Legal Pickleball Serve: Types & Rules

By: Brandon Fritze

Your opponents will get an advantage over you if you serve illegally in Pickleball. That is why you should be aware of what is a legal Pickleball serve and how you can serve legal in Pickleball.

In this article, we will examine the standard Pickleball serve rules along with the latest updates introduced in 2023. So get ready for an exciting dive into everything you need to know about legal service.

Also Read: What is an Illegal Serve in Pickleball?

What is a Legal Serve in Pickleball?

A legal serve in Pickleball is where the server starts behind the baseline, tosses the ball below the waist and makes contact with the paddle below the waist level.

The serve must clear the net, land in the diagonal service court, and avoid touching any part of the non-volley zone lines.

In short, a service which follows all the rules of the USA Pickleball Association rulebook is called a legal Pickleball serve.

Legal Pickleball Serve

Types of Legal Pickleball Serve

Explore these five types of legal Pickleball serves explained according to the Official USAPA Rules Book, including specific sections of the 2023 rules.

1. Pickleball Volley Serve (4.A.7)

The Pickleball volley serve is a technique used in Pickleball where the server hits the ball before it bounces on the ground.

The server must stand behind the baseline and hit the ball out of the air without letting it touch the ground.

Players often employ this serve to gain an advantage by putting the receiving team on the defensive right from the start. It requires good timing and coordination to execute effectively.

Pickleball Volley Serve

Serving Rules of the Pickleball Volley Serve

Here are some unique rules to employ the volley serve in Pickleball legally:

  • The server’s arm should be in an upward arc. (4.A.7.a)
  • The upper part of the paddle head should be below the highest part of the wrist. (4.A.7.b)
  • The ball and the paddle should be below the waist of the player. (4.A.7.c)

2. Pickleball Drop Serve (4.A.8)

The Drop Serve in Pickleball (as outlined in Rule 4.A.8) is a clever and strategic serving technique that can keep your opponent’s guessing.

Instead of a powerful serve, the server gently drops the ball just above the playing surface.

The objective is for the ball to fall over the net and into the service court. It requires precision and a delicate touch.

Pickleball Drop Serve

Serving Rules of the Drop Serve

It also has got some specific rules. But they are different from the volley serve. Keep an eye on these, therefore.

  • The server must stand behind the baseline.
  • You must drop the ball from waist height or below.
  • The server must not allow the ball to touch any part of their paddle or body before dropping it.
  • Drop the ball in a vertical direction.
  • The server must not spin or twist their body to generate additional momentum.
  • The ball must clear the net and land on the opponent’s side in the diagonal service court.

3. Pickleball Spin Serve (4.A.5)

In the updated USAPA rules (4.A.5) of 2023, a Pickleball spin serve is now legal. However, two essential conditions must be noted:

  • Add the spin with one hand only.
  • It cannot be applied before tossing the ball.

These changes aim to ensure fairness in the game. So, go ahead and enjoy these spin serves!

Pickleball Spin Serve

4. Pickleball Underhand Serve

The underhand serve in Pickleball refers to a serving technique where the player strikes the ball with an underhand swing motion below waist level.

It is also legal according to the 2023 USAPA rules.

Pickleball Underhand Serve

5. Pickleball Forehand Serve

The forehand serve in Pickleball involves striking the ball with a forward swing from the dominant hand.

Excitingly, the forehand serve is considered a legal serve in the 2023 USAPA rules.

Standard Pickleball Serve Rules

Here we will look at the nine most standard Pickleball serve rules.

  • The Standard Pickleball Serve Rules require a double bounce: the ball must first bounce on the server’s side, hop over the net, and land on the opponent’s court.
  • In Pickleball, players must make serves diagonally, requiring the ball to travel from one corner of the server’s court to the opposite corner of the receiver’s court.
  • There is a designated serving box on each side of the court where the server must stand while executing the serve.
  • The server must ensure that both feet are behind the back line of the serving box when serving.
  • Players must make serves underhand, keeping the paddle below their waist.
  • The server must contact the ball below the server’s waist level.
  • The server should strike the ball cleanly, avoiding contact with the net or net post
  • If the serve lands out of bounds or hits the non-volley zone (“the kitchen”), it is considered a fault, and the serve is lost.
  • After each point, the server must alternate service diagonally between the right and left serving areas.

Changes to Pickleball Rules in 2023

In 2023, Pickleball introduced some changes to its existing rules. Let us look at these five updated official serving rules of Pickleball to keep yourself up-to-date in the newly emerging sport.

Fore more info you can read our article on Pickleball rule changes 2023.

Rule 4.A.6.a The Server Must Hit The Ball After It Bounces

In 2023, the change to this rule is that players can let the ball bounce as many times as they want when playing a drop serve.

Additionally, there are no limitations to the bouncing area of the ball on the Pickleball ground.

Rule 4.A.5 Spin Serve Is Not Allowed & The Release Of The Ball Must Be Visible To The Referee And The Opponent

According to the Official Rules Book of Pickleball, his rule states that players can drop the ball using one hand only. Also, this hand has to be entirely bare without any gloves etc.

So this specific change in the 2023 Pickleball rules also mentions that players cannot add additional spin to the ball before hitting it with the paddle when they bounce it.

Moreover, the other change in this rule is that the ball’s release must be visible to the opponent and the referee.

It aims to ensure that a player is not adding any additional spin on the ball during a serve except his hand.

Rule 4.B.8  The Serve Preparatory Protocol

This rule brought some exciting factors a player couldn’t confirm before the 2023 Pickleball rules change. But now, fortunately, all of these are allowed before a serve occurs:

  • Confirming or correcting the called score
  • Correct position of the player and the receiver
  • Right player
  • Confirm the score from the referee

Rule 4.K Calling Incorrect Scores

It will be a fault if a player pauses the play due to an incorrect score after the service has been served.

That is why if a referee or server calls false scores, the play should continue till the completion of the rally, and then it can be corrected before the next serve.

Rule 7.J Ball Contacting Permanent Objects Prior to Bouncing on Court After Serve

In the 2023 Pickleball rule changes, this section states that it is not a fault when a server accidentally drops the ball and it touches a wall or anything like it.

Hence, if this happens, a player can conveniently continue the service within ten seconds without any objections.

Is a Spin Serve Legal in Pickleball?

Pickleball spin serve is legal according to the updated rules of 2023 as long as a player adds spin using its paddle or hand only. Accordingly, USAPA states that players cannot add spin to the ball before or as they toss it during a serve.

Moreover, a player must use only one hand for playing the spin serve to ensure that they don’t add any additional spin to the ball.

Is It Illegal To Throw The Ball In The Air Before A Serve?

No, it is not illegal to throw the ball in the air before a serve in Pickleball. The server can toss the ball into the air to initiate the serve.

However, it’s important to note that the server must contact the ball below their waist level and execute the serve correctly according to the other server rules. Players use a familiar technique to toss the ball into the air to generate momentum and achieve consistent serves.

FAQs: Pickleball Legal Serve

1. Is a backhand serve legal in Pickleball?

Yes, a backhand serve is legal in Pickleball. As long as the serve follows the standard serve rules such as executing the serve below the waist, making contact with the ball in the proper serving box, and ensuring a double bounce, they are free to use a backhand technique to initiate the serve.

2. Is a drop serve legal in Pickleball?

Yes, a drop serve is legal in Pickleball. A drop serve softly drops the ball just over the net, causing it to land close to the non-volley zone (“the kitchen”).

Players commonly use this type of serve to limit the opponent’s ability to attack the return, making it harder for the opponent to generate power.

This technique aims to keep the ball low and close to the net, making it challenging for the receiver to return it effectively.

However, it’s essential to ensure that the drop serve still satisfies the standard serve rules such as the double bounce and the diagonal direction of the serve.

3. Is a slice serve legal in Pickleball?

Yes, a slice serve is legal in Pickleball. A slice serve involves hitting the ball with a sidespin, causing it to curve in one direction as it crosses the net.

It can be an effective technique to create angles and make it challenging for the receiver to return the serve.

4. Is a topspin serve legal in Pickleball?

In 2023, any spin serve, including the topspin serve, is legal only if players add spin to the ball with their paddle and do not use their hands.

6. Is the chainsaw service legal in Pickleball?

No, the chainsaw serve is not legal in Pickleball. The chainsaw serve involves spinning the paddle in a circular motion similar to starting a chainsaw before making contact with the ball.

The rules consider this type of serve illegal because it violates the requirement that the paddle must be below the waist level and prohibits excessive spin or rotation during the serve.

7. Is a let-serve legal in Pickleball?

Yes, a let-serve is legal in Pickleball. A let-serve occurs when the ball hits the net on the server but still lands within the correct serving area diagonally on the opponent’s court.

In such cases, the serve is considered a lot, and the server gets another opportunity to serve without any penalties or faults.

8. Is a bounce serve legal in Pickleball?

Yes, a bounce serve is legal in Pickleball. A bounce serve involves hitting the ball into the ground within the server’s court before it crosses the net and lands in the correct serving area diagonally on the opponent’s court.

Final Thoughts on Legal Pickleball Serve

Let us wind it up. So, any serve in Pickleball that follows this sport’s rules and regulations is called a legal Pickleball serve.

However, you must keep an eye on the updates that take place every time in the official rules book to not fall behind anyone in this speedily growing sport.

Leave a Comment