professional pickleball player known as the “pickleball coach to the stars.” He works with the biggest names in the game and has competed at every level.
ON A WINDY DAY, WHEN IT’S OBVIOUS THAT ONE SIDE HAS A CLEAR ADVANTAGE, IS IT OK TO SWITCH SIDES MIDMATCH TO MAKE THINGS MORE EVEN?
Absolutely. In tournament play, we play two out of three games to 11, switching sides after each game, and if we get to a third game, we switch sides once one person or one team gets to 6 points. This way, everyone gets the same amount of time on each side and experiences the same wind, sun, and other elements. Otherwise, it’s unfair. There are advantages and disadvantages to being with the wind or against the wind, and you don’t want to have that for an entire match. I always tell my students to practice like you play, so it would be a disservice to your game not to get used to a tournament format that also helps your game.
AS A MAN, I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD GO GENTLER ON FEMALE OPPONENTS, EVEN REALLY GOOD ONES. HOW DO I DEAL WITH THIS?
I hear this question a lot, but pickleball has no gender bias and is multigenerational—everyone’s equal, which is what we want in society, right? When I started playing competitive mixed doubles, it was hard for me to go full throttle against a female opponent. But then I thought, If a woman at a similar level is stepping on the court with me, I’m doing her a disservice if I don’t play my best. Treating everyone as equal on the court will be better for your game—and your opponent’s. DUPR rates everyone according to the same scale, regardless of age and gender, so if a man who’s 80 and a woman who is 35 have the same DUPR score, they should be the same level. Nobody will get hurt if you’re at comparable levels, and nobody should have hard feelings, either.
I OFTEN RETREAT FROM THE
KITCHEN LINE IN DOUBLES PLAY EVEN THOUGH I KNOW I SHOULDN’T. ADVICE?
Players usually retreat from the kitchen line for two reasons: Either they think they need more time to react to fast balls or they think they’ll win more points from the backcourt. Let’s tackle number one first. When you and your opponents are at the kitchen line, you’re only 14 feet apart, so keep your stance square and your paddle up and out in front of you. The more you deal with the pace, the better you’ll do. Now for number two: You do not have a better chance of winning from the backcourt! The kitchen line is the area of offense, and if your opponents are there and you aren’t, they’ll likely win. Being in the backcourt gives your opponents more angles and room to attack. The key is to use your shoulder as the main hinge and keep your dinks low and unattackable. So get to the kitchen line and face your fears!