Improving Your Pickleball Game: Serving Techniques and Strategies

Pickleball and the Importance of Serving

Pickleball, a popular racquet sport, has gained tremendous popularity in recent years. Known for its unique rules and fast-paced nature, the game requires players to not only possess strong volleying skills but also excel at serving. In pickleball, scoring is limited to the serving team, making the serve a crucial aspect of the game. Without a good serve, it becomes nearly impossible to score points and secure a win.

The Basics of Serving in Pickleball

Before diving into advanced serving techniques, it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the basic rules of serving in pickleball. Players must serve from behind the baseline, either on the left or right side of the center line. The server must announce the score, followed by delivering the ball diagonally across the court into the service area. All serves must be executed underhand and below the waist.

Additionally, the ball must not land in the non-volley zone or touch the line at the front of the service area. However, other lines are considered in play. The server continues to serve as long as they score, but they must switch sides after each successful serve.

Serving Rules in Singles and Doubles

In singles play, each player serves until they lose a point. After each serve, the player must switch the side they serve from. If the score is even, the serve originates from the right side of the court, while an odd score calls for serving from the left side.

In doubles play, each player on a team gets a chance to serve before the serve switches back to the opposing team. However, at the start of the game, the second server for the first team is skipped. Each side-out results in the serve commencing from the right side, with alternating sides after each serve.

The Two-Bounce Rule

Pickleball incorporates various unique rules to maintain balance and fairness. One such rule is the two-bounce rule. According to this rule, both the serve and the return from the serve must be groundstrokes. This means that the server’s shot must bounce before the opponent can return it, and vice versa. Only after the serve and the first return can players engage in volleys, which involve hitting the ball before it bounces on the ground.

Understanding “Lets” in Pickleball

In pickleball, a “let” is when a rally is redone for any reason, and no points are scored. A let may occur if something outside the game interferes with play, such as a dog catching the ball and running off with it. However, the most common type of let is a service let. A service let occurs when the ball hits the net on a serve and fails to cross over to the opponent’s side of the court. If the ball hits the net on any shot other than the serve, it remains in play.

Advanced Serving Techniques

To elevate your pickleball game, it’s crucial to expand your serving repertoire. Advanced players often learn how to execute three main types of serves:

1. High Soft Serve

The high-soft serve involves hitting the ball with a high arc deep into the opponent’s court. This versatile serve can be used by players of all skill levels, as it allows for variations in pace and keeps opponents on their toes. Players can aim the high-soft serve towards the back or front of the service area, using it to create movement and exploit gaps in the opponent’s positioning.

2. Power Serve

The power serve is a low, fast serve aimed deep into the opponent’s court. It requires more skill and practice compared to the high-soft serve but is essential for players looking to elevate their game. The power serve can be targeted towards the forehand or backhand corner, or directly at the opponent. It is particularly effective against opponents with weak backhand shots or slower footwork.

3. Soft Angle Serve

The soft angle serve aims to drop the ball near the kitchen line and the sideline, causing the ball to bounce outside of the court. This serve requires the most precision and finesse and is often used to disrupt the opponent’s positioning. By moving the opponent away from the center, the server can create open lanes on the opposite side, leading to easier scoring opportunities. The soft angle serve is especially effective against opponents playing in a stacked formation.

Tips for Successful Serving

To serve effectively in pickleball, it is crucial to focus on these key techniques:


Each type of serve requires dedicated practice to master. The main goal should be putting the ball in play consistently. Missing shots can hurt your game, especially when attempting advanced serving techniques.

Mix up your serves:

Varying your serves keeps your opponents guessing and prevents them from adapting to a specific serve style. By utilizing different serves strategically, you can control the pace and direction of the game.

Consider timing and ball placement:

Think critically about when to use each type of serve and where you want to place the ball. Adequate placement and a well-timed serve can disrupt your opponent’s rhythm and lead to an advantage for your team.

Put spin on your serve:

Adding spin to your serve can create unpredictability and make it harder for opponents to return the ball effectively. While spin is more limited in pickleball compared to other racket sports, it can still be utilized to create advantageous situations.

Compose yourself:

Develop a routine or rhythm before serving, much like a basketball player shooting a free throw. Taking a deep breath, focusing, and visualizing your desired serve can help you maintain composure and execute your serves effectively.

By continually refining your serving skills, implementing advanced techniques, and strategically adapting your serves, you can greatly enhance your pickleball game. The serve acts as a fundamental element of success in pickleball, providing you with the opportunity to gain an advantage and control the flow of each rally.

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