There are many different types of serves in pickleball, with many of them well known and established, and others being adopted by pros of the game. This is a game that is always evolving, even if the official pickleball rules never change. The best players are always trying to change their serve and make it better, and that’s probably why you are reading this now.
We want you to improve your serve too. The serve is the start of every game, and sets the tone for every point in pickleball after the game has started. It is what puts the ball into motion for the entire game play.
When you want to crush pickleball and improve your pickleball rating, crushing the serve is part of it. You have a lot of options here. Study these types of pickleball serves and then hit the courts to practice, practice, practice.
1. The kitchen corner serve is the kind of serve that your opponent will not be expecting
The kitchen corner serve is a serve that will typically be used by more advanced players, but you can practice this one even at every levels. The kitchen is the no volley zone in pickleball, but you can serve into the corner here. Move to your own baseline and serve the ball into your opponent’s kitchen corner on the opposite side of the court.
Your opponent thinks you are serving from and to one section of the court and they will usually move to be ready for that. After you serve, this forces your opponent to move to the other side of the court in a wide way, and it will catch them by surprise. Catching this serve to slam back will take them time to move.
When you are catching your pickleball opponent off guard, then they don’t have the time to develop a strategy. The return is likely going to be a fault, or a poor return, if they are not anticipating this. Be careful with this one, as the experienced player will only be fooled by this once, if at all.
Another thing to keep in mind here is that you need to hit this serve a little softer than you normally would, because it is by nature a shot with not a lot of length to it. This short shot is the advantage, but again, you won’t be able to repeat this too many times. Any level or pickleball rating can try this serve.
You just need to practice it.
2. The high soft serve is one that takes some deep practice but can result in a good game
The serve begins the tone of every game, and the high soft serve, also called the moon ball serve, can be effective. This serve is referred to as the moon ball serve or the high serve because it takes on a big and wide arc to land far into your opponent’s court. This is a serve that can be used with any pickleball rating as well.
Additionally, unlike the kitchen corner serve, this serve can offer some variety. One way to serve the ball using the moon serve is by aiming it to the back of the serving area. You can also aim it to the front of the area.
In both cases, your opponent needs to move to get to the ball. Keep in mind that your opponent is anticipating the move to begin with. So you have to lobby the ball high which will make your opponent dance from side to side as they attempt to anticipate where the ball will arrive on their side of the court.
Knowing your opponent and how they play will help here. If your opponent has been studying your game, as many pickleball players do, then they may know that you like this serve and be anticipating it. This serve will often land in the same spot by the same player, that’s just the mechanics of the human body.
Your body performs a certain way every time based on your height and weight. So your serves are always going to be similar, until you practice that. Unless you are skilled enough to slam this serve, and mix it up every time, then you won’t surprise skilled players too many times with this serve.
At the same time, you can simply practice acing this one in different ways to surprise your opponent every time, no matter who they are. This serve can be mastered by any skill level. The higher the arc, the slower the pace, and your opponent can not stop guessing.
It also keeps your opponent away from the net which will help you to perfect that long shot, and those closer to the net. The serve will also force your opponent to adjust their speed when they do hit the ball, and not just when they are going for the ball. They won’t be able to decide how to serve back.
They can block it, but will really have to work this shot. You give your opponent more room to make an error when you serve this way. Practice this serve, and also practice receiving this serve because it is a very common serve and you will be on the receiving end of it as well.
3. The power serve is another common serve that every highly rated pickleball player has mastered
The power serve is one of the most common pickleball serves and is a low, fast serve that goes deep into your opponent’s game. It is called a power serve because the tone that this serve sets for the game is that you are here to play. For this one, you are aiming for the far back corner of the court, and you can even aim it directly at your opponent.
This serve is not as easy as the moon ball serve, but that is because it has a little more strategy to it. It can be more difficult to manage, but if you want to rate high in pickleball, then you will need to master this one. Low, fast, are the keys here.
If you are a tournament player, watch your opponent a little bit before you try this serve. You can learn how they move on the court, and even how they anticipate this serve from other players. Watch their backhand as well, and assess if it is a strong or weak backhand.
If it is weaker, you have a greater shot at winning with this serve alone. You also want to watch to see if the opponent is fast or slow on the court. That will help you to determine where you need to aim this serve.
Send the serve directly to them, and you will force them to move on the court. This is also a great serve to use in combination with other serves if your opponent is used to your serves, or has watched you play to study you for their own game. Mix it up.
This is another serve where practice makes perfect. You need to know exactly where your opponent is, and where your serve will go. The lower angle of this serve makes it very hard to lobby back and it will limit how the opponent can work their own strategy.
They won’t be able to spin it back if they don’t get to it fast enough.
4. The soft angle serve is a low and soft serve that will give your opponent some breathing room, they think
The soft angle serve is one of the most common serves in the game of pickleball. It is a low and easy serve that will mix up how you play the game. This serve comes close to the kitchen line and it can also hit the sideline of the court on occasion. You want to see the bounce of the ball outside of the lines if you are hoping to throw off the opponent.
This is not an easy task and is considered one of the hardest serves to master. The target is very small here, and it forces your opponent to play in a very wide and open space on the court. They can’t plan for this.
You are really pushing your opponent between the lines here. A good time to use this serve is when playing doubles, because you will leave two players guessing with this one. In many games of doubles in pickleball, the doubles will stack, which means that both members of the team are on the same side of the court.
If you are using a soft angle serve during doubles, and the other team is stacking, a soft angle serve on the other side of the court will be a successful serve for you. The obvious advantage here is that the opponent misses the ball when this serve is used the right way.
5. A few tips on how to serve in pickleball after you have mastered these types of pickleball serves
If you have mastered some pickleball serves, you are probably aching to put them in motion on the pickleball court during a game, tournament or otherwise. You will need to know some etiquette and rules before you do that. First, you need to get in the right position before you serve.
Find your spot on the court that isn’t anywhere near the kitchen. You have to call the current score of the game before you serve the ball. In a doubles game, you also have to call how many serves have already occurred, or, what number of serve this is in the game.
You have to drop the ball to serve, not throw it up, so that you can serve it underhanded. Drop, swing, serve.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Types of Pickleball Serves
What is the kitchen in pickleball?
The kitchen in pickleball is a clearly defined area of the pickleball court on either side of the net. It is a no-volley zone and is seven feet wide on either side. It runs from one sideline to another on the pickleball court.
It is unclear why it is called the kitchen, but it does serve as a defined space on the court with a defined set of rules. You can’t play pickleball without the kitchen. Things that happen in the kitchen in pickleball can be bad for the game of the player, so you want to learn the rules of the kitchen in pickleball when you are learning your serves.
For example, standing in the kitchen is not permitted, and you can not connect with the line of the kitchen while you are lobbying the ball back. In fact, no part of your body can be over the kitchen line, or it is your opponent that gets the point. During a serve, however, your ball can hit the line of the kitchen, but you as a person can not.
The point of the kitchen then is to prevent players from getting too close to the net. Another thing that you need to learn about this game is that any player that drops anything into the kitchen loses a point to their opponent. That refers to things that you are wearing or carrying as well.
If your sunglasses fall into the kitchen, the other player gets a point. To put it simply, stay out of the kitchen in pickleball.
What is a fault in pickleball?
A fault is precisely what it sounds like. It is an error in pickleball. When you are serving, a cardinal rule of pickleball from the official rules of pickleball is that you must have at least one foot on the ground when you are serving. If you do not, you can receive a fault.
If your opponent attempts to interfere with the progress of the ball in the midst of the serve, then you or your team will get the point. In other areas of pickleball, the fault areas are common sense. If you or a team member misses the ball while trying to hit it, the other team gets the point and you have a fault.
However, if the ball hits the ground before you have a chance to hit it, it is not a fault. If the ball hits something, such as an object like the net, it is a fault against who hit the ball. If the ball hits you or a team member while the other player is serving, that is a fault as well.
Faults are really easy to get if you have not mastered your serve, and many pickleball players will try to get a fault against the other player during a serve. Practice avoiding faults as often as you practice nailing the serve.
Can I serve the ball with the upperhand motion?
No, in pickleball, the serves must be underhand if you are playing, according to the USA Pickleball Association and the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). Those organizations will mandate the rules for every tournament. So if you want to play in your backyard, play according to whatever rules you and your friends and family decide on.
For tournament play, you will have to lose the overhand serve, however. Every serve must go up in the air from low to high, and not high to low, and not be lobbied downwards. In tennis, you can serve over the head.
In pickleball, you can too, if you can do that with the underhand serve. The arc of the ball must move upwards in pickleball in the same way you would pitch a softball.