Shake and Bake in Pickleball

You can’t call yourself an aggressive player without knowing the “shake and bake” in pickleball. It’s currently the hottest trend in pickleball that everyone’s talking about, and no, no one’s baking something sweet on the court. It’s a double strategy of third shot drive and often drop. Although it’s primarily suited to the 5.0+ players, the strategy’s success rate makes beginners and intermediate desperate to try it. So today, I’ll give you some solid tips and measures with which any beginner to an expert player can execute the shake and bake and defend it.

The shake-and-bake strategy isn’t score-winning but drives from the shots that let you score points, and the opponent makes the fault. It’s a powerful strategy to confuse your partners and shake their grounds, winning you points and rallies. This is a total of the 5-shots strategy having the third and fifth most important ones.

What is shake and bake in pickleball?

“Shake and bake” is a slang term that refers to a third shot “drive” strategy in which one plays the drive shot and the other marches towards the NVZ. The motive is to reserve the fifth shot and let the opponent miss the next one. However, you can also perform shake and bake with the third shot drop instead of drive.

Other than driving or dropping the ball, the critical task in the strategy is crashing toward the nets. Basically, when the first player drives the ball, the second player has to rush, which already creates chaos for the opposing team. Now, the team pops up the ball, which the crasher returns with a volley and ends the point. At this point, the ball already has so much speed that the opponent will either miss that shot or play it weakly with an unforced error. Either way, you’ll have the benefit.

The Shaker (who drives the ball)

Before executing the shake and bake strategy, you must communicate with your partner about who drives the ball and crashes the nets. The person who drives the ball is referred to as the “shaker.” Decide which of the two partners has better pace and placement and make him/her the shaker. The shaker has some responsibilities before doing his main task. 

First, the shaker should be excellent with the pace. His drive shot must be one of his best shots. 

Second, read the upcoming shot. It’d be best if you only drove when the ball is short, and you can drive it with a good speed. If the length is considerable and the speed is low, you can do the shot straight away and then execute the rest of the strategy unchanged. 

Third and most important, don’t leave the area empty when your partner has transitioned from the baseline to the NVZ. This will give your opponent an opportunity to send the ball in an open area, and you’ll likely miss it. 

Conclusively, the shaker will drive the ball, cover the area, and stay attentive. That’s it. 

The Baker (who crashes the nets) 

The baker’s work is easy. He’ll rush toward the nets in the middle and play the fifth shot. The rushing should be chaotic because you need your opponent’s attention. When you have their attention, their mind will divert from defending the fired-up drive, and they’ll pop it. Just at this moment, crash the ball at their feet. 

The weak partner often plays the baking role, and one thing he needs to be assured of: be in 100% synchronization with the shaker and have great footwork. 

Decided the roles? Now, let’s roll in: 

How to execute shake and bake in pickleball?

Shake and bake is teamwork and requires excellent communication and attentiveness between you and your partner. It’s rather a step-by-step strategy than a one-time action.

How to execute shake and bake in pickleball

Here are the steps:

1. Communicate with your partner:

Communication doesn’t mean deciding the roles only. You and your partner must talk about the alternatives and timings. If you’re the shaking partner, your partner must know when and where to come forward. Typically, the baking partner will go in the middle, just like how poaching works. 

If the situation alters and you can’t drive the shot at the moment, what’s the plan? Of course, you and your partner will have different things in your mind. You may drop the shot and continue shaking, while your partner may still lie in the back, thinking the next ball will be a dink. This is a lack of communication and must be cleared with your partner. 

In spite of less communication, your partner may reach the nets late, making the strategy void. Because now, your opponent has enough time to drive a hard stroke, and the moment your partner is on the NVZ, you’d have popped out the ball or sent a weak return. In contrast, if your partner is there before time, again, the opponents would already know, and you could have missed the second bounce if you were the serving team, and hence, you’ll bear the penalty. 

The success of any double pickleball strategy initiates with excellent communication. When you and your partner are in sync, you can be more attentive on the court and have a solid attacking and defensive shield on your side against your opponents. 

2. Hit a powerful and low third shot drive

Shaking and baking activate after the serve and return of the serve, i.e., on the third shot. This is the showtime, and the drive shot isn’t the regular third shot drive. Shake and bake strategy requires a well-placed and powerful third shot drive. Instead of pace, you should be more concerned about the placement of the shot because a regular drive will get a more vigorous and fast return, and you won’t be able to smash it back. 

So how to execute the third shot drive in shake and bake?

You aim the ball low, particularly on the backhand, and hit the ball with full speed and, if possible, roll the ball with topspin. If you hit the ball on the forehand, the opponent will drive the ball back. Remember. The whole point of a lower third shot drive is to force the opponent into pops up. 

First, have a quick analysis. See which one of the opponents is weaker and has less power. Your target should be the weaker partner for the drive shot. If the players are poaching, hit the ball toward the moving partner. The mind doesn’t process two things at a time; you’d already have received what you wanted—a pop-up. 

If the third shot isn’t hit as intended, communicate instantly with your partner. You want your partner at the back if things go wrong by any means. 

3. March forwards the nets

The baker must march forward as soon as the driving player has made the shot. The footwork should be excellent. The time estimate shouldn’t be any longer than 3 seconds. The crashing partner must put pressure on the opposing team and have their attention. If they were stacking, that’s already a plus point, as you’ll receive a much weaker return of the third shot. This is because the moment the driving partner has made the third shot, the responsibility shifts to the crashing partner because the more important thing is…

4. Putting away the fifth shot

This is the end game. The crashing partner will put away the fifth shot, which would more likely be a pop-up shot from the opposing team, and then ends the point. 

When to execute the shake and bake strategy: 

In pickleball, you’d typically have a third shot drop being your best strategy to stay ahead. But there are situations when a drop shot after the return of the serve is short, making you imbalanced, lose a point, or giving your opponent an opportunity to march toward the Kitchen. This is when you drive the ball and adopt the shake and bake strategy.

Simply put, Shake and bake is best applied if your opponent returns a short serve or when your opponents are at the baseline.

In addition, if the third shot isn’t a powerful drive, leave the idea of shake and bake right there. Prompt your partner to stay at the back and play the next shot in response to the type of return you receive from the other side.

Where things go wrong:

Although shake and bake is one of the least pickleball strategies which can be done flawlessly. However, for newbies, it’s impossible that you never make a mistake. I lost my 5 matches because of poor execution of the strategy, and many of you will actually relate with me.

So, number 1 is you don’t have the right fit, i.e., the perfect driving partner.

If both of you are slow pacers and dink players, you can’t successfully execute the shake and bake in pickleball. At least one of the partners must be good at driving the ball and smashing it straight into the opponent’s feet. This is why shake and bake are associated with the aggressive player’s strategy. 

Number 2, Miscommunication:

Any mistake in the shake and bake strategy arrives from the lack of communication almost 90% of the time. The partners aren’t in synchronization leads to delays, unnecessary actions, and messed up strategies simply because the other partner didn’t know. 

Number 3, Poor third shot:

The third shot is the foundation of the shake and bake in pickleball. The crashing partner put all of his trust in the driving partner that he’ll hit a quality third shot. If that partner fails to deliver a low and powerful third shot, the strategy already fails. In fact, the other partner will come to the NVZ, and having this opportunity, your opposing team will send you an overhead or lob. See how a minor mistake can cost you? That’s how critical the third shot is. 

Number 4, Delay in crashing:

The 4th common mistake in this strategy is your partner didn’t come to the front earlier. This gives your opponent a golden chance to utilize their pop-up. Your strategy can very well go against you within a second. 

How to defend against shake and bake

Reverse the case. What if the opposing team adopts the strategy against you? What will you do? Of course, you don’t want to get played, right? So, here are the preventive measures you and your partner can set up, so you’ll fight the shake and bake of your opponent effectively.

How to defend against shake and bake

Have a low and powerful return of serve:

Your opponent will most likely drag you into the shake and bake if you’ve sent them a short or a weaker return of serve. Refrain this. The return of the serve should be at the baseline or a little longer. For a more robust return of the serve, aim at the baseline player’s body. The worst your opponent can do on a baseline return of serve is to send you a drop shot. Easy. You can absolutely send a cross-court dink or a drive out of that shot. Either way, you’ll be at the NVZ line and better position yourself for the volleys. 

In fact, I suggest making this your regular practice. Deeper and low shots are more effective and force your opponent to send a higher return and boom! Now you can send a drive shot, overhead, or a topspin volley. 

Don’t send the return of the serve to the NVZ player:

Your return of the serve should be sent to the player who’s at the baseline because he’s the crashing player and has no intention of driving the ball. When the crashing player receives the ball, he’ll panic and send an awkward shot toward you. This will quickly bust off the shake and bake strategy of your opponents. 

Never stack after the return of the serve:

After you’ve made the return of the serve, the worst thing you can do is stack or switch sides. Despite how powerful stacking is in the double’s game, ding it prior to the third shot gives off your position, and you can instantly lose a point by making an unforced error or with pop-ups. 

Your opponent can easily take advantage of your moment by aiming at your shoulder or sides, and while you are busy moving, you can’t read the shot, which results in a weaker serve, and boom, the opponent, will already have put away. 

Neutralize the drive shot:

You may have received the third shot drive, perhaps a powerful one. Now, please don’t make things awkward then they’re all ready for you. Play a block shot and aim at the kitchen. Simply neutralize the drive shot on your opponent’s feet so they can’t smash the ball any further. And yes, don’t hit in the middle. Instead, aim the shaker (who played the third shot drive).

You can also send a short volley and neutralize the drive. In addition, if the crashing player has reached the nets, simply send a lob over his head, and they’ll miss it.

Your only lifesaver is “no pop-ups.” That’s it. Once you’ve played the third shot well, your stance is well maintained, and you can dominate the game from that point.

That’s what he said:

Aggressive style playing is incomplete without thrilling strategies, and Shake and bake just adds class to it. All you need is the right partner to drive the ball and an active partner to rescue you for the putaway with excellent footwork. Shake and bake is a quick and effective strategy if appropriately followed. Otherwise, it can go on reverse—real quick.

So, bear all the points in mind and discuss your plan with your partner. In the meantime, if you’re confused about anything, just leave a comment below. I’ve got you all covered!

Robby Anderson

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