How Do You Serve in Pickleball?

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

If you, like thousands of people in America, have started playing pickleball, you will know that a few rules must be followed. From how to serve to the rules of serving, we give you the low-down on all you need to know.

Read through our article to find out more about how to deliver the best serve in pickleball and improve your game today.

Why Your Serve Matters

Serving is the start of any pickleball game. Getting your serve right can help you start on the best note possible and paves the way for the rest of the game. How you serve determines the score and directly influences your chance of winning the game.

There are several rules associated with the serve, and neglecting to follow these will result in a penalty and a loss of points that could see you losing your pickleball game.

The Rules of the Pickleball Serve

Let’s look at the most important rules and regulations of serving in pickleball. These are all found in the official pickleball rule book and must be followed to ensure a fair game for all players.

#1: Position

Before you serve, ensure that you are in the right position on the pickleball court. Players should be positioned behind the baseline and on either side of the center line. This position ensures a fair playing field for all players and does not allow one team to have the upper hand.

#2: Height

The pickleball serve is always underhand. While it has its roots in tennis, no overhand serving is allowed, and the ball must be served below the waist. Serve the ball at a height no higher than your belly button.

#3: Server Rules

The official pickleball rule book states that the server must continue serving if they score. Should your opponent score on your serve, they become the server.

#4: Switching Sides

Players are required to switch sides after every serve. If a player served on the left side of the center line, their next serve should be from the right side.

#5: Bounce Rules

Once the server has served the ball and begun the game, the opponent must allow the ball to bounce before returning it to the other side of the court. The ball must bounce before it is hit.

The Types of Serves

The efficiency of your serve can go a long way in setting the scene for a good game. There are a few types of serves to choose from, based on your pickleball skill, whether you are playing a single or a doubles game, and how advanced the team is.

Here are the three types of serves you can choose from, as well as the benefits of each.

Serve Number 1: The High Soft Serve

Pickleball is less intense than tennis or other ball sports, and even the most aggressive of serves are considered soft serves. A high serve is essentially a serve where the player hits the ball in a high arc. Remember that all serves should be underhand and a high soft serve is hit from a height no higher than your waist or belly button.

This type of serve is the best for any skill level, and even the most beginner of players can master this serve in no time at all.

The advantages of a high serve include:

  • Great variety for all players
  • It can keep your opponents guessing as to where your serve will land
  • Keeps the player away from the baseline and results in them missing their shot and you scoring a point

Serve Number 2: The Soft Angle Serve

This serve is great for doubles pickleball and is served from the sidelines of the pickleball court. It is one of the most difficult serves to master and requires a fair amount of skill in the game of pickleball. A soft angle serve results in the ball landing outside of the playing court and will put your opponent out of position. If you like making your partner run around aimlessly, trying to catch and return your serve, this one is for you.

It can take time to master the soft angle serve, but once you do, you are almost guaranteed a win based purely on effort and having your opponent miss their shot.

Advantages of a soft angle serve are:

  • Placing the opponent out of their position on the opposite side of the pickleball court
  • Gives you the upper hand in terms of position and effort and could increase the chance of a weak return
  • Forces your opponent to run to get back into position and return the ball

Serve Number 3: Power Serve

The power serve is by far the best serve of all and will help you improve your pickleball game tenfold. Apart from giving you the best advantage when aiming for the forehand corner, it can catch your opponent off-guard, leading them to possibly miss the bill and result in you scoring a point.

Power serves are delivered with a low, deep serve. Remember to deliver your serve underhand and keep it below the waist to prevent losing points.

Advantages of the power serve are:

  • Allows you to target the corners of the pickleball court
  • Forces your opponent to work harder to return the serve
  • Increases the speed of the game
  • Keeps your opponent or opponents behind the baseline

No matter what type of serve you choose, the aim of any pickleball game is to make it as hard as it could be for your opponents to return the serve, resulting in a point for you and your team.

pickleball serve

How to Serve: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you are fairly new to the game of pickleball and have no idea how to serve the ball, our step-by-step guide will help you deliver the perfect serve. Let’s get right into it.

Step #1: Position

Where you are positioned on the pickleball court depends on whether you are playing singles or doubles in a pickleball game. Ideally, a pickleball player should remain behind the baseline while serving and should stand on either the left or right side of the center line. Adopt an athletic stance, much like that of tennis players, and make sure you are comfortable.

Step #2: Shout Out Your Score

Before any serve, shout out your score. This allows the opponents, as well as those viewing what the current score is. This is an important pre-serve routine that must be followed in accordance with the rules of pickleball.

Step #3: Aim

Where you aim your serve is important. Serves should always bounce before reaching the opponent and should not be hit into the non-volley zone of the pickleball court. You may want to pay close attention to the paddle contacts of your serve and allow for a smooth follow-through on your serve.

Step #4: Drop the ball

Drop the ball and bring your pickleball paddle up to hit the ball in an underhand motion similar to that of a pendulum swing. Adopt a loose motion when holding your paddle and remember that hitting the ball too hard can result in it going off the court. No over or backhand shots are allowed and will result in a loss of points.

Step #5: Swing your pickleball paddle

Hit the pickleball ball with your paddle and follow through with a smooth motion. You can choose from one of three serves depending on your skill level, as well as the type of pickleball game you are playing.


Pickleball is a great variation of more traditional paddle and ball games like tennis or badminton. Knowing how to deliver the perfect serve can help set the tone for the game and can also help you gain the upper hand over your opponents.

A common mistake that many new pickleball players make is choosing the wrong type of serve for their game. Knowing your limits and choosing according to skill level is always vitally important. Follow the rules and strategy tips of pickleball as we have laid them out in this article, and most of all, enjoy the game!