Every point in a pickleball game starts with a serve. Although the serve in pickleball can be a very basic shot, it is a very important shot in every point. Not many points are won in a pickleball game off of an ace serve; however, many opportunities are lost by serves that are hit out of bounds. Further, if you can perfect your serve on the pickleball courts, you may also be able to give yourself an edge over your opponents with a strong, strategic serve.
What are the key pickleball serve techniques? What are the key pickleball serving strategies? This blog and pickleball serve video below break down seven of the best pickleball serving tips to take your pickleball serve to the next level, which include key pickleball serve technique tips and key pickleball serving strategy tips!
Pickleball uses an underhand serve (unlike tennis, which has an overhand serve). The rules of pickleball require the serve to be hit below your navel (in other words, your belly button) with, at the point of contact:
After contact, you are free to do whatever you want with your pickleball paddle.
Also, to note, your foot placement is important at the point of contact on your serve in pickleball. At the point of contact between your paddle and the pickleball on your serve, at least one foot must remain in contact with the ground behind the baseline.
Neither of your feet may touch the pickleball court on or inside the baseline, or on or outside of the imaginary extension lines of the applicable sideline or centerline. After you make contact on your serve, you are free to place your feet on the pickleball court wherever you see fit, including on the baseline, or outside of the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.
It is important that you find a routine that you are comfortable with before you serve the pickleball on the pickleball court. This pre-serve routine could be bouncing the pickleball with your hand, hitting the pickleball a few times with your paddle, or fixing your hat – whatever works best for you and whatever you feel comfortable with.
This pre-serve routine is a trigger to make sure you are both mentally and physically ready for the point. Pre-serve routines can also help you improve your timing. Find your own pre-serve routine, so you are ready to play and win the point!
Whatever your pre-serve routine is, be sure to include saying the score aloud before your pre-serve routine. Have you ever hit your serve out of bounds or into the pickleball net because you were saying the score and serving at the same time?
To avoid this, you should say the score before you start any part of the serve. In other words, do not say the score and serve at the same time. This is because our bodies and minds are generally not built to think and do at the same time. So, think, say the score, do your pre-serve routine, and then serve.
During a serve on the pickleball court, some pickleball players have a tendency to want to flick their wrist or bend at their elbow. Flicking the wrist or bending at the elbow is not recommended, as these tendencies could cause inconsistencies in a pickleball serve, as they are hard to precisely repeat. The goal on the pickleball serve is to perfect a consistent, reliable serve, and a service motion that is difficult to repeat will lead to an inconsistent, unreliable serve.
Rather, a pickleball service motion should be more like a pendulum swing from the shoulder, instead of from the wrist or elbow. The pickleball service motion should be fluid and loose, rather than stiff or tight. This fluid and loose motion will be more easily repeated for a consistent, reliable pickleball serve.
Further, this fluid, loose motion should start with a small backswing and continue all the way through the pickleball. The pickleball service motion should not stop at contact with the pickleball, but rather continue through contact, as if you were hitting several pickleballs in a row in the direction that you want the pickleball to go – which would be to the crosscourt service box, or even more specific as a very detailed spot in the crosscourt service box (for instance, to the corner by the sideline or to the corner by the centerline on the pickleball court).
Oftentimes, pickleball players serve by pulling open with their non-paddle side, which opens up their bodies to the pickleball court. In other words, some pickleball players turn too much. If you rotate too much on your backswing or follow through during your pickleball serve, you will likely hit the pickleball on its side, which will be more difficult to control and remain consistent.
To avoid this common mistake on the pickleball serve, it is important to:
To generate additional power or pace on your pickleball serve:
When serving the pickleball, it is important to set yourself up for success by giving yourself a consistent toss on a traditional pickleball toss serve or a consistent drop on pickleball drop serve.
When using a pickleball toss serve on the pickleball court, lift the pickleball before releasing it. If you simply drop the pickleball, the pickleball will be too low at the point of contact and create a more difficult shot for you.
When using a pickleball drop serve on the pickleball court, drop the pickleball with your non-paddle hand from a comfortable height above your head with your arm slightly out in front of your body and slightly toward the paddle side of your body.
By extending your arm above your head, you will give yourself the highest bounce possible (i.e. more gravitational pull), and, by extending your arm slightly in front of your body toward your paddle side, you will drop the pickleball in a manner that gives it the best chance to bounce to an ideal point of contact – out in front of your body and slightly on your paddle side.
It probably goes without saying, but one of the easiest mistakes to make on the pickleball court is not watching the pickleball to the point of contact. So, with that said, be sure to watch the pickleball hit your pickleball paddle on your serve. Keep your head down when striking the pickleball on the serve, rather than on where the pickleball is traveling to.
One pickleball serving strategy is to serve deep to your opponents’ backhands. This is because, a deep serve pushes your opponents back on their side of the pickleball court, making the return of serve more difficult for them.
Further, in most cases, your opponents’ backhand shots will be weaker than their forehand shots. Targeting your opponents’ backhands causes your opponents to either:
However, make sure you mix in a serve or two to your opponents’ forehands to keep them honest. If you are too predictable, your opponents will cheat to anticipate your shot. If you come across an opponent with a strong backhand, then you may need to change this strategy to be a bit more unpredictable and move your serve around on the pickleball court.
When targeting a deep serve to your opponents’ backhands, do not overplay the serve and aim too close to the lines of the pickleball court—whether it be the baseline, the center line or the sidelines.
Instead, aim about two to three feet inside of the lines. And, do not forget to consider and factor in the wind on your pickleball serve, as wind can certainly play games and cause the pickleball to move in directions you may not have wanted!
Every pickleball player should, at a minimum, have a serve that is incredibly consistent. As a result, it is important to practice pickleball serving drills (such as serving a bucket of pickleballs to targets on the opposite side of the pickleball court) until you have at least one incredibly consistent serve.
Once you have a consistent, reliable serve, then you can elevate your pickleball game to incorporate different types of serves. There are many different options for the serve in pickleball. For instance:
To keep your opponents off balance, and gain an additional edge on the pickleball court, mix up your serves to keep your opponents guessing. You may score some easy points by mixing up your serve and you may even find that your opponents struggle with a particular serve over others. So, perfect one consistent serve and then continue to evolve your pickleball game by adding each of these other unique pickleball serves to your repertoire.
Now, get out onto the pickleball courts and incorporate these pickleball serving tips into your pickleball game for a killer pickleball serve!
And, for more videos and information that break down every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including how to hit the various serves as well as pickleball mechanics, fundamentals, strategy, advanced concepts, and drills, check out Pickler's online video collection!
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