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How to Do a Drop Serve/shot in Pickleball

A pickleball is played wearing rubber gloves due to covid-19.

The drop serve and drop shot in pickleball is one of the most common serves and shots in the game. Its purpose as a serve is to get the game started. As the United States Pickleball Association says, the drop serve is a gentler serve or shot and is not meant to be used as an “offensive weapon.”

The drop serve is exactly what it sounds like. You drop the ball, let it bounce, and then hit the ball. In pickleball, rule number one for serving is that the serve must be underhanded.

When your paddle makes a contact with the ball, it must happen below the waist. Your arm needs to be moving upwards and your paddle must fall below the wrist as you hit the ball. The drop shot hasn’t always been permitted as a serve in pickleball.

It has only ben since 2021 when the USA Pickleball rules changed to permit it, a topic of much discussion for pickleball players all over the world. Not every organization permits drop serves today. If you are learning how to be a pickleball player and are joining a pickleball club, do your research on rules for drop serves if you really want to play with a club whose rules permit the drop serve.

Learn more about the drop serve here.

Practice hitting drop shots using the following stance or position and you will nail it every time

A man hits a pickleball.

A drop serve or drop shot is called that in pickleball because it is a time for the ball to drop before you hit it to your opponent. There is a bounce to the ball, and then you swing. There is a certain way to hit a drop serve that is tried and true amongst experienced pickleball players.

Start by bending your knees and getting close to the ball before you prepare for the serve. Keep one foot in front of the body, and put the bulk of your weight on that foot. Drop the ball, and begin to swing the paddle.

The goal here is to use a low swing to a high swing and lift the paddle upwards. You want to keep your head down during the swing so that you can watch the paddle move to connect with the ball. Then, you want to follow through, keeping your arms in line with the shot as the shot goes over the net.

The point of the drop serve is to offer a gentle serve that lands in the kitchen or the clearly marked no-volley zone on the pickleball court. That is the zone that is closest to the net on either side. This gives you control over the ball, and allows you to decide where the return shot from your opponent is going to be coming from.

Net control is what it is all about here. When you can perform a good drop serve, you are deciding that the ball is taking its time to travel over the net and into the kitchen. This is your chance to take the point.

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As all experienced pickleball players will say, the game happens at the net. There isn’t another serve in the game that is going to force your opponent to the net like a good drop serve will. This helps you to control the way the shot is returned to you, and gives you yet another advantage in the game, if the drop serve was executed well.

You don’t want a high bounce on the drop serve, and this means that your opponent will have to swing upwards. A good return shot for you then, and a common one after the drop serve sequence, is a downward shot that gets you a point. If you are playing doubles, you and your opponent both now have a little bit of time to get strategic about this.

When you are using a drop shot or serve, you will hear the term third shot drop a lot, here’s what it means

A pickleball action during a senior tournament.

When you are playing pickleball, strategy is everything, like every sport, but it is easy to get caught up in just sending the ball back and forth without thinking of when to use what shot. When to use the drop shot is no different. When you are at the baseline is always the best time to use the drop shot.

The point here is that you have time from the serve, which is slow, to the return, which won’t be, to move to the best position on the court to meet your opponent’s shot. You’ll hear the term “third shot drop” in pickleball a lot. You can use the drop shot a number of times in a game.

You can use it to serve, or you can use it during the game. The most common time to use it during the game is on the third shot drop. Here, the ball is served, returned, and then returned again with a drop shot.

If you have served from the baseline, and then it’s been returned, you have the time from the serve to the return to travel to the kitchen line, or anywhere on the court, to send the shot back. If you need the extra time, you can give the ball some time for a bounce to drop shot it back to your opponent. This is the third shot drop, and is an effective strategy for a serving player or team.

This shot is used in any level of game play, tournament or recreational. It is called this because it occurs on the third shot of the game. So it is always a good time to use the drop shot on a serve, because it gives you a lot of room, and time, between the net and the baseline to make strategy decisions during a game.

Learning how to play pickleball while mastering the third shot drop is very easy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Drop Serve/Drop Shot?

Are drop shots and drop serves used by professionals?

A mixed doubles team competes in a pickleball tournament.

Yes, professional pickleball players will use drop shots and drop serves in some of their game play, but they may not in some professional tournaments. The use of the drop shot as a serve is somewhat a hot topic in the pickleball community because official rules have been changed to reflect the use of a drop serve. In 2021, the USA Pickleball Association created a provisional rule to allow for the drop serve, meaning the rule was being tested to see if it would be feasible in tournament play.

It was. In 2022, the use of the drop serve became an official rule and was permitted, in tournaments where the USA Pickleball Association Rules were used as the official rules. The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), the association for professional players, does not permit that serve.

The PPA does not use the USA Pickleball Association rules, but the APP, the Association of Pickleball Professionals does use those rules, and those pros can use the drop serve in their tournament play. That said, one pro player has said that they aren’t a fan of the drop serve, and can’t think of a “single advantage” the shot can provide, which may be the consensus of many pros and why it is not used by the PPA. However, as every pickleball player will tell you, it is each game and player to themselves.

You decide when and where you want to play this game.

Should new players use the drop serve?

Almost every instructor or coach will tell you that you should use the drop serve or drop shot when you are first learning the game. It is a very easy serve to begin to practice with, especially if you do not have much experience with racket sports. If you are having a difficult time learning how to serve in pickleball, the drop serve is a great serve to start with, and get the ball in motion.

You simply drop the ball, and serve the shot. You can master the drop shot or drop serve and take it all the way to you pro career if you nail it early in your pickleball game. It may be an easier serve, but it’s a great place to start as a beginner.

The volley serve and the drop serve are both very popular, which is the easiest?

The easiest skill is always going to be the one that you can master. Every athlete is different. There is no right answer to this, although many players will say that the drop serve is easier.

The drop serve is a groundstroke, whereas the volley serve is not. With a volley, as the name implies, there is no bounce in the ball, but the drop serve does have a bounce. When it comes to serves, timing is everything.

The drop serve can give you a little bit more time here. With the drop serve, you have a little more control with the serve as well. This lessens the chance that you are going to feel rushed with your serve, or your return, and this is going to decrease your chance at errors.

At the same time, the drop serve offers a deeper serve than the volley. How you like to play, and what you want to accomplish will usually play the greatest roles in what serve you use, and what one is easiest for you.