The Best Serve In Pickleball
What do you think is the most popular pickleball subject on YouTube?No, not the third shot drop. Negative, not the lob. Nope, not even the reset shot.
Would it surprise to learn that the most popular pickleball videos on YouTube are about serves? Yes, you read that right, the pickleball serves! It seems like all of us want to hit our serve faster, harder, or more accurately.
What’s your best pickleball serve? Do you hit the serve hard and deep? Perhaps you use backhand serve? Maybe you create a wicked spin?
While all those serves have a purpose, it doesn’t matter what type of serve you hit if you use the same one every time; eventually, your opponents will adjust to it.
The most important question is, do you have more than one pickleball serve?
I heard Steve Dawson say he never hits the same serve to a player two times in a row. I remember thinking, “keeping track of that might be hard.” LOL! In reality, it’s a great philosophy. If your opponent doesn’t know what’s coming, you’ll increase your chances of creating a weak return, making the third shot easier for your team.
Here are five different pickleball serves and when and how to use them.
The Power Serve
Without a doubt, the most common service question I get is on power serving. Players always want to learn to hit it hard. Truthfully, it’s good to have in your bag of tricks. A powerful serve can force a weak return. Conversely, if you are playing against a hard hitter, they’ll use the power from the serve to generate more power on their return. Since this is a typical shot and often the only serve players have, you’ll likely find your opponents have developed effective returns.
A lob serve has the trajectory of an upside-down U. Ideally, it’s hit high, soft, and lands in the back 1/3 of the court. The high bounce after it lands makes it challenging for some players to return.
This high, soft serve is useful against power players because it requires them to generate their own power. This can also be very effective if there is something behind the court like a fence or a tennis net. The downside is if you hit this serve short or if the player can spin the ball, it makes your third shot more difficult.
Players create topspin when the paddle moves up the back of the ball. Picture the ball rotating end over end toward the returner. When the ball bounces, the spin makes it hop toward the player. If they don’t see the spin, they’ll likely set up too close to the ball and hit a weak return.
Soft Short Serve
This shot is useful if the player isn’t very mobile, is standing deep or slightly out of position behind the baseline. Since it’s short, the player will have to hit the return on the run. If you can angle the shot to the sideline, you may pull the returner off the court and out of position for the next shot. The downside is because they’re running forward they’ll get to the non-volley zone faster.
The natural motion of a backhand serve creates a side spin not commonly seen on a serve. Unfortunately, the backhand is often a player’s weakest shot, and it may difficult to execute a legal serve consistently.
Your only chance to score is when your team is serving, and you only get one serve. Meaning, the most critical part of the serve is GET IT IN.
Your next objective is to force a weak return making the third shot easier for your team. By developing a variety of serves, your opponents will have a more difficult time getting accustomed to your serve and will be left guessing what’s coming next.
Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)
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