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Is a Backhand Serve Legal in pickleball?

Woman backhand serve in pickleball.

If you watch a pickleball game, you will mostly see players demonstrating the forehand serve. This is the most basic serve in pickleball, and the one used most frequently. In fact, it is probably the first one you will one.

Some players prefer not to use a backhand serve, instead switching the paddle between hands whenever necessary. In this article, we will break down what a backhand serve is, its advantages and disadvantages, and the rules for using it legally on the pickleball court.

What is a Backhand Serve?

Two women playing pickleball.

A backhand serve is a bit more complex than the more common forehand serve. To perform it, you will need to put your weight on your back foot and shift forward to your dominant foot as you make the shot. A backhand serve requires you to turn your dominant hand so that your wrist faces forward and you strike the ball with the back of your paddle.

When you see this move performed, it may look effortless. But it can actually be extremely tricky to accomplish — and even more difficult to make sure that all the rules are followed for legal play.

Is a Backhand Serve Legal?

Adult man playing pickleball in court.

A backhand serve is indeed legal in pickleball, and there are many times where it makes sense to use one. However, there are specific rules for when and how you can use this move, so it is important to familiarize yourself with these before hitting the court. In fact, most players may find it difficult to nail each of these criteria to ensure that they aren’t penalized.

This is yet another reason why a perfect backhand serve is a matter of many hours of practice.

What Are The Rules For Using a Backhand Serve in Pickleball?

Adult woman playing pickleball in court.

The rules for using a backhand serve in pickleball are extensive and can be difficult to accomplish. This is one reason you might have heard people say that backhand serves are illegal in the game. The rules for using a backhand serve in pickleball include:

  • Underhand serve: All serves in pickleball must be performed underhand, meaning that you strike the ball from below. While overhand strikes are permitted at other points of the game, they are illegal while serving.
  • Bounce before serving: Before you serve, you must allow the ball to bounce. Failing to do so may get you penalized.
  • Ball positioning: You may only serve backhand once the ball has been hit into the service area opposite where you are standing and at a diagonal.
  • Body positioning: You may only serve the ball with the paddle below your waist, including point of contact.
  • Double fault: You may not double fault during a backhand serve.

Pros And Cons of Backhand Serves

Handsome young man playing pickleball in court.

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So what are the pros and cons of backhand serves, and why don’t you see them used as often as forehand shots? Here are a few pros and cons of backhand in pickleball.

Pros of Backhand Serves

A backhand serve isn’t frequently used in pickleball. However, you will occasionally see it on the court, and it can be a smart move when attempting to misdirect your opponent. An effective backhand serve can knock them off balance and make it tricky to return your shot.

It also makes it easier for you to reset quickly after your serve. That is because a backhand serve keeps your body centered, unlike a forehand serve. You can quickly return to center after serving and get ready for the next play.

Being able to alternate your serves gives you another advantage: it keeps your opponent guessing. If you can switch between forehand and backhand, your plays won’t be as predictable.

Cons of Backhand Serves

One of the main disadvantages of using a backhand serve is that it forces you to turn your body. This may temporarily obscure your vision in a way that serving forehand does not. Another challenge is that a good backhand relies on a well-executed slice.

This can be difficult and requires practice, as you won’t be able to achieve consistency or control without it.


Though you won’t use a backhand serve nearly as often as a forehand serve, it is still an important move to know. This serve helps you move more fluidly on the court and reduces the need to switch hands between serves. However, it requires practice to get just right — and specific guidelines to make sure you are playing fairly.

But with these tools in your arsenal, the backhand can become a vital part of your pickleball game.