The Essential Rules for a Legal Pickleball Serve

The Basics of a Pickleball Serve

Serving is an essential part of playing pickleball, and it comes with its own set of rules. While there are many rules to follow, understanding just three basic rules of serving can help you avoid unnecessary faults. In this article, we will discuss these rules in detail and provide some insights on serving in pickleball.

Rule #1: Positioning – Don’t Touch the Baseline

The first rule of serving in pickleball is to ensure that both feet are behind and do not touch the baseline in any way. The baseline is the back line of the court, farthest from and parallel to the net. Touching the baseline during your serve is known as a foot fault, which is considered a fault in pickleball. To avoid foot faults, players must keep at least one foot on the ground behind the baseline during the serve. Additionally, players should not cross the imaginary intersection of the centerline or sideline when serving.

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

In pickleball, there are two main types of serves: the volley serve and the drop serve. The volley serve is the traditional form of serving and involves using one hand to release the ball while the other hand holding the paddle makes contact with it in the air. The key rule for the volley serve is that it must be underhand, with the server’s arm moving in an upward arc. The ball and paddle cannot make contact above the waist, and the highest point of the paddle head cannot be above the highest part of the wrist.

On the other hand, the drop serve is a newer serving style that became legal in 2021. In a drop serve, players can use either their non-paddle hand or their paddle to raise the ball to any natural height. The ball must then be dropped by gravity alone, without applying any force or spin. The ball must bounce at least once before it can be hit. Unlike the volley serve, the drop serve does not have restrictions on contact above the waist or the arc of the arm motion.

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

The final rule for a legal pickleball serve is to serve the ball into the quadrant diagonal from you and never land in the non-volley zone. The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is a rectangular area that includes a seven-foot space on each side of the net. The serve must completely clear the non-volley zone and its line to be considered legal. By serving deep, meaning sending the ball as far back as possible while still keeping it in the service court, players can push the receiving player behind the baseline and create opportunities for a third shot drop, which is a softer shot that lands in the non-volley zone.


Mastering the art of serving in pickleball requires following the essential rules discussed above. By positioning yourself correctly, using the appropriate arm motion, and placing the ball in the diagonally opposite service court, you can ensure a legal serve. Serving deep can also give you an advantage by pushing the receiving team further back and allowing for strategic plays. So, take time to practice and perfect your serving skills to excel in the game of pickleball.

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