There are two types of serves in pickleball: (1) a traditional volley serve (i.e., hitting the pickleball out of the air, before it bounces), and (2) a drop serve (i.e., hitting the pickleball after it bounces on the court surface). The official rulebook for pickleball originally created the drop serve for players with a physical disability (for instance, a pickleball player with one arm). However, since 2021, the official rulebook permits this alternative serving method for all players.
Per the official rulebook of pickleball, “[t]he drop serve is made by striking the ball after it bounces on the playing surface and can be made with either a forehand or backhand motion.” To do a pickleball drop serve, you must drop or release the pickleball from any natural (un-aided) height, either by using one hand or letting the pickleball roll off of your paddle, and then hit the pickleball with your paddle after the pickleball bounces on the court. “There is no restriction how many times the ball can bounce nor where the ball can bounce on the playing surface.” Further, notably, the traditional rules of the volley serve with respect to the point of contact (e.g., the paddle head must be below your wrist and the point of contact must be below your navel) do not apply to the drop serve.
This drop serve technique can be effective on the pickleball court when used strategically. Here are 5 circumstances where the drop serve can be beneficial to your pickleball game:
- When You Are First Learning the Game: The drop serve can be a tool when you are first learning the sport of pickleball. The drop serve is, oftentimes, easier for beginners to grasp, as the act of dropping the pickleball helps beginners establish better timing and rhythm, as they can anticipate the pickleball’s trajectory more accurately compared to a volley serve where they need to time to swing while the pickleball is in the air.
- When You Want to Create Spin: The pickleball drop serve allows you to generate different spins, as the traditional rules of the volley serve with respect to the point of contact do not apply to the drop serve. As a result, you can manipulate your paddle angle and point of contract in order to vary the angle and direction of your serve. Backspin, topspin, or sidespin can be applied to the pickleball, making it harder for your opponents to predict the trajectory of your serve and adjust their return.
- When You Have a Strong Two-Handed Backhand: In addition to creating various spins, the drop serve adds the ability to hit a two-handed backhand on the serve. For those pickleball players with strong two-handed backhands, the drop serve could add an effective new serve to their game.
- When You Want to Be Unpredictable: By using a drop serve, you can add an element of surprise to your serve. Since most serves in pickleball are performed with a traditional volley serves, a well-executed drop serve can catch your opponents off guard, making it more challenging for them to anticipate and return the shot effectively. So, use the drop serve to add variety to your serves and keep your opponents off balance from time to time.
- When You Need Help Overcoming the Serving “Yips”: The drop serve in pickleball can also be beneficial for players experiencing the serving “yips”, which refers to a psychological phenomenon where a pickleball player experiences a sudden loss of confidence or control during his or her serve. A drop serve helps to alleviate some of the pressure associated with the serve. By allowing the pickleball to bounce, you have an additional opportunity to establish control, improve your timing, and prepare for your shot. Further, with less emphasis on timing and coordination, you can devote more attention to executing proper technique, which can help regain confidence in the serving motion.
Try the drop serve out on the pickleball court in these 5 circumstances. And, it is important to note that, similar to a traditional volley serve, the drop serve requires practice to execute accurately and consistently—especially if you want to make your drop serve as effective as possible.