Experienced pickleball players know that having several different types of serves in your serving repertoire is essential for keeping your opponent on their toes. Pickleball backhand serves are a great addition to your serving arsenal and are easy to adapt to your daily pickleball game.
Why Use a Pickleball Backhand Serve?
Backhand serves are often overshadowed by the forehand serve due to the forehand’s natural movement and high levels of efficacy. However, backhands can be just as useful during a game of pickleball.
The biggest advantage of knowing how to perform a backhand serve is simply for the sake of variety in your serves. If you only use one type of serve during a pickleball match, it’s more than likely that your opponent will be able to learn your patterns and consistently return all of your serves.
A backhand serve’s trajectory is much different than a forehand serve. Backhands tend to allow the ball to float over the net and stay pretty low to the ground. This tends to force your opponent to try and quickly adjust before returning the ball, meaning that you’ll be in a better position for an ideal third shot drop or dink.
Another advantage to using a backhand serve is that it gives the ball a decent amount of side spin. This will cause the ball to move in an unexpected direction once it hits the court, potentially causing your opponents to move in a way they weren’t anticipating. Good backhands can have enough side spin to even take your opponents far past the sideline, causing them to potentially perform an unwanted lob shot, opening the door for you to make a serious overhead smash.
My favorite thing about the backhand serve is just how natural the movement is. Unlike some of the more difficult serves to master, like the spin serve, backhand serves are an accessible addition to your serve portfolio.
Challenges with the Pickleball Backhand Serve
Even though the backhand serve is absolutely an asset for any pickleball player, it’s also important to understand its limitations. In general, backhand serves are less consistent than forehand serves and are therefore more often used supplementarily to the forehand serve during a game.
Forehand serves offer better versatility when it comes to ball placement on the other side of the pickleball court. You’re far more likely to become more accurate with your shots when serving forehand than you are with backhand.
Backhand shots are useful for their side spin, but it can be difficult to target certain parts of the court. Forehand shots, on the other hand, can grant you both some serious topspin as well as accurate ball placement along the center line, sideline, and on the non-volley zone line with practice.
Finally, one of the greatest challenges with the backhand serve is making sure that you don’t perform an illegal serve. According to USA Pickleball’s rulebook, the server’s arm must move in an upward direction below waist level in order for it to be considered a legal serve. With backhand serves, there can be a tendency for players to strike the ball in a horizontal and somewhat downward manner, which is strictly illegal. The same goes for the ball’s placement during the serve, as you can get in the bad habit of hitting the ball above waist height during a backhand serve.
The best way to ensure that you’re following the pickleball serving rules is to simply practice your backhand serve. I recommend either recording videos of yourself while serving or having a friend watch while you serve to catch any of these illegal movements while performing a backhand serve.
5 Steps to Hitting a Backhand Pickleball Serve
- Starting Position – Position yourself sideways in the direction which allows your serve to be directed over the net and across the court. A continental grip is recommended for this particular serve technique, as it will allow for the strongest point of contact with the paddle head while also allowing for a considerable amount of side spin.
- Starting the Swing – Focus on moving into your swing with your shoulder, as it is the action pivot point for this upward-moving swing. Moving into your backhand serve with your shoulder will allow for a stronger and more consistent serve overall. Take one step forward into your serve and lead with your shoulder to allow all of your weight and momentum, granting a clean and forceful hit.
- Dropping the Ball – You may choose to drop the ball from above or below your pickleball paddle. The key is using whichever arm placement feels more natural to you. Making sure your arm is out of the way when you strike the ball is vital to this serve, so try practicing with both arm placements to see which makes more sense for your swing.
- Striking the Ball – You’ll strike the ball very quickly after dropping the ball during your serve, typically when your paddle is at the lowest point during your paddle arm’s movement. If you’re dropping the ball from underneath, I recommend tossing the ball up very slightly. This will allow the ball a little more hang time and will allow your paddle arm a little more time to move to the ball.
- Following Through – Once you strike the ball, continue your arm’s movement forward all the way through and beyond the ball. A serve’s follow-through is key to allowing your movements to feel natural and will also ensure that you’re putting enough force and spin on the ball during the serve.
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