The pickleball serve is one of the most crucial aspects of the game. With the proper technique, your serve can help you win. Check out this guide to learn more about pickleball serves and how you can improve yours.
Pickleball Serve Basic Rules and Regulations
There are a few types of serves in a pickleball game, but the most common is the underhanded serve. Here are the basic rules for underhanded serves:
- Your paddle must hit the ball below waist level.
- The paddle's head cannot be above the highest part of the wrist when it makes contact with the ball.
- Your arm must move in an upward arc when you strike the ball.
The rules for all serves are:
- At least one foot must be behind the baseline on the pickleball courts or ground.
- The ball must land within the opposite diagonal court's confines.
- When you strike the ball, your feet can't touch the court or outside the sideline or centerline imaginary extensions.
- The serve must be diagonal.
- Each server can only attempt one serve.
4 Different Types of Serves
Once you've mastered the volley serve — the basic underhanded serve that allows the ball to clear the net and land in your opponent's court — you can take your game up a notch with these four pro pickleball serves.
1. Power Serve
The power serve is about speed and surprise. Its extra speed can make it challenging for opponents to return. And if you've been using a slow serve most of the game, the power serve can surprise your opponents. But it's easy to hit the ball out-of-bounds if you haven't mastered your power serve. And if your opponent returns the serve, the ball will come at you hard and fast.
When hitting a power serve, you rotate your hips and hit with a full swing that utilizes your core. The power comes from your legs, abdomen and hips, not your arm and hand.
2. Centerline Serve
Centerline serves surprise your opponent because they usually don't expect a serve that lands on or barely inside the centerline. A centerline serve begins with you standing behind the baseline and serving per usual. The difference is that you aim for the ball to land just inside your opponent's centerline.
3. Drop Serve
Drop serves are potentially easier for beginners and players with physical limitations. You drop the ball with your nondominant hand, let it bounce once and strike it to perform a drop serve. Unlike a volley, you can hit the ball at any height and with any motion as long as you follow the basic serving rules.
4. Top-Spin Serve
A top-spin serve takes a while to master, but it can throw your opponent off once you do. It's hard to predict where the ball will land with a top-spin serve. To perform a top-spin serve, you hold your paddle perpendicular to the net in a semiclosed position. You swing under the ball in a low-to-high motion and finish with your paddle near your opposite shoulder.
The Role of Spin in Pickleball Serves
One of the most significant changes to the pickleball serve rules for 2023 is that manipulating the ball to spin when you release it is banned. The natural rotation of the ball is allowed, but you mustn't spin or manipulate it before you strike it. This rule change applies to volley and drop serves.
6 Tips to Improve Your Serve
Improving your serve involves more than simply adjusting what serve you use. Check out these six tips to serve like a pickleball pro.
1. Perfect Your Aim and Use Different Serves
Mastering your aim can help you exploit your opponent's weaknesses. You can target specific points, like deep in the service area or your opponent's backhand. To perfect your aim, you must practice. Before each serve, envision where you want the ball to go, adjust your stance and serve.
You should also mix up your serves. Using different serves is the best way to keep your opponents on their toes. If you always serve the same way, it's easy for your opponents to predict where the ball will land. They can quickly return your ball and may forcefully hit it to surprise you. To keep your opponents on their toes, you can use many different serves.
2. Remain Consistent
Remain consistent with your pre-serve routine and serving technique so you can improve it. A pre-serve practice prepares you mentally and physically to serve. Your pre-serve routine may involve tightening your ponytail, bouncing the ball once or twice, or hitting the ball with your paddle a few times.
Use these tips to remain consistent with your serves:
- Keep your shoulders free.
- Let your body remain loose and fluid.
- Flow smoothly into your serve from your pre-serve routine.
- Let your arm swing like a pendulum.
- Have a small backswing with a fluid motion.
3. Pay Attention to Your Footwork and Stance
You can fault if you aren't careful about your foot placement when serving. Here are the rules regarding foot placement:
- Keep at least one foot behind the baseline.
- Do not let your feet touch the playing court or the imaginary extension of the sideline or centerline.
When you serve, both feet should be behind the baseline. Once your paddle hits the ball, only one foot must remain behind the baseline.
Your stance also affects your serve. If you improve your posture, you won't turn while serving, making it easier to play controlled and consistently. The best stance for pickleball is a semiclosed stance. Keep your legs slightly closed and place your nondominant foot closer to the baseline.
4. Hold Your Paddle Correctly
Holding your paddle correctly helps you achieve a good serve. There are a few grip techniques you can try. Begin each technique by holding your paddle in front of you with your dominant hand and using the "V" of your hand — shape between your thumb and index finger — to create the grips. Here are three grip techniques:
- Eastern (handshake): This grip is excellent for beginners. The point of your V is near the top edge of your paddle. If you remove your paddle, you should look like you're about to give someone a handshake.
- Continental (hammer): The V's point is toward the left edge of the handle's top bevel.
- Western: You place the V's point between one and two bevels. So, the V is closer to the same plane as the paddle's face.
5. Warm up and Stretch Before Playing
Most players take a few minutes before the game to warm up and stretch. Warmup exercises prepare your body for the activity ahead. They can boost your performance and prevent injuries. Outside the game, players can focus on pickleball drills that enhance their speed, balance and strength to become better players.
6. Avoid Common Mistakes
It's simple for beginner and experienced players to make mistakes. Here are some common pickleball mistakes and how you can avoid them:
- Rushing the serve: Pickleball is fast-paced, so you might feel rushed when it's your turn to serve. However, you should take a breath, relax and strategize before serving to improve your consistency and aim.
- Gripping the paddle too tightly: If you grip the paddle too tightly, you're creating extra force, preventing you from focusing on finesse. On a scale of one to 10, grip your paddle between three and five.
- Not adapting to court conditions: Rather than seeing wind and shadows as hindrances, embrace them. Your opponents must play in the same conditions, so by embracing them and adjusting your game, you gain the advantage.
Perfect Your Serve With the Right Paddle
When perfecting your pickleball serve, the best tips are to pay attention to your stance, footwork and technique. You can utilize different serves and techniques to keep your opponent guessing. But practice makes perfect. You may not be able to perfect your serve overnight, but you can make adjustments that will perfect it over time.
The right equipment can also help with your serve. A high-quality pickleball paddle can give you a one-up on your opponent. Rhino Pickleball has affordable, high-quality paddles and equipment to help you get the edge you need. Shop our paddles or equipment online today!