The lob isn't as wretched as some would have you believe. Players who are new to the game or who play outdoors in windy weather find the lob difficult to control. The ball hits the ceiling or lands out of bounds, or it doesn't go far enough, and tall players smash it back. Seniors sometimes like it, since their opponents can't get back fast enough to return it (unlike the younger John). With practice, the lob should have a place in your pickleball arsenal for both offense and defense.
How to Execute a Good Lob
The key to a good lob is to send it well over the head of your opponent while keeping it in bounds. The shot itself is much like making a high, underhand serve, where you carry the ball on your paddle longer. Don't make it too low, or your opponent will smash it back. Like anything else in pickleball, it takes practice. The lob works best if you place it near your opponent's backhand; in doubles play, your percentage shot is just off the center (see below).
Once you master lob execution, you can also add topspin by brushing up on the ball while you carry it upward. Doing this two benefits: the ball drops sooner, making it easier to stay in bounds, and it bounces higher, making the ball harder to retrieve.
If you're playing outdoors, pay attention to the wind. Make a few practice lobs before the game to see how it affects the ball. The wind can be an asset: the opponent who gauges where your shot will land based on the direction of your paddle at the moment of impact may be well off the mark when the wind carries your shot sideways out of her reach.
Another great lob can be made when all players at at the net. When you're in a dinking war, wait for the moment when you can add a bit more power and loft to your normal dink shot to create a lob. If your opponents are not paying close attention, you can catch them off guard with this cleverly disguised shot that will send them back to the baseline.
Defending Against the Lob
Whether you're playing singles or doubles, you must get behind the lob in the back court as fast as possible. In doubles play, when both you and your partner are at the net, the partner who can run back to take the ball on the forehand should move. In general, you should move if the ball will fall in your partner's court, regardless of forehand or backhand access because you have a better line of sight. While moving, call "Switch!" which tells your partner to move across to cover your court, now that you're in his.
It's best to turn sideways and shuffle back quickly enough to get into position when you reach the ball. DO NOT run backward, as that is one of the leading causes of injury.
What are your thoughts about the lob?