The “shake and bake” in pickleball is an aggressive tactic used in doubles play which is designed to quickly win a point or end a rally, often on the fifth shot of the game.
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To execute a shake and bake, a player on the serving team drives the ball hard on their third shot with maximum power so as to make their opponent hit a weak, low quality return, ideally one that will pop up high enough to be put away by their partner.
See, as the one player drives the ball, the other immediately “crashes the net.” This means that they rush right up to the non volley zone (“kitchen”) line so that they are in position to return what will hopefully be an easily attackable shot for a quick put-away.
Those are the basics of the shake and bake, but let’s dig a little deeper to find out what it can do for you and how to defend against it.
Why the Shake and Bake Can Be A Lethal Play To Add To Your Pickleball Arsenal
If it’s done right, the shake and bake is devastating. Not only does it end the point, but it can intimidate your competition by showing that you and your partner are truly playing as a team.
While it requires some advance planning, timing, and communication, it can rattle your opponents’ confidence and make them feel that they are not in control of the game.
Even if it is not successful, the shake and bake puts pressure on your opponents and will get them second-guessing their own decisions. This will make their play hesitant and indecisive, leading to more points for your team.
As you continue developing your pickleball skills, you will begin thinking about the game at higher levels and will notice opportunities you may not have in the past.
Your ability to identify scoring opportunities and set up plays like the shake and bake will improve with every game you play, so this is a great opportunity to learn about and add this move to your pickleball repertoire.
How to Execute a Shake and Bake
When it comes to shake and bake strategy, it really is a team effort. Both players must be actively involved and aware of the other’s position in order for the play to be successful.
Here’s a step by step strategy guide for setting up and executing a perfect shake and bake.
Step 1: The Shaker Drives The Ball
The “shaker” is the player who will drive the ball hard on the third shot. The shaker may be either the player who served the ball or their partner, depending on where the opponent returns the serve and who has the better power shot.
It is best to decide beforehand who will be the shaker and who will be the baker.
Typically, the player with the stronger drive and better command over placing hard shots will initiate the play, while the quicker player with better footwork and reflexes will crash the net.
Quality third shot drives are the key to setting up an effective shake and bake, so if you are the shaker you want to try to keep it as low over the net as you can. If your third shot is too high you could create an attacking opportunity for your opponent.
Consider adding some topspin to make the ball “dip” down to the court when it crosses the net; forcing your opponent to hit the ball up from the ground will make it more difficult for them to hit a quality return.
Step 2: The Baker Crashes The Net
As the shaker is hitting their drive, the “baker,” or crashing player, rushes to the net.
The baker is looking for a weak return shot to pounce on and is counting on the shaker to generate it with a good, hard drive.
The player who is quicker and has better footwork and reaction time at the net should be the baker, as the rapid-fire action and instant decision making at the kitchen requires sharp reflexes and adaptability.
Step 3: The Baker Puts It Away
Once positioned at the non-volley zone, the baker waits for the opponent’s return of the shaker’s drive. Ideally, the opposing player will pop up the ball, making it easy for the baker to put away.
A good put away shot requires good placement, preferably into the corners or at the opponent’s feet.
Top Tips For A Successful Shake and Bake
Tip 1 – Hit A Quality Third Shot
If you are the shaker, meaning that you will be the one hitting the third shot drive, take your time and be patient when evaluating an opponent’s return. A poor third shot could not only make the maneuver fail but could set up your opponent to return a rally-ending shot at you instead of the other way around.
As the shaker, you should be aiming not only for power but for placement. Shots that pull your opponent out of position can create disarray on their side of the net and lead to an easy put-away for the baker.
You may also want to consider hitting the ball to the weaker opponent. If you can identify which player on the other team has the most trouble handling pace and blocking drives, hit it to them to increase the chances of generating an attackable shot.
Tip 2 – Cover The Open Court
Part of the shaker’s defensive position must include covering the open part of the court once the baker has rushed the net.
The baker should begin crashing the net as soon as the shaker has hit their drive, leaving a large area behind them in the mid-court and backcourt wide open to attack.
Unless the shaker moves into position to cover this area after hitting their drive, the returning team will have lots of open court space to place an effective return.
Tip 3 – Jam Up Your Opponent
To increase the chance that your opponent will hit a weak, attackable return you want to put them in an uncomfortable position which will cause them to hit a low quality fourth shot.
For example, aiming your drive for an opponent’s non-dominant shoulder forces them into hitting from an awkward “chicken wing” position.
Hitting the ball to their backhand, which for most players is weaker than the forehand, can also increase the chances of a low quality return.
Tip 4 – Communication Is Key
The shake and bake requires timing and coordination before and during the play to ensure both partners are properly positioned to execute it, so it is particularly important to communicate with your partner before the point begins so that both players are on the same page.
Decide ahead of time who will shake and who will bake. The shaker, ideally the partner with the higher quality drive shot, will need to hang back and wait for the return of serve (the “two-bounce” rule), so being unclear on who is doing what can lead to confusion and hesitation on the court.
Also, if the return of serve does not favor a hard drive and the strategy needs to be called off you must communicate that to your partner. For example, if the shaker does not have a good shot to drive but the baker rushes the net anyway, you will leave a wide open space on the court completely undefended.
How To Defend Against a Shake and Bake
Neutralize the drive shot
The best way to defend against a shake and bake is to reduce or eliminate the opposing team’s opportunity to set it up.
You want to force your opponent to hit a weaker third shot drive after your return of serve, so keeping the ball low will make it difficult for them to slam it back at you.
Also, the best drive opportunities are from the mid-court, so hitting deep shots to keep your opponent back at the baseline will give you more time to get to the kitchen line and disrupt the play. This will give also you greater control over the tempo of the game and limit your opponents’ opportunity for a quality third shot.
Hit a quality return of serve
As mentioned above, you want to avoid giving your opponent the opportunity to even try a shake and bake, so you want to hit a good return of serve that is difficult to drive.
Placement is an important factor in hitting a good return. Aiming for your opponent’s feet will keep the ball low enough that they will not be able to effectively drive it back at you. If possible you can also aim for the sidelines or otherwise try to put the ball out of their reach.
Similarly, hitting a drop shot just over the net on the return of serve will eliminate the opportunity for a drive as the ball will be too low and close to the net.
Target the crashing player
Once you notice that the baker is rushing the net you may realize that you are being set up for a shake and bake.
Aiming the ball at the baker’s body instead of hitting it back to the shaker will make it more difficult for them to hit and may make them back off the kitchen line or otherwise reposition themselves to return it.
As you can now understand, the shake and bake in pickleball is one of the more aggressive tactics in doubles play.
It is an effective strategy but requires communication, coordination, and timing to be successful.
Whether you’re the shaker or the baker, successfully executing the play is immensely satisfying when it all comes together! So next time you’re out on the playing doubles try to start looking for opportunities to set up this advanced tactic.
Before you know it you and your partner will be shaking, baking, and winning more points on the pickleball court!