Pickleball Serves: A Beginner’s Guide to Serve Types, Tips, and Faults

Pickleball is a fun racquet-based game that is rising in popularity. It’s relatively simple, uses many familiar racquet sport mechanics, and can be played by young and old people alike.

If you’re familiar with the timeless racquet sports badminton and tennis, you would know that serving is an essential aspect. The same is true with Pickleball. A good serve will give you the upper hand, while a lazy one will cause you to lose it.

That’s why we’ve put together a beginner’s guide for serving properly in Pickleball, the different serve types you can perform, and what to avoid while serving.

Different Serve Types in Pickleball

As with any sport, it’s useful to differentiate the different types of techniques, moves, and maneuvers. If you’re not yet familiar with the different serves you can do in Pickleball, keep reading and find out which might be best for you.

Keep in mind that each serve has its strengths and weaknesses. You may also find some serves to come more naturally to you.

Below Waist Serve

The Below Waist Serve's general rule is to keep both the ball and paddle below the waist. It’s easy to make a mistake on this serve, but once perfected, it can be a strong move.

Underhand Serve

You’ll find the underhand serve to be similar to badminton. After releasing the ball, you strike it with an upward hand motion of your paddle. One pitfall is hitting too softly, so be sure to apply the right amount of force to get the ball to the other side.

Power Serve

The Power Serve is a serve delivered at high force and high speed. You need to deliver this serve hard at a low angle so that it will force your opponent back to receive it. The advantage of this serve is that it can leave your opponent's front open for a follow-up low shot.

Soft Angle Serve

Beginners have a bit of a hard time getting that hang of this one. As the opposite of a power serve, it brings the ball to the front of your opponent, forcing them to run forward. Catch your opponent off guard by returning it with a hit aimed at the baseline.

High Soft Serve

As a variation of the Soft Serve, a High Soft Serve uses a similar motion to aim the ball toward the baseline. It’s likely the opponent will return this easily, but it will also give you extra time to prepare a winning return hit.

Rules for Pickleball Serves

The basic rules of Pickleball can be found in the USAPA-published Pickleball handbook. First released in 1984, it has had only a few editions since then. Here are some basic rules to keep in mind.

Pickleball serves can only be done by striking from under the waistline. Unlike tennis, you’re not allowed to serve with an overhead strike. Serves should be made by arcing your arm in an upward motion.

 Serves can only be done between the sideline and centerline and from behind your baseline. Serves are required to be performed diagonally, confirmed by the bouncing of the ball in the box diagonal to you. No serves are allowed from the Non-Volley Zone. If the serves cause the ball to touch the net or violate these rules, they must be done again.

Pickleball Serve Tips and Tricks

We can’t stress how essential it is to learn how to serve well. Having a good foundation for serves will give you easy control of any game, especially when you initiate a serve. Here some tips and tricks for beginners learning to serve.

Make sure the ball goes over the net and doesn’t touch it. Causing the ball to touch the net will require a repeat of the serve. Remember that Pickleball is not the same as tennis, where you can “Ace” a serve. Tennis also has opportunities for extra serves through their rally scoring system, whereas Pickleball does not.

Keep your mind and body in check while serving and for the rest of the game. An easy way to do a bad serve is by overthinking it. Instead of panicking, take a deep breath and focus. As for your body, draw strength from the shoulder. You won’t get far making your forearm or wrist do all the work.

Remember that if you end up with a bad serve, you can still win the round. Just focus on the returns. As always, the best way to improve is through practice.

Improving Pickleball Serves

It’s easy to get frustrated after failing at something a few times. When it comes to learning a new skill or sport, there’s often quite a distance to go until you become good at it. So don’t quit if you think it’s hard to get the hang of Pickleball. Just like anything else, it requires practice.

Although practicing something as seemingly simple as serves don’t sound glamorous, it will help you in the long run. That’s why we recommend you come up with a practice routine. Do several rounds of each Pickleball serve until you get the hang of it. When serving, aim for specific points on your opponent's side, whether it’s near the net, near the baseline, or in between.

 Be aware of how you’re using your body. Instead of swinging your elbow, swing from the shoulder. It’s good to keep your arm loose and limber. Have good control over how much force you apply, too. Too much force, especially if it’s frustration, will only make your serves worse. If you’re having a hard time visualizing correct serves, look for video tutorials on YouTube at Pickleball Channel.

Pickleball Service Faults

A service fault is when a serve violates the Pickleball rules and gets lost to your opponent. Here are the circumstances for Pickleball service faults:

  • Failing to hit the ball while striking for a serve
  • The ball touching anything in court other than the box diagonal to the server
  • The ball touching the server’s body
  • The ball landing outside any of the court boundaries
  • The ball landing in the Non-Volley Zone

Remember, it’s essential for Pickleball beginners that you learn how to serve well. Once you’ve mastered how to serve, you’ll find that mastering the rest of Pickleball will come much more easily.

Get Playing

That’s all the basic strategy and tips we have for you. More in-depth stuff will require you to get off the internet and practice the sport. Remember, Pickleball, like most sports, is a skill. Practice will take you far. Just remember to have fun with it!


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