Pickleball Serving

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Beginner pickleball players often struggle to find their stride on the court due to improper serving techniques. Knowing how to serve correctly grants you full control over when and where to hit the ball. Stick around to learn all about pickleball serving.

Pickleball Serving Rules

First things first, it’s vital that you learn the pickleball serving rules so that your technique and practice sessions are based on a solid foundation.

Pickleball net post

Pickleball serving starts on the right-hand side of the court and is executed diagonally into the non-volley zone (the kitchen) on the opposite side of the net.

The player who’s serving continues to serve throughout the game until they lose a point. Only then can the serve transition to the other player.

Ideally, the score should be called out right before the serve is executed so that both parties are aware of their game status. The serving team’s score is the first to be called out, followed by the receiving team’s score.

Unlike tennis, where the score consists only of two digits, the score in pickleball consists of three. The first two digits refer to the serving and receiving teams’ score, respectively.

The third digit, which is either ‘1’ or ‘2,’ refers to the serving team’s chance to serve. It could be their first or second chance.

Wait! Does this mean you get a second chance to serve if the first one doesn’t go well, like in Tennis? No. You only get one chance to serve.

The only exception to this rule is when a “let” happens, which is when the ball touches the net yet manages to land in your opponent’s service court. In this case, the serve is replayed.

In pickleball, the serve must be played underhand. The motion is quite similar to the one you do when you’re bowling. Forget all about tennis serves when on a pickleball court. To add, contact between the ball and the paddle face must take place below the player’s waistline.

Lastly, when you’re about to serve, make sure both of your feet are behind the baseline. Your feet cannot touch the field area or the baseline until the ball is struck. Otherwise, it’s a fault.

  • Pickleball Serving Technique

With the rules out of the way, it’s time to learn how to serve pickleball properly. You’ll need to develop good body positioning and technique to ensure proper serving, which, as with most things, all boils down to practice.

The first thing you need to do when trying to execute a solid serve is to take your time. Do not rush anything; the rally starts, and the ball is in play the second YOU strike the ball. Make sure you keep the serving motion natural and easy to ensure effectiveness.

Before you serve the ball, be sure to pick the spot where you want the trajectory of the ball to end at and mentally lock it in as you’re serving.

As you’re about to serve, lower your head and focus on the impact when the paddle comes in contact with the ball. This probably resonates with you if you’ve ever played golf since, in golf, it’s best to pick a spot then lower your head through the impact between the ball and the club.

Your lead shoulder should be aimed in the direction of your target. If you’re right-handed, your lead shoulder is your left shoulder, and vice versa. You’ll get the hang of it with frequent targeting practice.

As I already mentioned, you want to serve with an underhand motion, similar to bowling. Be sure to keep the motion fluid so that it transfers your weight from the back to the front with ease.

One of the mistakes that a lot of beginner pickleball players tend to make is not following through with their pickleball shot. The serve doesn’t stop when the paddle hits the ball. You need to follow through up to shoulder height.

Man playing pickleball
  • Strategies to Serve a Pickleball

If the result of the coin toss is you being the server, there are a few tips that I recommend you implement to grant you the strategic advantage over your opponent. This is important because as you may know, the person who doing the serving is generally at a disadvantage because they’re not able to get to the net as soon as the receiver.

First and foremost, focus on getting your serve in so that you don’t miss out on a point. Being consistent with your shots is more important throughout the beginning of a rally.

Unlike a tennis serve, the serve in pickleball isn’t necessarily a weapon that you can use against your opponent. You’re likely not going to blow it right by your opponent like tennis pros often do.

Once you’ve developed your consistency, you can then focus on increasing your velocity and adding some spin in your shots. And don’t forget about placement, as a well-placed serve can be more effective than a power serve.

The next step is to work on your shot variance. Put differently; you need to change your velocity and location frequently so that you overwhelm your opponent to the point that they’re unable to predict your next move.

It’s highly recommended that you target your opponent’s backhand since most players tend to have a weak one. Further, you want to execute a few lob shots to throw your opponent off. By doing this your opponent won’t know what’s coming and likely won’t get to the net as quickly.

Lastly, as you progress, you need to work on heavy-spin, and sharp-angle serves. Don’t use such serves as a beginner pickleball player because their probability of going in is quite low. Wait until you’re an intermediate, at least.

Final Thoughts on Pickleball Serving

To end this post, we’d like to shed light on some of the most common illegal serves in pickleball, the first being moving the arm in a sideway motion rather than an upward motion when about to serve. Remember, it has to be an underhand serve.

The second most common illegal serve is when you strike the ball above the navel. And lastly, if the paddle is above your wrist as you’re serving, it’s considered illegal.

Hopefully, the information provided in this post has helped put you on the right track as far as learning how to execute a pickleball serve properly.

All that’s left for you to do is head to the court and practice improving your pickleball skills!

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.