CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

How the Return of Serve Controls the Point

At some point, it’s likely that you’ve heard the deep return of serve is an important part of playing good pickleball. But is it just the depth of the return that’s important?

Well, it’s true that the deep return of serve can make the third shot more difficult for the serving team. The return has a greater impact on the returning team’s ability to control the point.

Why you may be asking?

Pickleball is one of the few sports where the serving team is at a disadvantage since the double bounce rule forces both players to stay near the baseline. That allows the returning team to establish their position at the non-volley zone. Now the distance between the two teams is shorter, taking away the serving team’s reaction time.

The caveat is that to capitalize on that advantage, the returning team needs to get all the way to the non-volley zone.  A deep return makes it easier, but in reality, that’s only one part of the equation.

The speed and trajectory of the return of serve are more important than the depth.

If you hit the ball not just deep but higher and softer, it takes more time for it to get to the serving team. That buys you, the returner, more time to get to the net.

Conversely, a return that’s hit deep but hard doesn’t buy you any extra time and you may find that you are short of the non-volley zone.

If you are not very fast or having a difficult time getting to the non-volley zone, hitting a soft deep return is an effective strategy that’s going to give you more time to get into a better position at the net. It’s when both players of the returning team are at the non-volley zone that they control the point.

What return of serve style gets you to the non-volley zone quickly?



  1. Avatar photo Doug on October 6, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    Love your tips on how to play better pickle!

  2. Avatar photo Harry A Mitchell on October 7, 2019 at 7:51 am

    Love these videos. It’s always good to check on your strategy.

  3. Avatar photo Richard on October 9, 2019 at 9:25 am

    Nice video, CJ. Makes sense

  4. […] of my personal favorites to teach is the soft, deep return. I covered this in detail in another post a few weeks ago. It allows most people enough time to get all the way to the […]

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