The Key Rules and Strategies for Pickleball Serving

Mastering the Art of Pickleball Serving

Pickleball is a popular and easy-to-learn paddle sport that has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Like any game, it comes with its own set of rules, and serving is an essential part of playing pickleball. To ensure a legal serve and avoid unnecessary faults, it is important to have a firm grasp on just three basic rules of serving. By understanding and following these rules, you can improve your serving technique and enhance your overall gameplay.

Rule #1: Positioning – Do Not Touch the Baseline

The first rule of a legal pickleball serve is to ensure that you do not touch the baseline. The baseline is the back line of the court farthest from and parallel to the net. It separates the back of the court from the out-of-bounds area. If you touch the baseline during your serve, it is considered a foot fault and will result in a fault.

Positioning is crucial in pickleball serving, and there are a few additional rules to be aware of. You cannot cross the imaginary intersection of the centerline or sideline when serving, and at least one foot must remain on the ground behind the baseline during your serve. By adhering to these positioning rules, you can avoid unnecessary faults and ensure a legal serve.

Rule #2: Arm Motion – Volley Serve and Drop Serve Regulations

There are two common styles of serving in pickleball: the volley serve and the drop serve. Both styles have specific rules that must be followed to avoid faults.

The volley serve is the traditional form of serving in pickleball, where the server uses one hand to release the ball while the other hand holding the paddle makes contact with it in the air before it falls and bounces on the ground. The key rule for a volley serve is to make all contact with the ball underhand. The ball and paddle cannot make contact above the waist, the server’s arm must move in an upward arc, and the highest point of the paddle head cannot be above the highest part of the wrist.

In contrast, the drop serve is a newer style of serving that became legal in 2021. It is a different approach to serving and has its own set of rules. In a drop serve, the player can use either their non-paddle hand or their paddle to raise the ball to any natural height. Then, without applying any force or spin, they let the ball drop by gravity alone. The ball must bounce at least once before it can be hit.

The advantage of the drop serve is that it allows more flexibility in how the ball is hit. Unlike the volley serve, there are no restrictions on making contact above the waist, the path of the arm, or the position of the paddle head.

Rule #3: Placement – Serve to the Diagonally Opposite Service Court

Another important rule in pickleball serving is to ensure that your serve lands in the diagonally opposite service court. The serve must completely clear the non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen area. The non-volley zone is a rectangular area that’s 7 feet on each side of the net, including its line as part of the zone.

To make a legal serve, it is crucial to hit the ball into the proper service court, clearing the non-volley zone and its line entirely. This rule ensures fair play and prevents players from gaining an unfair advantage by serving too close to the net.

The Strategy: Serving Deep

In addition to following the above rules, it is essential to have a strong serving strategy in pickleball. One effective strategy is to serve deep, aiming to send the ball as far back as possible while still keeping it in the service court. This pushes the receiving player behind the baseline and further from the net.

Serving deep has several advantages. It buys you space for a third shot drop, which is a shot from the serving team that drops the ball right into the non-volley zone. By pushing the receiving team back on the baseline, they have more ground to cover to reach the third shot. Serving deep allows you to play strategically, thinking two shots ahead and setting yourself up for a stronger position in the game.


Mastering pickleball serving is crucial for success in the game. By understanding and following the rules of serving, particularly the positioning, arm motion, and placement rules, you can ensure legal and effective serves. Additionally, developing a strong serving strategy, such as serving deep, will give you a competitive edge on the court. With these skills and strategies in mind, you can elevate your pickleball gameplay and enjoy the sport to its fullest.

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