You can improve your pickleball serve by developing a smooth serve motion, increasing power by using your body, mastering your pickleball toss, forcing a deep retreat, staying unpredictable, and building an arsenal of many types of serves.
9 Pickleball Serve Tips to Improve Your Game
1. Know the Pickleball Serving Rules
- Contact with the ball must happen below your belly button
- The swing must be a low to high motion or an upward arc
- The highest part of the paddle is not allowed to be higher than your wrist
There are also rules for foot placement during a pickleball serve:
- One foot must be in contact with the ground behind the baseline at point of contact with the ball
- Neither foot can touch the baseline
- Neither foot can make contact along the centerline or sideline, nor the imaginary lines extending from these areas during service
- Once contact with the ball has been made, players may stand on any part of the pickleball court
Additional serve rules include:
- A server must serve to the correct service court box, diagonal to the server’s location
- The serve must clear the net and the non-volley zone
- If the ball is spun before making contact with the paddle, the hand that released the ball must be bare
An illegal serve is anything that doesn’t follow all of these rules. For the most up-to-date rulebook, check USA Pickleball.
2. Perfect Your Pre-Serve Routine
It is vital to have your pre-serve routine committed to muscle memory.
This can be as simple as adjusting your visor, bouncing the ball on your paddle, or taking a deep breath before moving into position. The best athletes in the world will perform motions until they can do it seamlessly.
- Control your breathing and decide how you want to approach the serve
- If playing outside, judge wind speed and direction when deciding on your serve
- Set up your stance. Plant your feet and place your body into position
- When practicing your serve, ensure you always complete your personalized pre-serve routine
- Be sure to announce the score before serving, not during the serve
- If you’re talking while serving, you’re not 100% focused on the mechanics of the serve
- Pre-serve routines can help with consistent timing and serve as a beneficial physical and mental trigger
3. Develop a Smooth Serve Motion
A well-oiled machine runs smoothly. A smooth service motion is the key to a killer Pickleball serve.
- The smoother the motion, the easier it is to execute and repeat
- Service stems from the shoulder. Imagine your arm as a swinging pendulum
- Keeping your body and muscles loose allows for smoother motion
- Swing through the ball completely. Follow through the motion in the direction of the crosscourt service box for ultimate control
- Avoid bending the elbow and flicking the wrist. These motions lead to an inconsistent service motion
- Once your service motion becomes second nature, you can work on increasing paddle speed, power, and control
4. Master Your Serve Stance
Mastering your service stance comes down to awareness of your body position. Many people fail to plant their feet properly and adjust their stance as part of their pre-service routine.
- A semi-closed stance is the most optimal stance for serving
- The backswing shouldn’t require you to turn your body toward the sideline completely
- Many people over-rotate when serving. This makes it difficult to control the ball
- If you play with an open stance and rotate too much, you will likely hit the pickleball on the side. This causes consistency issues
- Your pickleball paddle shouldn’t be behind your body
5. Increase Power by Using Your Body
Use these tips to increase the power of your serve:
- When the ball hits your paddle, ensure it is both in front of and close to your body. Keep it relatively close to your natural waistline on your paddle side
- Positioning your paddle like this allows you to use more of your body, which adds power and helps with consistency
- Your legs and core strength should be utilized in your serve to generate more power
- Contracting these muscle groups allows you to transfer that energy through the swing for a more forceful shot
- Keeping your knees bent and your frame of body low during a serve also allows that leg strength to really shine
- Transfer weight from the back foot to the forefoot during the serve
- When you complete the serve, your shoulders and hips should be facing the net
- A power serve can unsettle your opponent and make returning the serve more difficult
6. Master Your Pickleball Toss
Every pickleball player should try to master their pickleball toss. It is crucial as it sets up the serve correctly.
Pickleball Toss Serve
- Lift the ball before releasing it. Otherwise, the ball will be too low and increase the difficulty of the shot exponentially
- The toss serve allows you to flick or spin the ball prior to hitting it
- If you don’t get a good toss on the first throw, don’t hit it! Try again.
Pickleball Drop Serve
- Lift the ball to a comfortable height (ideally above your head)
- This arm extension will give you the highest ball bounce
- You should be holding the ball in front of you and favoring the paddle side
- This position allows the ball to make a more favorable contact point
- Keep your eyes on the ball as it makes contact with the paddle once the toss has been made
7. Force a Deep Retreat
Forcing deep retreats is a key strategy for serving. You want to keep the opposing team as far back on their side of the court as possible.
To do this, practice hitting deep serves close to the opponent’s baseline. This will force them to retreat behind the baseline and return the ball from further back. It makes the serve more difficult to return inbounds, and it also makes it more likely that the return is shallow. A shallow return enables drop shots.
Force opponents to use a backhand shot as a return by targeting your deep serve toward the backhand. Most people have a more consistent forehand than a backhand. If you’re facing opponents with a strong backhand, switch it up and direct shots so they must use their forehand
8. Remain Unpredictable
Another strategy is to keep your opponent guessing what you’ll do next. If your opponent knows how you’ll hit your serve, it’s easy to counter.
One tactic is to lure your opponent into thinking you only have one serve and then surprise them during an important shot. Varying your topspin, speed, and target location will allow you to remain in control
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Your opponent will be thrown off by your unpredictable pattern.
9. Know Your Service Options
There are so many ways to deliver a killer serve. Understanding the different types of serves allows you to practice them until you have an arsenal at your disposal. This is especially important if you want to play in tournaments.
Key types of serve include:
- Lob Serve – a serve that is hit high into the air, allowing for a higher bounce when it makes contact with the court. Lob serves take practice because the higher the trajectory, the harder it is to aim. Lob serves don’t work well in wind.
- Top Spin Serve – the ball takes a nosedive into the court from a spinning position and has a higher bounce. This can be achieved by hitting it with a low-to-high swing. A semi-Western or Eastern grip will enhance your ability to do this serve justice.
- Inside Out Serve – the ball has side spin and will curve right if hit by someone who is right-handed, or left if hit by a left-handed player.
- Hook Serve – side spin is combined with top spin. This causes the ball to hook left if hit by someone right-handed, or hook right if hit by a left-handed player.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?