The Ins and Outs of Pickleball Serving: Rules, Techniques, and Tips


Pickleball has taken the nation by storm, attracting players from all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, understanding the rules of serving in pickleball is crucial. In this article, we will explore the rules, techniques, and tips to improve your serving game.

Knowing the Rules for a More Enjoyable Game

To fully embrace the pickleball experience, it is essential to stay updated on the latest rule changes. By doing so, you can participate in tournaments and enjoy the game to its fullest. This quick guide aims to provide a firm grasp of the pickleball serving rules, allowing you to serve with confidence and precision.

The 6 Key Pickleball Serving Rules

Every point in pickleball starts with the serve, making it an integral part of the game. To perform a legal serve, you must adhere to six simple rules:

1. Underhand or Backhand Motion: A pickleball serve must always be made with an underhand or backhand motion. Hitting the ball from above or from the side is not allowed.

2. Ball Contact Point: The point where the paddle makes contact with 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. This emphasizes the use of an upward arc motion, with the entire paddle below your hand.

4. Diagonally Opposite Service Area: A serve in pickleball must land in the diagonally opposite service area, similar to tennis.

5. Correct Foot Placement: Your feet must be correctly placed behind the baseline and within the imaginary extension of the sideline and centerline. At least one foot must be touching the playing surface when you contact the ball.

6. One 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 in a side out.

The Pickleball Volley Serve vs. the Drop Serve

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

The drop serve was introduced as a provisional rule in 2022, primarily to benefit beginners. While professionals rarely use drop serves, they can be valuable for practicing new techniques or adding spin to your serve. Ultimately, the choice between the volley and drop serve depends on personal preference and skill level.

The Pros and Cons of Each Serve

The traditional pickleball volley serve is the most common serving style. It offers speed and power, allowing you to generate maximum impact and drive behind your shot. On the other hand, the drop serve provides the advantage of extra spin, making it difficult for opponents to return.

Drop serves are more suitable for beginners and intermediate players, guaranteeing successful serves. Professionals often prioritize power over the simplicity of drop serves. As pickleball continues to evolve, the dominance of the volley serve may change in the future.

The Pickleball Serving Sequence

Understanding the serving sequence is crucial to maintain a fair and orderly game. Before serving, the server should loudly call out the score to inform the opposing team and signal readiness. In doubles, the player on the right side of the court always serves first, except in singles where the service side depends on the score.

Being the first server gives you an advantage, allowing you to “draw first blood” and score first. However, if a fault occurs, a side out is called, and the serve goes to the other team. From then on, both players on each team have the opportunity to serve between side-outs. The pickleball scoring system consists of three numbers, indicating the serving team’s score, the opponent’s score, and the first or second server after a side out.

Pickleball Serving Faults

Pickleball serving faults can result in penalties and are governed by the official pickleball rulebook. Here are four common service faults to avoid:

1. Foot Faults: A service foot fault occurs when the server’s feet are not within the designated area behind the baseline and within the sideline and centerline limits.

2. Illegal Serving Motion: A serve must have an upward arc, with the paddle connecting with the ball below the player’s waist. Any deviation from this motion is considered an illegal serve.

3. Wrong Player Serves: It is crucial to remember whose turn it is to serve. Serving out of turn will result in a fault.

4. Serve Lands Out of Bounds: The serve must land diagonally in the opponent’s service box. If it lands outside that area, it is considered a fault.

Does Each Player Serve in Pickleball Doubles?

In doubles pickleball, the team that serves first in the game only has one player serve before the first fault. After the first fault, both players on each team have the opportunity to serve between side outs. The starting server, after a side out, will always be the player on the right. If a point is scored, the players switch sides and serve again.


Mastering the art of serving in pickleball is essential for players of all levels. By following the rules, practicing techniques, and implementing the tips provided, you can enhance your serving game. Whether you prefer the traditional volley serve or the drop serve, knowing the ins and outs of pickleball serving will undoubtedly contribute to a more enjoyable playing experience.

So grab your paddles, hit the court, and serve your way to victory!

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