2022 Pickleball Rules- The Drop Serve
The 2022 revisions to the USA Pickleball Rules (technically the IFP Official Rulebook) have been announced. The “provisional” qualifier was dropped (is there a pun there) from the Drop Serve rules.
What this means is that the Drop Serve is in the official rules and here to stay.
Before the new rules were adopted, it would have been fair to view the Drop Serve as something that a player might use if they were having trouble with the serve (the Service Yips as they are commonly called). But a player may have been hesitant to spend too much time on a serve that was a provisional rule and might be removed.
No reason to fear any longer. The 2022 Rules Committee makes it clear that the Drop Serve Rule is now a permanent part of the game.
So, should you use the Drop Serve or add it to your game?
For the most part, the answer is going to be definitely.
- If you are new to pickleball and do not have a background in racket sports, proceed directly to the Drop Serve. There is no reason to learn the traditional in-air volley serve. Keep on reading for why.
- If you are having trouble with your volley serve, kick it to the curb and make the Drop Serve your full-time serve.
- If you sometimes falter on the volley serve, consider replacing it completely with the Drop Serve or, at a minimum, spend some time on the Drop serve so that you have it as an insurance policy. You get into a jam with your serve? No problem. Take the Drop Serve out of your bag and use it.
Why the Drop Serve over the in-air volley serve? Three main reasons:
- It is consistent with the rest of the groundstrokes you hit in the game. The volley serve is an outlier. You hit it like a groundstroke, BUT the ball never bounces on the court. The Drop Serve does not suffer from this difference and is the same as a return of serve, except that you control the drop of the ball.
- The Drop Serve allows you better timing in hitting the ball and decreases the chance that you will rush the serve – a common cause of service errors.
- You’ll be able to hit deeper shots with the Drop Serve. Particularly useful when you are hitting into a heavy wind.
We show you how to do this in our 2022 Drop Serve Video
The Drop Serve also reduces the chances that you will have serve controversy at your courts.
Say you are playing, and someone suggests that your serve is illegal (or might be). Then, just pull out the ole Drop Serve.
There is only one rule you must comply with on the Drop Serve: the ball has to be dropped. This means that the ball cannot be propelled downwards (or tossed up and then allowed to bounce). Instead, it must be dropped out of your hand with no downwards force applied to it.
Once you drop the ball, the 3-rules of the service motion (ball hit under waist, upward motion on swing, and paddle under wrist) no longer apply. Dropping the ball is the only requisite.
Speaking of which, the ball can be dropped (and bounce) anywhere on the court. When you hit the serve, your feet must remain outside the baseline and between an imaginary extension of the center and sideline. The ball, however, can bounce anywhere on the court.
The permanence of the Drop Serve makes it a great addition to your game. Plus, it’s what all the cool kids are doing.
Ready to see how to hit the Drop Serve, including how to get more depth on your Serve?
Hola. Hello. Konichiwa. After 40 years playing tennis, I am now a full-time pickleball player and professional. As a 5.0 rated Senior Pro Pickleball Player and an IPTPA-certified Master Teaching Professional, my focus is on helping players like you learn to play their best pickleball. In 2016, shortly after starting to play pickleball, my friend Tom and I jumped into the highest division at the first US Open in Naples, Florida. That morning it became clear just how much there is to learn in this seemingly simple sport – a lifetime of learning if you so choose. Since 2018, I have been on a mission to share my knowledge of pickleball so other players can enjoy the game at a higher level and attain their pickleball objectives. When not studying or playing pickleball, I like to travel with my other half, Jill.
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I have been using the drop serve for awhile. SO glad it’s going to stay.
It is great that the doubt about the drop serve has been removed.
Please clarify….the ball can be dropped anywhere on the court as long as the feet stay in the serving box
Hi Daniel, that’s correct the ball can be dropped and land inside or outside the court.
So I can hit a severe slice on a drop serve correct?
Hi Paul, here’s a link to the rule book. You’ll find answers to any questions about the drop serve on page 19 rule 4.a.6 https://betterpickleball.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/USA-Pickleball-Rulebook.pdf. Have fun out there.
What if I toss the ball with my paddle hand and than hit the ball with my paddle in my paddle hand. so I toss the ball with my right hand ( paddle hand ,hold the paddle in my left hand and as the ball is in the air switch my paddle to the paddle hand. And who decides what is my paddle hand if I play both handed anyway ? How can they decide that a ball has a pre-spin produced by you fingers or it was just the way I toss the ball.
This is an interesting question. You would toss the ball with the same hand your paddle is in and then switch? I would have to go back and double check but think as long as you are not tossing the ball from the hand you are hitting the ball with. Seems like you would be in the clear. The only way to deal with the pre-spinning of the ball is by using the drop serve.
I teach beginners and novice players the drop serve and the only problem I see is really good player put back spin, side spin and top spin making it extremely difficult for players to return.
I’ve seen games starting out 5/ 6/ 7/ nothing before the other team starts serving. This will hurt the game and discourage people to play with certain players. The drop serve should be hit like a regular serve from below the waist.
This will improve my game because I am a good server anyway .
An the ball bounce more than once before you hit it?
It sure can but it doesn’t really help the server. The more often it bounces the lower it gets
I like using the drop serve because, as you say, I can get it deeper. Plus, it gives me enough control to hit a softer shot just past the kitchen when I need to. I’m glad it’s here to stay.
Those deep serves really help. Glad it is working for you.
I LOVE to drop Serve!
Thank you so much, Tony!! I will definitely practice that for my games when pickleball resumes in the spring. In the meantime, I hope I can find an indoor facility that’s reasonably priced.
It is a lifelong project. We keep working :).
The drop serve, I can take it or leave it, however, and this is a big one, it was a life-saver last year, when I had a bad case of the yips.
I couldn’t figure it out, but knew that it was in my head; it all started when I joined a stronger group (I was intimidated). Until then, I didn’t understand the yips, it was “just a serve” after all. Well now I know, the yips are real, and the drop serve will allow you to play through them until you figure it out.
Hey Francois, good call to use the drop serve. Often when we’re a little nervous we rush the time between dropping the ball and contact. The drop serve forces us to wait a little longer, which is usually long enough to get the ball in. There’s also no harm in staying with the drop serve.
I am so glad drop serve is here to stay. I switched as soon as it was legally available to use. I can consistently drop it in same place for better control and depth. I was at courts the other day and axwomen struggled terribly with her serve but no other shots. I showed her the drop serve, basically hit your forehand. She was able in just about 10 practice serves to get it in the court, and it carried over to playing in a game.
Hey Ginny, great call to show her the drop serve. As Tony pointed out in the video, the volley serve is a motion different from all the rest of the strokes and it can cause problems.
I personally love the drop serve. I find I have more power and more control. Except when it’s windy (I live in an area renowned/revered for the strong wind). In a good wind, you drop the ball and it shifts and there goes that perfect serve.
Sounds like you’ve got it dialed in Christie!
In response to Christie B’s concern about the difficulty in hitting a drop serve in very windy conditions. Yes, it’s true (I play less than a mile from Lake Ontario and in SE Florida), but there are two things you can do to compensate: start your drop lower, thus causing less “ball sway” and hit it closer to the deck (you racquetball players know what I mean!).
Secondly, if it swayed too much: DON’T hit it! You have 10 seconds from the time you announce the score until you hit the serve.
Thanks – good advice. And easier said than done. I see that ball dropping and “see ball, hit ball” kicks in 😉
I am trying lots of spin on my serve. I find for backhand serves, It gives me more time to get my backswing into place and my arms don’t cross when I don’t toss the ball up. Stroke mechanics improve.
I watched this video on YT about drop serve variations https://youtu.be/dPYTI6Iy08k.
In it, one of the variations he gives is a 2 handed backhand.
Can anyone confirm that A two-handed backhand honest drop serve is allowed?
Hi Mark, the only thing the drop serve rule is specific about is the drop itself. So yes, a two-handed backhand is within the rules. Now as far as consistent execution, that might be a different story. 😉
Does a drop serve bounce count as the first bounce in the 2 bounce rule
Hi John, the drop serve does not count as the first bounce.
Will you please confirm: you are saying that hand/paddle placements do not apply to Drop Serve? So the paddle can be held at an angle above the wrist, etc.? Why would this be legal when it is not for the more “traditional” toss serve? Thank you!
Hello, when you are using the drop serve the only thing that matters is the drop of the ball. The upward swing, the paddle position, and contact below the navel doesn’t matter. The Drop Serve is rule 4.a.6 and here’s a copy of the 2022 rule book for your enjoyment. https://usapickleball.org/docs/ifp/USA-Pickleball-Rulebook.pdf
The problem I have with the drop serve is that it never bounces high enough for me to get a good shot at it. And I have to hit the ball really hard to get it over, which is hard to do as a very petite woman with tiny arms and shoulders. What is the best serve for someone who does not have major upper body strength? I am considering reverting to the soft underhand lob serve. I know it’s weak, but at least it goes over the net.
BTW, I have no problem delivering a strong forehand shot while playing. Just can’t do it from the stand-still position when behind the baseline. Just feels really awkward.
Hi Shelly, if you can get the lob serve in consistently use that one. If you’re looking for something different, generally you can get a little more power on the drop serve because it allows a player to use their core more efficiently. You mentioned you don’t struggle with your forehand I’m guessing that you body is in a different position, one that allows you to use your core. Put yourself on video and see if you can replicate that position or something close to it on the drop serve.
Curious about a serve I saw,
The lady holds ball under under her non-serving hand,
She Lifts her hand with the ball towards the ground and releases the ball as she is lifting her hand.
The ball rises then drops and she volley hits the ball(no bounce). I had not seen this before and did not like receiving that serve. It threw me way off( wellll, more than my normal off 😉 )
Guessing that is a legal serve, true?
Hi Tom, there are no rules for the toss unless it’s a drop serve.
I’ve even have had the yips with the drop serve. What has helped me is to drop the ball, get my body low to the ground, and hit the ball 1 to 2 feet off the ground. Also look at the back of the ball to where I want to hit.
Is the service area 3-dementia all or 1-dimentinal. May I reach through the plane with the the unplanted foot, to contact the ball before touching the court.
Hi Ken theoretically yes, you can reach through the plane but if you miss time it and step into the ball before or at the time the paddle is making contact with the ball it’s the fault.
I don’t see an advantage to cutting it that close.
maybe you meant ‘dimension(al)’…but given the fact that a majority of pickleball players are 60+, i would say 1 out of 3 have early onset dementia.
Can you drop serve then the next time you serve toss serve in the same game? Or do you have to use the same serving style throughout the game?
Another question, If you drop the ball and it’s a bad drop can you re-drop before hitting the serve?
Hi Peggy, yes to all of your questions. Have fun!
Can’t find an answer to this…someone told me that if you start your match w a drop serve, you must use that type of serve throughout that match?? I cant find any rule that states that…and what I was reading seemed to indicate it is useful to use a drop serve and then a traditional serve also. What is the correct answer? Thanks. Betty
You can’t find a rule Elizabeth because there is no rule. Use the drop or a traditional anytime you want in the same game. Just make sure that if you change back and forth you follow the rules appropriate for each serve.
Tonight one player was serving to me in a friendly match….my team won the point and at that time I told him that what he was doing is probably considered to be foot fault….He said there is nothing in the rules about this….I believe that rule’s said that one foot must be behind the baseline, but nothing about the second foot. What he does is….he steps with his left inside the court, then he tosses the ball in the air steps back to his right foot that is behind the baseline and at that time he lifts the left foot that was inside the court and strikes the ball….I did not find anything in the rules about establishing both feet behind the baseline like on leaving the kitchen and establishing both feet before hitting the next ball…thanks
Hi Mac, here’s are the rules regarding the serve.
4.A.4. The moment the ball is served:
4.A.4.a. At least one foot must be on the playing surface behind the baseline.
4.A.4.b. Neither of the server’s feet may touch the court on or inside the baseline.
4.A.4.c. Neither of the server’s feet may touch outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.
It sounds like what he is doing is legal. It also sounds like he puts himself in a position where he is susceptible to a deep return. 😉