Return of Serve. Very often, the best return of serve is a soft floating return that keeps your opponent in the back court. You will be taking advantage of the 2-bounce rule that prohibits the serving team from volleying the return of serve. The soft floater gives you and your partner plenty of time to establish your positions at the no-volley line. When you control the no-volley line, you have assumed the offense and put the serving team on defense. The other advantage of using this type of return is that it is one of the easiest returns to make and greatly cuts down on errors.
There are times when a hard driving return is appropriate. It can be especially effective if one of your opponents has a tendency to move up too quickly after the serve. If he has moved up too quickly, the hard drive forces him to backpedal quickly and forces an off-balance shot. But, keep in mind that your chances for error increase with that type of return. An attempt at a drive return means that it is much more likely that you will hit the net or hit the ball long. The other risk of the drive return is that it may be returned to you before you have had time to establish your position at the line.
Use the hard drive return every now and then for a change of pace and to keep your opponent off balance. But, most of the time, it would be wise to play the winning percentages and return a deep soft floater.
Is it OUT or IN? The ball can only touch the court at one point. As you can see in the first photo below, the center of the ball is touching the red. So, even though part of the profile of the ball is over the top of the line, the ball is out. The second photo shows a ball that is good because the center is touching the white line. Reference: section 6C of the official USAPA rules. Note that this rule is different than the rule for tennis. A tennis ball can flatten out when it hits, so if any part of the tennis ball touches the line, it is called good.
Remember, all lines are good during the rally and the serve except for the no-volley line during the serve. A served ball that touches the no-volley line is a fault and results in loss of serve.
Help Your Partner With Line Calls. When your partner is trying to make a difficult shot, it is often hard for that player to concentrate on the line and the shot at the same time. Your partner is counting on you to make the out call if necessary. It is very common to see players looking straight ahead while their partner is playing the ball. You should always watch the ball so that you can help your partner with the call. Otherwise, you may be giving away points if your partner is unable to make the call.
If your partner calls the ball out and you see that it is clearly in, then you should declare the ball to be good. When you disagree with your partner about a line call, the benefit of the doubt always goes to the other side. Never play the point over.
Anticipation. Pickleball is a very quick game requiring fast reflexes for those quick exchanges at the no-volley line. The best players give themselves an edge of just a fraction of a second by anticipating the shot. If you wait for your eyes to pick up the flight of the ball after it is struck, it may be too late. It is important to take note of the visual clues that will tell you where the ball is most likely to go. Observe the speed and angle of the paddle as the ball is struck so that you can begin to react and shift your weight before the ball is actually hit. Also take note of the position of the feet for another visual clue of the general direction in which your opponent is aiming. You don’t need to look directly at the feet. You can usually see the feet in your peripheral vision as you keep your eyes on the paddle and ball.
Watching the paddle will also help you anticipate any spin that is being placed on the ball. If the paddle is moving from high to low, then the ball will likely have backspin. That is especially true if it is hit with an open face (paddle tilted slightly upward). If the paddle is moving from low to high across the top of the ball with a closed face, it will have top spin. If the paddle is swept horizontally across the body, it will probably have some side spin.