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Serving Basics: How to Master Your Pickleball Serve

Serving Basics: How to Master Your Pickleball Serve

  • Ready to take your pickleball serve to the next level? Whether you're new to the game or looking for more consistency, these tips will help! We've got a guide to mastering your serve and feeling confident on the court.

You step up to the baseline, pickleball in hand, and take a deep breath. 

It’s match point in the championship of your first big pickleball tournament. You and your partner have played so well. Now, it all comes down to you – and your serve. 

Visualize yourself in this moment. How do you feel? Are you nervous about your serving ability, or does it feel like second nature? 

Hopefully, you feel confident in your serve. But if you’re not quite there yet, we’re here to help! We’re sharing some tips from one of our favorite pickleball books, Pickleball: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Fun, Friends, and Strategies by Dan Janal, on how to improve your serve. Let’s jump right in!

Serving Basics

The rules for serving in pickleball are pretty simple, but they’re worth reviewing before we jump into some tips and tricks. 

One of the most important rules – and one of the trickiest parts of the serve to master – is that the ball must connect with the paddle below your belly button. This can feel a bit unnatural at first since the natural tendency is to hit a groundstroke. 

You also only get one chance to land your serve, meaning you must develop a very consistent serve. The ball must land diagonally from you. It cannot land out of bounds, in the kitchen, or on the kitchen line. It also, of course, must go over the net. 

Choosing Your Serve Type

Most pickleball players use a drop serve or a volley serve. It can be helpful to have both types of serves in your arsenal.

The drop serve is pretty straightforward. To execute it, simply drop the ball onto the court and hit it as it bounces. 

The volley serve is a little trickier. For this serve, hold the ball in one hand and swing your paddle to connect with the ball. Let go of the ball right before you connect. 

When you started playing pickleball, you likely learned one of these serves. During your next practice session, set aside some time to try both to see which one feels most comfortable. Practice aiming for different parts of the court. 

As you practice, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Which serving motion feels the most natural?
  • Which serving motion can I execute consistently?
  • Which serving motion allows me to hit different parts of the court consistently?

Once you decide on your preferred serving style, it’s time to practice!

How to Make Your Serve Muscle Memory

Sure, it’s a lot of fun to ace an opponent. But in pickleball, that’s not the goal of your serve. Your goal for your serve is simply to get it in and start the point. For most players, this means starting with a simple serve. 

It can be tempting to try to get fancy with your serve. Don’t do this – at least, not before you have mastered the basic serve. 

“Don’t do anything extra with your serve in the beginning,” Coach Clinton Young says in Pickleball: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Fun, Friends, and Strategies. “The most important thing is to hit it in and as deep as possible. I always say to new players who try to spin every shot, ‘You can bring sexy back later. You can start adding spin and other more advanced elements later.’ Just focus on getting the principles down right now.”

To do this, you must focus on building muscle memory. Our favorite pickleball drill helps make your serve feel like second nature. 

Our Favorite Pickleball Serving Drill

This drill is easy but effective. Fill a bucket with pickleballs, grab your paddle, and stand on the right side of the court behind the baseline. 

Get into serving position by finding a semi-open stance. This means your legs are open but not parallel to the baseline. Instead, your body is slightly turned. 

From this position, hit the entire bucket of balls using the drop serve or volley serve motion. As you serve, think about the motion of your swing, your hand position on the paddle, and your velocity. Try to maintain the same motion for every ball you hit. 

After you’ve hit the entire bucket of balls, collect them, head to the left side of the court, and repeat the process. Repeat as many times as needed to commit the serving motion to muscle memory. 

This type of drill can work for any pickleball shot you are trying to master, and you can add more wrinkles to it as you improve your game. For example, after you’ve mastered the basic serve, try aiming for a particular part of the court or adding some spin. Remember, you don’t need to get fancy until you’ve mastered the basics! 

Ready to dominate your next match?

Mastering your serve can help you take your game to the next level. Try these tips during your next practice session, and prepare to dominate your friends on the court. We’re cheering you on – unless you’re playing us, of course! 

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