Pickleball Tips: Returns of Serve


If you are on the pickleball court, you will have the opportunity to be both the serving team and the receiving team. As the receiving team, you will have one partner starting at the Non-Volley Zone line, while the other partner is ready to receive the serve back at the baseline.

The general goal as the receiving team is to keep the serving team back by the baseline and not to let them come into the Kitchen line. By keeping the serving team back, you will make it more difficult for them to win the point.

To put yourself in the best position to win the rally as the receiving team, try these eight tips:

1. As the receiver, start in your ready position about two to three feet behind the baseline. By starting behind the baseline, you will give yourself more time to react to your opponent’s serve.

2. Move your feet. Most players have a stronger forehand shot than a backhand shot. As a result, you will probably want to hit most returns of serve with your forehand (rather than your backhand). If a serve is hit to your backhand, try to run around the serve and hit the serve with your forehand. However, if the serve to your backhand is too difficult to get around with your feet, go ahead and hit a backhand return of serve, rather than forcing a forehand and putting yourself out of position.

3. Take short backswings and watch the pickleball all the way to your paddle. Short backswings will help you stay compact and in control out on the pickleball court, while watching the pickleball will help you avoid unnecessary unforced errors.

4. Like any shot on the pickleball court, mix it up. With that said, the majority of returns of serve should be played deep and back through the middle. The return of serve down the middle of the court may cause your opponents to fight over the pickleball and will reduce your opponents’ angles of attack on the third shot.

5. Play within a smaller court. As a reminder, do not aim for the baseline on your opponents’ side of the pickleball court. Rather, aim for a few feet inside the baseline and sidelines to avoid any unnecessary unforced errors by sailing the pickleball out of bounds.

6. Get to that Kitchen line! After you hit your return of serve, you should be working in toward the Kitchen line. Remember, it is important to get to that Non-Volley Zone line and then hold that line.

7. If you are having trouble advancing to the Non-Volley Zone line after you hit your return of serve, consider using more of a lob return of serve—in other words, a return of serve with more arc. Compared to a low, driving return of serve, the lob return of serve will give you more time to take the Kitchen line.

But, as with any other shot on the pickleball court, be aware of wind conditions. Wind will have more of an effect on a lob return of serve compared to a driving return of serve.

8. Target the weaker opponent. Another strategy is to target the weaker of your two opponents. In particular, target your opponent that has the weaker third shot. Find your opponents’ weaknesses and isolate them.

Now, get out on the pickleball court and put pressure on the serving team using these tips for the return of serve.

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