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Q&A – Is My Serve Illegal?

Rules Refresh Mark Peifer 02-28-2024

By Mark Peifer, USA Pickleball Certified Referee; Past Chairman, USA Pickleball Rules Committee

QUESTION: I was called out on my serve at open play. When I do a volley serve I was told I toss the ball out slightly in front of me. The contact is below my waist and I do not put any spin on the ball when releasing. I was told this is an illegal serve and need to correct it by my opponent. That the ball needs to drop out of my hand straight down. I can’t seem to find anything on tossing the ball in front as an illegal serve. Just the rules on spin and waist. I know this is illegal for drop serves but for volley I can’t seem to find any rules on it. 

Is this illegal for a volley serve?

ANSWER: It is very difficult to provide a definitive answer without seeing your serve either personally or in a video. But, from what you have described, your volley serve is very legal. You can toss the ball up on the volley serve and out in front of you as long as all three rules of the volley serve are met when you make contact with the ball on the serve. Please see all three under Rule 4.A.7. 

“That the ball needs to drop out of my hand straight down.” That is not true for a volley serve under the Official USA Pickleball rules.

There are a couple of potential factors that could have resulted in your opponent giving you that feedback. The one with the highest potential is that the PPA pro tour is experimenting with something that sounds exactly like what you are describing. But, they are only experimenting at the pro level, not with amateurs. If players watch the PPA broadcasts where this is occurring and the commentators are describing it, then it’s entirely possible this person saw that and thought they had uncovered some new service rule that applies everywhere. 

The other factor that could be in play here is that this person has confused elements of the volley serve with the drop serve. Yes, with the drop serve, the ball must be dropped. It can be dropped out in front of you too. But, it can not be tossed. 

I hope that is helpful, but it highlights an important consideration for all players. If this happens to you again about this rule or any other, I suggest you have your Rulebook downloaded on your device and respectfully ask them to show you where in the Rulebook is the rule they say you are violating. In this case, they would not be able to do that.

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