Rules of Serving in Pickleball That Every Player Needs to Know – spin-it

Rules of Serving in Pickleball That Every Player Needs to Know

Whether you’re preparing for your first match or your one hundredth, reading up on serving rules in pickleball can help you feel more confident on the court – and in your serves. A strong understanding of the dos and don’ts of serving ensures fair play, helps you strategize better, and even enables you to gain an advantage over your opponents.


Below, we go over the rules of serving in pickleball that you need to know to play confidently. We also provide tips to improve your serve and empower you to dominate the court at your next match. 


What Are the Serving Rules in Pickleball?


While pickleball is a straightforward (and fun!) game, some rules can be confusing, especially for beginners. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when you realize you can’t just hop on the court and start swinging away. However, a learning curve is true of any sport. With practice and some resources like this article, you can eventually master pickleball serving rules and enjoy your games even more. 


To get you started, the following are essential serving rules in pickleball that every player needs to know. These rules are summarized from USA Pickleball’s rule book, the official reference for sanctioned tournaments. 


Volley Serves and Drop Serves Must Be Made Underhand

This means that your serve must be underhand. Further, the top of the paddle head must not be above your wrist when striking the ball.


Initiate A Serve With at Least One Foot Behind the Baseline

While serving, at least one foot must remain behind the baseline. Stepping on or over the baseline during the serve is a fault. 


Paddle Contact With the Ball Must Occur Below Your Waist 

Imagine a horizontal line extending from your navel. The entire serving motion, from the start of the swing to contact with the ball, must occur underneath this line. If you're unsure about your serving motion, consider asking a more experienced player or coach to observe you and give feedback.


You Must Hit the Serve Diagonally Across the Court

Each player or team has a specific service court. It is a rectangular area on the opposite side of the net, divided into two sections by a center hash mark. The server must serve the ball diagonally, ensuring it bounces into the opponent's service court.


You Only Get One Serve Attempt

In pickleball, you have only one chance to serve the ball correctly. This means you cannot hit the ball multiple times to get it into the correct service area. 


There used to be an exception to this rule called a “let serve.” The term “let” in pickleball refers to when the ball hits the net but lands on the opponent’s court. You would then be allowed to do the serve again. 


However, due to a rule change, there are now no lets in pickleball. If the ball hits the net and lands in the opponent’s court, play continues. This applies to a net nick (a slight touch) or a net set (the ball rests on top of the net before falling into the opponent's court).


Serve Order

In doubles, each player gets to serve once before the other team gets their turn. In singles, players alternate serves. The first serve of a new game is made from the right service court.


Common Serving Faults


In pickleball, a fault is any violation of the game’s rules. 


The receiving team gets a point if the serving team commits a fault. Meanwhile, if the receiving team commits a fault, the consequence depends on whether it's its first or second fault during the point.


If the receiving team commits their first fault during a point, such as volleying the serve or touching the net, the server gets a "side out." This means they can switch sides and serve again, but no point is awarded.


If the receiving team commits a second fault during a point, the serving team scores the point.

Now that you’ve had a chance to brush up on the rules for serving in pickleball, you should also review common serving faults so you can make sure to avoid them. The following are some examples: 


Foot Faults

There are two kinds of foot faults: centerline fault and non-volley zone fault. 

  • Centerline Fault: During the entire serving motion, at least one foot of the server must be completely behind the baseline (the back line of the court). A foot fault occurs when a player steps on or over the baseline during a serve and makes contact with the ball. 
  • Non-volley Zone: When you serve, you must ensure that neither foot goes entirely inside the non-volley zone, and your paddle cannot contact the ball while you're partially in the zone. If either of these situations occurs, it's considered a fault.

Wrong Server or Service Court

Serving out of turn or from the wrong service court can result in lost points. To avoid this, always check the score and confirm the correct server and service court before each serve.


Pro Tips for Improving Your Serve in Pickleball


Consistency

Work on your serving consistency by practicing regularly. Aim to place your serves deep into your opponent's service court, making it more challenging for them to return.


Use Multiple Serve Styles

You should develop multiple serve styles as your skills improve, such as power, spin, and lob serves. Changing up your serve style will keep your opponents guessing.


Analyze Your Opponents

Pay attention to how your opponents react to different serves. Take note of weaknesses or patterns and use this information to your advantage.


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