Serving is one of the most basic skills you need to learn in a game of pickleball. Since you cannot score unless you are serving the ball, there is no need to stress the importance of a serve. This guide will show you the best way to serve to make it difficult for your opponents to counteract it. The more difficult the service is, the harder it is for your opponent to score against you. But you need to observe the basic rules for serving so you do not violate those rules and earn a fault.

Tips to perform a proper pickleball serve (Image Source: Winona Tennis)

Basic Rules for Serving

Learn the basic rules for serving in the game of pickleball. These rules make the game more challenging for both the offensive and defensive player/s. 

The most common rule for serving in pickleball is that it should be underhanded. While pickleball has a lot of similarities with other sports like tennis or volleyball, the serve in this game is much different. Tennis, in particular, uses an overhead serving stance. But with pickleball, the serve should be underhanded so you can create an upward arc on the ball. Keep the underhanded stance below your waistline to avoid a service fault.

This rule was implemented because the court is too small for overhead serves. Without this rule, it would be way too easy for the server to earn points from the service alone. 

Aside from maintaining the ball within waist level, you can swing the ball towards your left or right. There is no particular rule on this, except that you need to serve from a specific side of the court. 

Finally, an obvious rule to remember when serving in a game of pickleball is to not step on the line. If you do, it will be an automatic fault on your end and the serve is awarded to your opponent (and you lose the chance to earn a point).

How to Improve Your Serve

With the knowledge of the basic rules of serving in pickleball, here are some tips to help improve your game:


  • Develop a pre-serve routine. The best athletes have a pre-serve routine that they turn to every single time. It is not a trivial part of these players’ games. This routine enables the mind and body to get ready for the serve. It will also help you to stay within rhythm so you are comfortable when you perform the serve.
  • Perform a target practice. The best serves in pickleball are more than just about getting the ball over to the other side of the net. The most effective serve is one that is difficult for the opponents to receive. Accuracy is, therefore, an important aspect of your pickleball serve. Make sure you do target practice during training. Do this by aiming your paddle towards a specific target. Do this often and you should be able to master how you control the direction of the ball when you serve.
  • Practice the release and follow-through. When you release the ball, it is important to have good follow-through. It is illegal to serve the ball above your waistline. Make sure you create the right distance between your body and the ball. If you release the ball too far, you could risk getting a fault as you end up leading or lobbing the ball.
  • The best kind of serve is one that is deep. It is a risky strategy but it can pay off if you execute it right. Practice a deep serve on a regular basis. The deeper your serve, the more difficult it is for your opponents to receive and return the ball. 

If you want to learn how to play pickleball, you need to start practicing the serve. When you can do that, you can move on to learning about the other skills and rules of this game. 

An introductory guide to pickleball serves (Image Source: BYU)