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Can You Side Serve in Pickleball? How?

A man serving in a pickleball tournament.

Yes, you can side serve in pickleball so long as the serve is underhand. The most important rule in pickleball when it comes to serving is that every serve must be underhand.

For your serve, the official rules for the USA Pickleball Association is that the serve must come from below the waist. This is much harder to do when you are side serving.

To perform the serve, your arm must move in an upwards arc-like motion, and the top of your paddle must be below the wrist. You can only ensure that this rule is followed by using an underhand stroke for the serve. So, if you like the side serves in pickleball and want to develop your strategy, you can do that.

However, you must always serve underhand in pickleball. Learn more about pickleball serving rules and where the side shot fits in here.

There Are Different Kinds of Serves and Techniques in Pickleball That You Can Apply the Side Serve To

A woman hand serving in a pickleball game.

When you are practicing your side serve in pickleball, you can do that with a wide range of pickleball serves. There are volley serves, drop serves, and crosscourt serves as the most common pickleball serves. The side serve won’t work with each one.

There are many different elements that you need to practice as well when you are practicing each kind of serve. The first thing that you will learn will be your footing, and where you want your feet to be on the court when you are making the serve.

How you hit the ball during the serve is important, but where your feet are when you hit the ball is as important is what many pros will tell you. During the serve, you must have one foot behind the baseline. Unlike tennis, you can’t jump when you are serving, you have to have one foot on the ground.

You also can’t have a foot on baseline, or inside it. After you have made the serve you can put your feet wherever you like. But during the serve, you will need to follow the baseline rules, regardless of what serve you are making at the time.

The crosscourt serve is a common serve where you can perform the side serve as well, so long as your feet are where they are supposed to be. It is okay if the ball touches the net during the serve, but it must land in the box that is at the cross court position from you while you are serving. You also have to remember that the ball must not land in the kitchen or in the no-volley zone.

Senior player about to serve in a pickleball game.

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That would be an error and your serve is lost. It can land anywhere else when you are serving crosscourt. The side serve here may give you more power to ensure the ball crosses the net and lands outside the kitchen.

Your ball can land anywhere near the baseline, centerline, or sideline of your opponent, but it can not land in the no-volley zone.  When making a crosscourt serve, it is easier to follow the rules of keeping the ball above your navel as well.

For the volley serve, you are lifting the ball with the paddle and moving it into the air before you hit the ball. You can do this with a side serve but you may not get as much volley in the hit as you want to.

Still, the volley is a traditional pickleball serve and it works very well. The volley is popular because it gives you the time to find the right connection between the ball and the paddle.

Remember that you only have so much time here. Before every serve, the score is called. There are 10 seconds between that call and when you make the serve, so you only have a short time to strategize the serve here.

Again, practice leads to perfection here. The drop serve is another popular serve in pickleball, and has just become an official legal serve in pickleball so that all players regardless of skill level or ability can make the serve in pickleball. In 2021, allowance for the drop serve was given as a provisional rule, and by 2022, the rule became official.

To perform the drop serve, you drop the ball for a bounce before you hit it. You must hit the ball after it bounces. You can not throw the ball, but you can only drop it, and it can land anywhere on the court.

During the entire time at least one foot must remain behind the baseline. You can use either a forehand or a backhand here but the serve must be underhand.

The drop serve is popular now because many different restrictions and rules for the serve have been dropped for it. You can still perform a side serve with the drop serve. You do not need to have the ball below the navel when you are performing a drop serve.

You also do not need to have the upward arc of your arm when you are serving, obviously, as that is nearly impossible to do when you are hitting the ball this way.

One way to perform a side serve with the drop serve is to add some slice to it, which spins the ball. This may throw your opponents off, but will need some practice.

If you want to try the side serve in pickleball, you can be successful. Remember the serving rules, and practice every serve that you like as often as you can. The side serve can be a very effective strategy and can be applied to a wide range of serves.

There Are Additional Serves in Pickleball That Can Help You to Advance Your Game and Pickleball Skill Rating

A man tosses a ball during the serve in a pickleball game.

If you want to go far in pickleball, you will want to mix up your game so that you have a lot of different skills to work with. This will improve your pickleball skill rating and help you to keep your opponents on their toes. The power serve is one of them, and the soft serve is the other.

The power serve goes deep into the court of your opponents and they may not be expecting it. You can send this one with a side serve and send it directly into the back corner or the top corner of the court.

This is a serve that will need some practice, but its advantage is to keep the other player guessing. This is often a difficult serve to return as a result.

The soft serve has a smaller angle and gets closer to the no-volley zone. Here you have a very small window of space that you are aiming for, with the goal to throw off your opponent. You can play with the soft serve here and really send the ball with laser precision, a skill that will come with practice.

Use it when you want to move your opponent around. Work on this one, because it is a hard serve to master and it is an easy serve to lose.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Side Serves in Pickleball

Where can you stand for serves in pickleball?

It can’t be said enough that you need to stay behind the baseline when it comes to serves in pickleball. The reason this is said so often is because it is an easy rule to forget when you get caught up in the serve of the game. Forgetting this rule however makes it very easy to get a fault in pickleball.

You have to be behind the baseline, and you must have at least one foot on either side of the center line of the court. After you call the score, you get 10 seconds to make the serve. Then you can move your feet outside of the baseline.

This rule is the case regardless of what serve you are making here. If you are performing the side serve for any kind of pickleball serve your feet must be behind the baseline.

Are there separate serving rules for singles and doubles?

A woman serving in a doubles match pickleball game.

Serving rules do vary slightly for singles and doubles. For singles, the serve stays with the players winning the points. You will switch sides on the court with every serve.

When you have an even score, you will serve from the right, and from the left when it is an odd score. Before you serve, you will call the score, and you will say your own score before you say the score of the other players. These rules apply regardless of what kind of serve you are performing, or intend to perform, and that applies to side serves as well.

For doubles, the rules will vary slightly, because there is one additional player on each side. Here, every player per team will serve before the serve goes to the other side. The serves with doubles will begin on the right, and sides are alternated between each serve.

Rules do get much more complicated with doubles, so you want to pay attention to your tournament rules if you plan on playing doubles at higher levels of play.

Does the ball need to bounce during the serve?

Yes, it does. It is called a groundstroke when the ball bounces, and groundstrokes are the requirement for both the serve and the first return of the serve.

This is called the two-bounce rule, where there are two bounces at the beginning of the game, with the server and the first player.  After the serve, there are no bounce requirements. You can begin to volley as you see fit.