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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Serve - Summary #1

I have noted in the last couple of posts that more pickleball information becomes available daily. I try to keep the blog updated with both new ideas and new perspectives on old ideas. Those pertinent to the serve are archived in Chapter 2: The Serve, the second chapter of the "book" from A Pickleball Life that can be found along the left side of the blog. While I like the idea of the book chapters - it was mine, after all - I love the idea of an occasional synopsis of where we are...based on the archive to-date. This is the first synopsis and it is about the serve. We'll start with a list of the most important learnings and then summarize their sources.

The 10 Commandments about the Serve
  1. Keep the serve in-bounds.
  2. Hit the serve deep.
  3. Stay behind the baseline until the return of serve is struck.
  4. Target the returner's backhand.
  5. Add speed and/or spin to the serve.
  6. Flatten the service motion to add depth and speed.
  7. Keep it legal.
  8. Vary the speed and direction of the serve.
  9. Choose an offensive or defensive position from where to serve.
  10. Practice serves...with a purpose.

In Service Rules, we learned the basic rules related to the serve:
  • The ball must be struck with a low-to-high motion
  • The ball must be struck below the waist
  • The ball must be struck with the entire paddle face below the wrist
  • The server's feet must be behind the baseline when the ball is struck
  • The ball must land in the defined service box


In Service Motion, we learned about the most basic service technique that uses a motion similar to bowling. This serve ensures that the ball-striking rules are met with a paddle face that points to the court and a nearly straight low-to-high motion.

In Advanced Serving, we learned that the rules related to ball-striking provide some flexibility to flatten the service motion to provide a consistently lower ball. It allows the ball to be hit harder and reach the deep part of the service box with an easier motion.

In A Variety of Serves, we saw examples of different service motions used by top players.


In Service Strategies, we discussed the various types of serves and targets for serves in greater depth. Again, depth and direction were emphasized, but speed was added. Discussions about varying the serve, e.g., a lob serve or a short serve, were included.

In Sarah Talks Serving, we learned that the goals of the serve change as a player's skills advance. Beginning players should focus on getting the ball in-bounds. Advanced players target specific parts of the service box - deep and to the backhand.

In Serve Variations from Sarah, Sarah Ansboury provided her views confirming the strategies we discussed in previous posts.

In Taking Risks on the Serve, We read Mark Renneson's contrarian view that the serve should be an offensive weapon by using speed, targeting, and spin. Mark acknowledges the risk of losing a serve by hitting it out of bounds. My view is that risk-taking is OK on a selective basis.

In Where to Serve, we discussed a very specific target from each service court. From the right service court, targeting the short outside corner can be very effective. From the left service court, targeting the deep centerline with a hard low serve is also effective. These serves should be part of the variety of serves used. 

In Serve Deep, we saw additional confirmation that the single best serve is a deep serve.


In Positioning for the Serve, we discussed the best court positions provide a defensive or offensive advantage. For defensive advantage, a serving position that provides the greatest opportunity to hit a forehand is preferred. That means a right-handed player would serve from left side of each service court. For offensive advantage, a move to the center opens up more angles to attack with the serve.

In Positioning after the Serve, we learned that top players do not move into the court after the serve. This forward move puts players at a disadvantage if a deep return of serve is made. Instead, they remain behind the baseline until the return of serve is made.

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