Last Updated on February 6, 2020 by Keith
The purpose of this post is to give you clear, concise tips on how you can improve your pickleball serve and the strategy behind it. To give you the most helpful pickleball serving tips, I consulted with a real pickleball coach.
Meet Duke. Duke is the mastermind behind one of the best online pickleball training sites around today. His site, QuickPickle.com is dedicated to providing simple video courses to improve your game. One of Duke’s signature video courses is “Serving for Gold” where he and Gold Medal winning 5.0 Pro player Vivian Edwards, break down the strategy and the technique needed to serve like a champion. Click the link above for access to his video course on serving and all his other helpful courses he offers to help improve your game.
Keep in mind that Duke and his team of pros that he does the training videos with, offer a one year guarantee when you purchase the video! Now that’s dedication! He’s even got a course dedicated to improving your Third Shot Drop; you can find that here.
Duke and his team of professionals have spent SO much time analyzing and dissecting what it takes to learn and implement a consistent and lethal serve, I just had to ask him to be a part of this article.
I wanted his help on providing simple, actionable steps towards improving your pickleball serve; game in and game out. 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 can see and feel a difference in your game right away.
Related: Ever wonder what kind of pickleball paddle is designed to give you both power and control? I interviewed a panel of experts and learned some surprising facts about pickleball paddles!
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!
Duke our resident pickleball coach also recommends the following when it comes to a pre-serve routine:
“Take your time to clear your head. The previous point is over, and you can’t change that outcome. Use your preservice routine to catch your breath and focus on your serve. If you’re playing in a rec game, make sure your opponent is set and say the score. If it’s in a tournament, wait for the referee to call the score.”
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.
I asked our pickleball coach Duke for a tip on preparing to serve. He said:
“Make sure to put weight on your back foot and bring your paddle forward.”
This a simple tip but one easily forgotten. Don’t let your body lean too far forward and serve off your front foot. You’ll lose accuracy and consistency that way. Duke is right. Serve off your back foot, and let the pendulum of your arm coming through the ball generate the power; not your body leaning forward.
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.
Our pickleball coach Duke added:
“Have your shoulders turned and your hand without the paddle holding the ball in front of you. Transfer the weight from your back foot to your front and make contact with the ball as soon as you drop the ball to your paddle.”
The single most effective serve in Pickleball is one that is DEEP! In fact, 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.
Want to know which types of paddles are great for deep serves and accuracy? Click here where I interviewed the owner of Pro-Lite Sports and 3 5.0 level Pros to get their take on what makes a great pickleball paddle!
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 type of 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.
Duke, our pickleball coach at Quickpickle.com goes in-depth on how to learn the fundamentals of the Drop Serve, Power Serve and Spin Serve. He also covers two additional serve types (the Backhand Serve and Slider Serve) in his pickleball serve master class.
Dule also gave me this tip when it comes to mixing up your pickleball serve:
“Look at your opponent’s positioning on the court. You can pick which serve you’ll do based on where they are standing. For Example, if they are standing on the baseline, send them a deep serve so it bounces at their feet. If they are near the middle of the court, use a wide or slider serve that should be out of their reach.”
The point is, use their positioning against them. Having a few different serve techniques in your arsenal allows you to take advantage of your opponent’s poor positioning.
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.
If you found this helpful, please leave a comment in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!
*Special thanks to Jerry and the folks at Pickleballnaplesfl.com for the featured image!