The chainsaw pickleball serve is a controversial way of serving. It involves the server spinning the ball against their paddle face as they throw it into the air, putting massive spin on the ball as they do so. USA Pickleball banned the chainsaw serve in 2022.
What is the Chainsaw Pickleball Serve?
The chainsaw serve is a controversial spin serve banned by USA Pickleball in 2022. The serve is achieved by spinning the ball against your pickleball paddle at the release of the ball.
This generates a huge amount of spin, sending the ball in unpredictable directions when the serve bounces. This makes it much harder for the opposition pickleball player to return.
The name comes from the idea of ‘revving’ up a chainsaw before it starts.
The chainsaw serve was first invented by Morgan Evans before later being improved upon and popularised by Zane Navratil. However, due to a rule change in the pickleball serve rules, neither will be able to use the chainsaw serve in official matches.
The Banning of the Chainsaw Pickleball Serve
The chainsaw pickleball serve began to gain popularity throughout pickleball’s rapid growth in 2021. Its gain in popularity was mainly due to how difficult it is to return. The chainsaw serve turns a simple drop serve into a powerful point-winning weapon.
However, in 2022 a rule change was added to the pickleball rule book that outlawed the chainsaw serve from all official pickleball games, including those affiliated with USA Pickleball and the PPA. While many points are won on the serve in tennis, pickleball has always promoted longer rallies. With the chainsaw serve, that dynamic was being threatened.
The pickleball community was split about the ban. Some players saw this as a ban of innovation and skill, but others understood the spirit of the rule change and agreed with the new rules.
For a while, the one-handed spin serve was still allowed. This is when players use only finger spin when the ball is released. However, as of January 1, 2023, all spin serves were fully banned from official play.
Why was the Chainsaw Pickleball Serve controversial?
The chainsaw pickleball serve was controversial because of how powerful it made the serve. Unlike in tennis or table tennis, a powerful serve was never intended to be a big part of the game of pickleball. Instead, gentle drop serves are supposed to encourage rallies. Longer rallies and gentler serves are part of what makes pickleball such an accessible sport.
Instead of focusing on the serve, pickleball instead focuses on the tactics required to dominate the kitchen. If very few serves are being successfully returned, the game never reaches those four-player kitchen rallies that make pickleball so unique.
There were also worries that the spin serve and chainsaw serve would be prohibitively hard to return for beginners and new players. Learning the basics of the game (forehand, backhand, lob, and dink) is much harder if you’re struggling to complete a simple return of serve.
However, not all of the pickleball community felt this way. Many in the game – including Zane Navratil and Morgan Evans – believed the chainsaw serve was simply a smart way to gain an advantage. Some players worry that banning spin serves makes pickleball “soft” and sets a precedent for banning any innovations that win too many points.
Ultimately, it comes down to preserving the fun of the game – and also its spirit! For some, fun comes from developing the best techniques to win the most points. For others, it comes from long and competitive rallies, where the skill is in manipulating your opponent around the court.
Can you still do the chainsaw pickleball serve in amateur play?
Chainsaw serves are currently banned by the USAPA. If you try and use the tactic in a game of pro pickleball or at a tournament, you will be penalized.
However, does that mean you use the serve in casual games? There is nothing stopping you from changing the rules of pickleball in casual games played with your partners. However, if you are planning to deviate from official pickleball rules in a casual match, it’s best to clear it with your opponent first. Otherwise, they might view your conduct as cheating.
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