Serves are crucial shots in a pickleball game. Unlike tennis, you only get one shot at a serve in pickleball. Because the stakes are high and having a good serve can be the difference between winning and losing, you need to perfect the shot before laying high-caliber players.
In this guide, we’ll go through pickleball serving rules as well as the different ways pickleball players can choose to serve.
Overview Of Pickleball
Pickleball is a fast-growing sport in the United States and is the official state sport of Washington.
A pickleball game takes place on a doubles badminton-sized court, with the net lowered down like a tennis net and the players using paddles that resemble those of table tennis; pickleball’s influences are quite apparent.
The 20 by 44-foot pickleball court is dissected as follows:
- A 7-foot non-volley zone, also known as the “kitchen”, on each side of the net.
- Service areas on the left and right are separated vertically by a center line, covering the remaining court space.
- A net divides the court horizontally with a sideline height of 36 inches.
Unlike badminton and tennis, pickleball courts have the same dimensions for both singles and doubles pickleball.
Basic Pickleball Serving Rules
Now that we know what a pickleball court looks like, let’s get down to the pickleball serve.
Serves are a very crucial part of a pickleball game.
In most, if not all, racquet sports, you win points on the opponent’s serve if you simply win the point.
In pickleball, you can only win points on your serve. You either hold your serve and win the point or lose your serve with the score unchanged.
Naturally, you’ll want to make sure to win as many serve points as you can and, when the opposing team is serving, try to win back the serve.
The first player or team to reach 11 points wins the game with a minimum point difference of 2.
Positioning Of The Serving Team
Player position is important when it comes to pickleball serving.
The server should serve from behind the baseline. They should always start serving on the right side of the court. They should then alternate between left and right as long as they hold their serve.
When you regain service from the opposing team, you should start serving again from the right side of the court.
When playing doubles, each of the serving team players will have the chance to serve at least once. If a player holds their serve, they’ll switch sides with their teammate and continue serving. Otherwise, their teammate will serve from whichever side comes next in the sequence.
The only exception is when a new game’s first serve is lost to a fault; the serve immediately goes to the opposing team.
When a player serves, they need to have at least one foot touching the ground the moment the paddle hits the ball, unlike tennis where players can and usually does hit the serve while in the air.
Type Of Serve
The serve has to be an underhand serve. The moment you make contact with the ball, the highest point of the pickleball paddle must be below the wrist.
The service motion should resemble an upward arc movement.
Pickleball Serve Landing Zone
The player should serve the ball diagonally into the crosscourt service box of the other team. It should not land in the non-volley zone.
A “let” call in pickleball, same as in tennis, ping pong, and badminton, is when a point is replayed for any reason without any changes in the score.
The most common occurrence of the “let” call is when the serve ball hits the net before landing in the proper service court. In that case, the point is replayed without penalty. This doesn’t apply when the ball hits the net and lands in any place other than the appropriate service court of the receiving team.
Double Bounce Rule
The double bounce rule determines when the players are free to volley, which means returning a ball without letting it hit the ground. They can do so after the ball bounces twice – once on each side of the net.
In other words, the ball must bounce once after the serve and once after the return of serve. Then, players can choose whether to volley or let the ball bounce.
An illegal pickleball serve automatically leads to a fault and the loss of serve. A fault can be called for several reasons other than an illegal serve, like when the ball is simply hit out of bounds.
When is a pickleball serve illegal?
- A serve doesn’t land on the proper service court of the receiving team.
- A serve touches the line of the non-volley zone, even slightly.
- The serving team is not positioned correctly.
- The pickleball serving motion is incorrect.
- The server’s foot touches the baseline when serving, also known as “foot fault.”
Pickleball Serving Technique
There are two ways to make a legal pickleball serve.
The volley serve is when the player hits the serve without letting the ball bounce. This is the traditional serve and is what pro players typically use.
The drop serve was only introduced to the sport in 2021. It allows players to drop the ball from their hands and let it bounce before hitting it. Drop serves are usually not as efficient. However, when the stakes are particularly high, and there’s no room for error, the serving team may resort to the safer drop serve.
Pickleball Serving Strategy
While it’s not necessary to master every pickleball serving technique, every player should have at least one consistent serve.
Deep serves usually work best; a deep serve is one that lands towards the back of the opposing service court. This way, the receiving team is kept from moving to the front and gaining space.
Below are some key pickleball serving strategies pro players often use.
A lob serve is one that is hit high before it lands on the opposite side. The high bounce can be destabilizing to the receiving team, especially if it’s done right. Ideally, you need to land the lob serve deep to push your opponents back.
However, it’s not necessarily a very reliable serve. A good lob serve is not an easy shot to pull off. If hit short, the high bounce will allow the receiving team the chance to smash it back into your court for an easy win.
The pickleball paddle hits the ball with an up-and-forward swing, applying a downward force to it. What makes the serve difficult to return is the fast rotation of the ball and its tricky bounce.
A power serve is simply one that’s hit hard. It’s the most common serve and is as good as how hard it is. A powerful serve is clearly hard to return and can give the serving team a clear advantage.
However, having only one serve attempt, hitting a serve too hard poses a bigger risk of a fault. A power serve can sometimes be an ace serve, unreturned, untouched, and immediately winning the point.
Soft Short Serve
A soft short serve is, as the name suggests, not a deep serve. It is hit as short as possible into the appropriate service court and can catch the other team off guard. Usually, it’s hit toward the sidelines to weaken the opponent’s positioning and pull them off-court.
Forehand serves are by far the most common. However, a backhand serve may generate a spin otherwise not doable with forehand shots.
Learning how to serve a pickleball is one of the most crucial parts of the sport. After all, it is the only chance to score points. A serve requires a great deal of consistency and efficiency. If you manage to serve right, you can maintain the upper hand and win the game.