We have discussed the serve in the sport of pickleball on a variety of levels, including in our free pickleball newsletter and in our pickleball videos. The serve is the start of every pickleball rally and from this start you can gain an advantage. One way you can do this is with a lob serve.
A lob serve is a high, loopy serve, and the lob serve that is high and deep in the pickleball court is a good alternative to a driving serve (in other words, a traditional straight, flat serve).
A high, deep lob serve will keep your opponents deep in the pickleball court, as well as give your opponent an awkward height of contact and pace when hitting the return of serve. This will make it difficult for your opponent to hit his or her return with any pace to you and your partner—which means that they may be likely to make an unforced error by hitting the pickleball out of bounds, or give you a short return, setting you and your partner up for an aggressive third shot drive. Plus, you and your partner will have more time to react to the return of serve, since it will be traveling with less pace.
The mechanics of hitting the lob serve are similar to your basic driving serve, with a few differences. These differences are:
- Contact Point – For a lob serve, you will strike more of the underside of the pickleball (rather than behind or on the side of the pickleball), with a more open paddle face up toward the sky. This will cause the pickleball to take a higher trajectory (rather than a flat trajectory). To note, to find this contact point, you may need to hit the pickleball from a slightly higher point above the ground.
- Follow Through – For a lob serve, your follow through will be more vertical in comparison to a driving serve (which, for the driving serve, your follow through will be more out in front toward your opponents). Again, this upward follow through for the lob serve is designed to cause the pickleball to take a higher trajectory. Remember to keep your paddle face toward the sky all the way through your follow through.
- Paddle Speed – For a driving serve, you will likely have a bit quicker paddle speed striking the pickleball and following through the pickleball. In contrast, the lob serve will have slower paddle speed and will be a softer shot in terms of pace.
One key with the lob serve is to keep it high and deep on the pickleball court. The benefits of the lob serve decrease if you hit a short serve, so it is important to keep the lob serve deep in the pickleball court. However, it is a balance because you do not want to have unnecessary unforced errors by sailing the lob serve out of bounds. So, rather than aiming for the baseline, aim for about 2 to 3 feet inside the baseline, which will help you cut down on any unforced errors.
Also, be aware of the wind conditions. Wind will have more of an effect on lob serves than other types of serves because of the high trajectory of the lob serve, so be sure to take the wind conditions into consideration.
Lastly, one advanced tip on the lob serve is to add some top spin to it. By adding top spin, you will cause the pickleball to have more bite down into the pickleball court (which will help you keep your lob serve in the pickleball court, rather than sailing out of bounds), as well as cause the pickleball to take a higher bounce at your opponents. To put top spin on the pickleball, you will need to generate some friction between your pickleball paddle and the pickleball by pronating from your wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Your goal is to grip the bottom of the pickleball with the top of your paddle face and roll your paddle up the backside of the pickleball. This friction of the pickleball paddle against the pickleball is how you will generate top spin.
The lob serve can take some practice to get the feel for getting the right depth on the serve. But, since the serve is one shot that you have complete control over, you can certainly practice this lob serve and master this lob serve. So, get out there and work on your lob serve. And, don’t forget to stay unpredictable and mix up your serves out on the pickleball court.
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