Understanding Pickleball Serving Rules: Tips and Techniques to Improve Your Game

The Basics of Pickleball Serving

Pickleball, a combination of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong, has been sweeping the nation and gaining popularity among beginners and seasoned veterans alike. Whether you’re new to the sport or have been playing for years, having a good understanding of pickleball serving rules is essential for a fair and enjoyable game.

When it comes to serving in pickleball, there are six key rules to keep in mind. First, the serve must be made with either an underhand or backhand motion, with the server’s arm moving in an upward arc when striking the ball. Hitting the ball from above or from the side is not allowed.

Second, the paddle must make contact with the ball below the server’s waist. The taller you are, the higher this point will be. Moreover, the paddle head must be below the highest part of your wrist at contact. This emphasizes using an upward arc motion and ensures that the entire paddle is below your hand.

Third, the serve must land in the diagonally opposite service area, similar to tennis. This means aiming for the correct area on the opponent’s side of the court.

Fourth, your feet must be correctly placed. At least one foot must be touching the playing surface behind the baseline when you contact the ball. Your feet must also be inside the imaginary extension of the sideline and the centerline bordering the service box.

Fifth, only one serve attempt is allowed per server. Unlike tennis, there are no second chances if you fault on your serve. The serve goes to your partner or the other team in a side out.

Finally, it’s important to note the two legal types of serves in pickleball: the traditional pickleball volley serve and the drop serve. The drop serve, introduced in 2022, is easier for beginners as it eliminates several serving rules. However, professionals still primarily use the volley serve due to its speed and power.

Pros and Cons of Different Serves

While the volley serve offers more power and speed, the drop serve allows for added spin and can be harder for opponents to return. Drop serves are more commonly used by beginner and intermediate players looking for successful serves, practice tools, or to experiment with different techniques. Professionals, on the other hand, prefer the power they can generate from a volley serve.

It’s worth noting that pickleball is constantly evolving, and the popularity of drop serves may increase in the future.

The Serving Sequence and Faults

In pickleball, the serving sequence follows a specific order. The player on the right side of the court serves first, and the score is always called before the serve. It’s crucial to follow the correct serving order and avoid common serving faults.

Some common serving faults include foot faults, illegal serving motion, serving out of bounds, and serving before the ball bounces. Additionally, there are faults that can be committed by the receiver, such as hitting the return before the ball bounces, hitting the wrong receiver, or asking for a timeout or score correction too late.

Pickleball Serve Positioning and Tips

In doubles pickleball, each player has a specific position during the serve. The server must be behind the baseline, while the non-serving partner can stand wherever they like, as long as they are out of the way and allow the ball to bounce before striking it.

Here are a few serving and receiving tips to improve your pickleball game:

1. Watch the ball: Keep your eyes on the ball until you’ve made a good connection. Avoid getting distracted by its trajectory.

2. Mix up your serves: Keep your opponents guessing by using a variety of serves, including powerful deep serves, lobs, and shorter serves with backspin. Aim for different parts of the service area to add variety to your game.

3. Aim for consistency: When starting out, focus on consistent legal serves rather than trying to hit every shot like a pro. Consistency will lead to more enjoyable gameplay.

4. Keep your opponents back: Aim to hit your serve as deep as possible to keep your opponents away from the kitchen line. Similarly, return serves deep to give yourself more time to reach the kitchen line.

5. Try different targets: As you become more comfortable with your serve, aim for specific targets such as your opponent’s backhand side or right/left side. Varying the pace of your serve can also be effective.

Understanding Doubles Play

In doubles play, the team that selects to serve first only has one player serve before the first fault. After that, both players on each team have the opportunity to serve between each side out. The starting server of the game and after each side out will always be the one on the right. As points are scored, players switch sides and continue serving.


Understanding pickleball serving rules is crucial for players of all levels. By following the rules and practicing different serves, you can enhance your game and have a more enjoyable experience on the court. Remember to stay up-to-date with any rule changes and continue refining your serving techniques. Happy pickling!

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