The Art of Pickleball Serving: Rules, Techniques, and Strategies


Pickleball, the exciting fusion of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong, has gained immense popularity across the nation. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, understanding the rules of serving in pickleball is essential. In this article, we will explore the rules, basic techniques, and strategies to enhance your serving game.

Mastering the Rules

In pickleball, every point begins with a serve. To score a point, it must be your turn to serve. Here are six key serving rules to keep in mind:

1. Underhand or Backhand Motion: Pickleball serves must be performed with an underhand or backhand motion. Striking the ball from above or from the side is not allowed.

2. Contact Point: The point of contact between the paddle and the ball must be below your waist. The taller you are, the higher this point will be.

3. Paddle Head Position: The paddle head must be below the highest part of your wrist at contact. Emphasizing an upward arc motion, the entire paddle must be below your hand rather than above it.

4. Diagonal Serve: The serve must land in the diagonally opposite service area, similar to tennis.

5. Correct Foot Placement: At least one foot must be touching the playing surface behind the baseline when contacting the ball. Additionally, both feet must remain inside the imaginary extension of the sideline and the centerline bordering the service box.

6. Single Serve Attempt: Unlike tennis, only one serve attempt is allowed per server. If you fault on your serve, the serve goes to your partner or the opposing team for a side out.

Pickleball Volley Serve vs. Drop Serve

There are two legal types of serves in pickleball: the traditional volley serve and the drop serve. The volley serve involves striking the ball before it hits the ground, while the drop serve involves dropping the ball and striking it after it bounces on the ground.

The drop serve, added as a provisional rule in 2022, is favored by beginners due to its simplicity. However, advanced players have also found success using it. It eliminates certain serving rules, such as the specific motion and contact point requirements.

While the traditional volley serve offers speed and power, the drop serve allows players to add extra spin and make it harder for opponents to return. Professionals predominantly use the volley serve for its power, but the prevalence of drop serves may increase in the future as pickleball continues to evolve.

Understanding Pickleball Serving Sequence

In pickleball, there is a specific serving sequence to follow. The server must call out the score before serving. The player on the right side of the court serves first, giving them the opportunity to “draw first blood.” After a fault, a side out occurs, and the serve switches to the opposing team. In doubles, both players get a chance to serve between side-outs.

The scoring is represented by three numbers, indicating the serving team’s score, the opponent’s score, and the first or second server after the side out. For example, a typical score might read 6-3-2, meaning the serving team has a score of 6, the opponents have a score of 3, and it is the second server’s turn.

Common Faults in Pickleball Serving

Several faults can occur during pickleball serving. It is essential to adhere to the official rules to avoid faults. Here are four common service faults:

1. Foot Faults: The server’s feet must be inside the imaginary extensions of the sideline and centerline and behind the baseline. Breaking any of these rules, touching the baseline, or not having at least one foot touching the ground while serving results in a fault.

2. Illegal Serving Motion: A serve must have an upward arc, with the paddle connecting with the ball at a height below the player’s waist. Hitting the ball with an inappropriate motion or above the waist is considered an illegal serve and a fault.

3. Wrong Player Serves: It is crucial to remember whose turn it is to serve. Serving out of turn results in a fault. When unsure, ask your partner, opponent, or referee for clarification.

4. Serve Lands Out of Bounds: The serve must be hit diagonally and land in the opponent’s service box. If the serve lands outside the designated area or on the non-volley zone line, it is deemed a fault.

No More Lets in Pickleball

In pickleball, the concept of a “let” serve, where the ball hits the net but lands within the correct service box, no longer exists. Previously, let serves were replayed, similar to tennis. However, the rule was changed in 2021 as it led to disputes and complicated the game. Now, if the ball hits the net and lands in the correct service area, play continues without interruption.

Receiving Faults

Just as there are service faults, receivers can commit faults too. Here are three common faults made by the receiver:

1. Hitting the Return Before the Bounce: The receiver must wait for the ball to bounce in their service area before hitting a return shot. Hitting or touching the ball before it bounces is a receiving fault.

2. Wrong Receiver Hits the Ball: If the receiving team players are positioned on the wrong side of the court, causing the incorrect player to return the serve, or if the non-receiving player is hit by the serve due to improper positioning, it results in a fault.

3. Late Timeout or Score Correction Requests: Players can call for a timeout or ask for score correction. However, a receiver cannot request either after the server has already started their service motion, as it would cause a distraction.

Pickleball Serve Positioning

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