The purpose of this post is to give you clear, concise tips on how you can improve your pickleball strategy – specifically your serve These tips are designed to be simple enough that you should be able to implement them at your next match but also advanced enough so that you see and feel a difference in your game right away.
The rules of a pickeball serve are fairly straightforward. First, you must make contact with the ball using an underhand stroke below your waistline. Also, your paddle must be held below your wrist. Basically, you MUST serve underhand. No overhead smash serves like in Tennis.
For the complete list of rules and serving instructions from the USAPA click here:
For a short video on serving from our friends at Pickleball Channel, click below:
Have a consistent pre-serve routine. Much like the best free throw shooters in basketball, having a pre-serve routine gets your mind and body ready for the shot. Find a rhythm that feels right for you. There is not a right or wrong routine, the point is to be consistent and do it EVERY TIME!
Find your target. Aim the face of your paddle where you want the ball to go. Many golf pros will say, wherever your toes are pointing before you strike the ball, that’s where the ball is going to go. It’s no different in Pickleball except that the face of your paddle is going to be your directional indicator. After you’ve made contact with the ball, make sure you follow through with your paddle so that it is pointing directly at your target. The more consistent you are with your follow through, the more likely you are to hit your target.
For more ideas for practice tips, read our Comprehensive Guide on Pickleball Tips
Release the ball and make contact between yourself and the net. The key emphasis here is RELEASE the ball, not throw the ball or toss the ball up like a Tennis serve. Many beginner players with Tennis or Racquetball experience will fall into this trap. As mentioned above, hitting the ball above your waistline is an illegal serve, so by leading or lobbing the ball too far in front of yourself, you risk getting a fault. It’s best to keep it simple. Release the ball at waist height to begin with and follow through as the ball is dropping towards your oncoming paddle.
The single most effective serve in Pickleball is one that is DEEP! Infact, serving deep into your opponent’s baseline is one of the fundamentals in pickleball strategy. Of all the tips that we can provide you to improve your serve, this is by far the most important. The most important aspect of your serve, is where it lands on the court. Serving the ball deep makes it much more difficult for your opponent to return the ball with authority. It also keeps them from getting to the net quicker. The harder you make it for your opponent to get to the net, the better. The easiest way to do that is by serving the ball deep to your opponent’s baseline. The deeper the better. For an in depth review on paddles that provide power for deep serves, read our Best New Pickleball Paddles for 2017 article. Once you’ve mastered how to place the ball accurately and deep, you can begin mixing it up and keep you opponent off balance. That leads us to number five…
Good pickleball strategy keeps your opponent guessing. One of the ways to do this is by varying your serve. This can give you a big advantage to winning the point. Having different kinds of serves in your arsenal of play can keep your opponent from finding tendencies and playing to your weaknesses. There are many types of serves but three kinds of serves that are effective but also relatively easy to learn are the Drop Serve, the Power Serve and the Spin Serve. The Drop and Power serve require you to be able to serve deep, so mastering tip number four is the first crucial step. The Drop Serve is a basic serve where you’re lobbing the ball high and soft into the last two to three feet of the baseline i.e. “dropping” the ball into this spot. There is very little english on the ball. The Drop Serve is basically used for placement purposes. The Power Serve is like the Drop Serve but with more power and less arch. More experienced players will put spin on this serve, specifically, topspin. Once you’ve got your opponents guessing, standing back and playing your serves by standing deep beyond their baseline, it’s time to hit them with the Spin Serve. The Spin Serve, just like it sounds has spin on it. However unlike the Drop and Power serves, it is intended to land just beyond the “no volley zone”or “kitchen” and bounce left or right based on the spin you put on it. When you have your opponents pushed back in order to play your Drop and Power serve, you can take advantage of all that open space you’ve created by the net. Hitting them with a short, effective Spin serve keeps the other team off balance by forcing them to run up towards your shorter Spin serve. This can effectively put them out of position.
Remember, pickleball pros recommend that beginners work on their pickleball strategy before focusing on technique. It’s a far easier way to see improvement in your game, faster. We hope these five simple tips help improve your pickleball serve! They may take some practice, so repetition is key.
For a formal introduction to pickleball, the sport’s rich history, and scoring basics, click to read our Introduction to Pickleball.
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*Special thanks to Jerry and the folks at Pickleballnaplesfl.com for the featured image!