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Pickleball Serving Rules: Breakdown Of Service Techniques & How To Be Aware Of Faults

man wearing gray shirt serving in pickleball

Last Updated: May 15, 2024

If you are a beginner-level player and need some pickleball serving tips, you have come to the right place. 


In this comprehensive guide, I will share all the essential tips and information that you may need to kick start your practice session with confidence. This article will also brief you about the pickleball serving rules; knowing these rules will set a concrete foundation for your serving skills.

I would strongly recommend you understand these rules before moving further to learn how to serve in pickleball.

Let’s generate your understanding of the basic pickleball service rules and tips.

Rundown Of Pickleball Serve Rules

senior man in bright red shirt preparing to serve pickleball

No need to worry about not knowing pickleball serve rules, because I’ll lay down a detailed rundown of these rules for you. This discussion will also explain to you some essential tips and tricks to help you avoid losing your score.

Firstly, you need to understand that both “service” and “serve” are terms used to describe the first shot in a pickleball game. 

This is the case with all net sports, including pickleball, tennis, or any type of racket sport.

Pickleball service is pretty simple; to play the first shot into the opponent’s court or to deliver a service, all you need to do is to hit the ball with full force – right into the big box.

It seems easy, right? But there are some rules.

One general rule is that a service is ideal if there is no foot-fault from the player and the ball clears the kitchen, landing right into the service court of the opponent.

Confused? Don’t be, let’s get into the details.

1. The Serve Must Be Underhanded

When it comes to pickleball, there is no overhead or tennis-style service. This means that all the pickleball serves must be done underhanded, making an arc that moves upward. 

Serving, in pickleball, has a motion similar to softball pitching.

Also, if you have ever thrown an underhanded to a kid who is new to baseball, you must have a clear idea of how it works. If you can make an underhanded arc below the waist level, you are doing well.

The reasoning behind this rule is that the pickleball court is much smaller for overhead serves. Therefore it is easier to get the points from underhanded serves as they make it hard for the returning players to react.

2. The Serve Must Strike At Or Below Waist Level

The ball must strike the paddle below the navel area of the server.  As long as you are performing an easy underhanded arc serve, there is no chance that you will break this rule. This helps the players, giving them an angle advantage.

Just remember that the more the service is pointed downward, the harder it is to return.

3. Never Step On The Line

There are three court lines you need to be aware of while serving.

These are the sideline, centerline, and baseline. The baseline is the one in front of you. You must stay behind this line while serving. However, the center- and sidelines are self-explanatory, orientation-wise.

It is important to stay in between these two lines as you are preparing to serve.

Besides these color lines, the imaginary extension of these lines is also of great importance. For instance, imagine the centerline drawing itself back to the wall. You can do the same for the sidelines. Now keep in mind that you cannot cross these imaginary lines.

Hence you will imagine yourself in a little box. Always keep yourself in this box and avoid stepping over the lines. Stepping on these lines will be considered a fault, and you might lose score.

man serving a pickleball behind the line

4) Never Hit The Kitchen

A kitchen is a non-volley zone, and this is where you can never step in as you serve in pickleball. Every time the ball hits a line, it’s good, except when it is the kitchen line during service. The kitchen line is the one that surrounds the kitchen from all sides.

The ball must not hit the base or side kitchen line; this event will be considered faulty.

It also includes the time when the ball hits the net beforehand.

Faults To Be Aware Of While Delivering A Serve

Besides these basics, you must also keep in mind that while serving, at least one foot must stay firm on the ground.  Also, note that if any of the opponents interfere with the flight on the ball during the service, it will add a point in favor of the serving team.

Also, missing the ball means that you are a fault. But if the ball lands on the ground without a swing, it will not be counted as a fault. Likewise, if the ball touches any permanent object before it lands, by rule, it will also be considered a fault.

Another fault is when the ball touches a player or anything they are wearing or holding during the service.

The “LET” In Pickleball Serve Techniques

I think we have had enough talk about what you should avoid during a serve. Now let’s discuss the most important rule of Pickleball serving techniques. This is generally known as “Let”. A let is an upmarket term for Re-Do.

A let is when the serve hits the net and bounces over the land in a reasonable serving quadrant of the opposing team. If it lands on the kitchen line, it will be counted as a fault in the kitchen or the opponent’s quadrant.

In this situation, the player will call “let,” out loud, and then get a chance to redo the serve. Also, note that you can have an unlimited amount of lets for serving. 

Also, if the opponent server is not ready, you can call for a let.

However, make sure that the opponent is ready before you serve, it’s good sportsmanship.

old man serving during a pickleball doubles mixed match

FAQ Section

Is a backhand serve legal in pickleball?

The backhand serves are much complex and demand a higher level of skills to deliver the ball to the opponent side of the court. At the same time, it is much difficult to perform a backhand serve legally under the allowed serving rules.

Illegal backhand serving is when a player performs it high above the waist, or with a cocked waist, or if the top of the paddle headrest is above the wrist.

What type of service is used in pickleball?

There are mainly three types of pickleball serving drills; these are high soft serve, power serve, and soft angle serve.

A high soft serve is played when you hit a high arc deep in the opponent’s court. There is a wide variety in these types of serves, and it is ideal for changing the game's pace. On the other hand, a power serve is lower, faster, and deeper into the opponent’s court.

This type of service is difficult to pull off as compared to the previously mentioned type. A soft angle serves as an ideal for mixing the rhythm of the game. In these serves, the shot shall drop near the kitchen and sideline. Also, the bounce must take the ball outside the court.

This is the most difficult of all three because here, your target is tinier in comparison.

How do you serve in pickleball?

The first thing in pickleball serve cues, is to stay in the right position. The serving positions depend on if you are playing pickleball singles or doubles. It also depends on the current score. Once you get the position, call your score loud and clear.

Also, if you are playing doubles, say they serve number before your current score.

Now decide how you would like to serve and determine an aim in your mind. Compose your mind and body before serving to ensure all the body muscles are in the proper position and condition to hit the ball with full power.

Hold the ball in one hand and reach outward in front of you. Now drop the ball, and as you drop the ball, swing your paddle underhand and reach the ball in front of your body. Now floor through and make sure each swing is relaxed and smooth; this will need some practice.

Lastly, you can review this YouTube video on pickleball serve dos and don’ts when playing pickleball near me:

Concluding Thoughts

Pickleball serving is nothing you cannot learn or master in a day. However, there are some common rules that you need to understand and follow as your serve. With these rules in mind and the right approach, you will be able to master the art.

I hope that this discussion has helped you understand the topic and will make your next serving better than before.

Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and inside secrets to becoming a dominant player.

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