Serving Rules in Pickleball: Start Every Rally Right!

Unlike tennis, where you can blast serves past your opponents, pickleball serves act more as a means of initiating a rally, meaning you won’t win many points outright.

However, this doesn’t mean that serves are not important. Due to the game’s structure, you can only win points when your team is serving. Therefore, getting them right is a non-negotiable if you want to win!

Here are the basic serving rules in pickleball you need to follow:

  • Serves are diagonal
  • No second serves
  • Lets no longer exist (serves that contact the net are live)
  • Feet must be behind the baseline and at least one on the floor
  • Release the ball from one hand
  • Strike the ball underarm at the waist or below
  • The paddle face must be below the wrist

In this post, we cover all the pickleball serve rules you need to know and some common mistakes to avoid.

Serving Rules in Pickleball

serving rules in pickleball 1

While pickleball serving rules differ from all other racket sports, they are very simple to understand and much easier to perform than, say a tennis serve.

There are just 6 rules you need to understand and follow. Here they are!

  1. Serves must be diagonal to the correct area. Much like tennis or doubles table tennis, you serve diagonally. You also need to serve from the right side, depending on the serving sequence.
  2. Your feet must be behind the baseline. At least one foot must be in contact with the ground, and you cannot step beyond the imaginary extension of the centerline or sideline.
  3. You must release the ball with one hand. And you cannot produce spin with your hand when you release the ball. You may also release the ball with your paddle rather than your non-playing hand.
  4. Contact with the ball must be underhand and not above the waist. You cannot serve overhand like in tennis, so the serve in pickleball is much slower. You must also use an upward motion to strike the ball.
  5. The highest point of the paddle must not be above the wrist. This means the face of your paddle should be pointing downwards.
  6. No second serves. So you had better make yours count. Consistency is key!

Read More: Pickleball Rules for Singles (Made Simple)


Volley Serves vs. Drop Serves

When it comes to serving in pickleball, there are two types to choose from: volley serves and drop serves. This is because the pickleball service rules permit bouncing the ball before contact.

Volley serves are the conventional type that most players use. For these, you drop the ball and make contact with it before it touches the ground. It is the fastest type of serve as you can strike the ball just below waist level, giving you maximum height.

On the other hand, drop serves are slower. As the name suggests, you drop the ball and strike it after it bounces off the ground. You can let the ball bounce as many times as you like before contact, and if the ball bounces awkwardly, you can simply drop it again. Just know that you only have 10 seconds after the call of score to serve.

You can also drop the ball from any height, and there is no restriction on striking the ball underhand or having the paddle face below the wrist. This may lead you to think that you can serve more aggressively with volley serves, but this is incorrect for one simple reason.

Even if you drop the ball from as high as you can, it doesn’t usually bounce to waist level, meaning you strike it lower than the drop serve.

The Advantages of Volley Serves

serving rules in pickleball 5 pickleball net with hand, ball, racket

The main merit of volley serves is speed. This is the reason most pickleball players favor them. By striking the ball as close as possible to waist level, it gives you more of an angle to introduce extra power.

Besides speed, the volley serve usually has no other notable advantages. However, if you are playing outdoors in windy conditions, it has a distinct edge over drop serves as it is less susceptible to the wind.

Yet in reality, if conditions are windy enough to knock the ball off-course, you likely won’t want to play anyway.

The Advantages of Drop Serves

Drop serves may be slower and convey novice-like ability, but they are a great choice for many players. First things first, let’s discuss how they can help out beginners.

Drop serves are much easier to execute as the ball travels slower, so they are an excellent choice for beginners who can’t get the volley serve right. We also find they are easier for players who favor a backhand serve — using the backhand for a volley serve can feel awkward.

Moving past beginners, drop serves still bring much to the table for developed players. This is primarily because drop serves have fewer rules than volley serves.

Yes! You heard me right! When performing a drop serve, you do NOT need to:

  • Strike the ball in an upward arc
  • Have the highest point of the head of the paddle below the highest point of your wrist
  • Strike the ball below at waist level or below

While it’s true the last point about waist level, in theory, allows you to hit the ball in an overarm motion, in practice, this is impossible. Even if you have a long reach, pickleball balls are not bouncy enough to give you the angle to play an overarm serve. In fact, the ball may not even reach your waist height.

So, instead, we turn our attention to the other two pickleball serve rules, where it gets interesting. By removing the need to produce an upward arc or have your paddle face below your wrist, you can start to perform all kinds of spin serves.

The beauty with spin serves is that you don’t need killer pace, just adequate speed and adequate spin. No doubt, if you learn a mix of backspin, sidespin, and topspin serves, you should have a large enough serving arsenal to give your opponents trouble.

Read More: Pickleball Rules for Doubles — A Simple Guide

Lets in Pickleball Are No More!

Before 2021, pickleball featured let serves like many other racket sports. However, due to a series of difficulties, the decision was made to remove let serves from the official rules.

This means that if the ball contacts the net on an otherwise legal serve, the ball is still live. Of course, you lose the point if you break any pickleball rules for serving, such as not serving to the correct area.

Pickleball Serving Sequence

serving rules in pickleball 3 pickleball score format

So we’ve learned that performing serves isn’t all that difficult, but what about the serving sequence? I would argue this is a lot easier to mess up!

First and foremost, know that the serve sequence changes depending on whether you are playing single or doubles. Also, as the server, you must call the serve. You must do so before you serve the ball.

The scoring format consists of three numbers, which may seem unusual if you’re unfamiliar with pickleball. Yet, it’s not all that different from most other sports. The first two numbers relate to the serving team’s score and the receiving team’s score. The last number refers to the server, either 1 or 2.

Singles Serving Sequence

For singles matches, serves begin on the right-hand side, and the server keeps serving until they lose a point. After each successful hold, the server switches positions between the left and right-hand sides of the court.

If the score is even, they always serve from the right; if the score is odd, they always serve from the left.

Pickleball Serving Sequence Rules for Doubles

As for singles, all games begin with a serve taking place from the right-hand side. The same is true for a side out when both players on a team lose their serve and it goes to the opposing team. They also serve from the correct side depending on the score, from the right-hand side when it is even and from the left when it is odd.

However, unlike singles, the player receiving the serve does not switch. Only the serving team changes positions after winning a point on their serve. The receivers remain as they are.

You should also be aware that the first server of each game adopts the second serve role initially. This means, that after they lose the point, a side out occurs. This helps offset the advantage that serving first gives.

Read More: Pickleball Strategy for Doubles: Become an Elite Partner!


Pickleball Serving Faults

serving rules in pickleball 4 serving faults

1. Serving Outside of the Service Box

The easiest way to commit a fault on your serve is to simply serve to the incorrect area. While you are not striking the ball particularly fast, it is common to miss the service box occasionally.

When serving, we recommend you put a good amount of power into your swing. This is because it is easier to under-hit than overhit the ball. The sideline, centerline, and baseline are all considered in whereas the non-volley zone line is not. Moreover, you want to keep your opponents deep on the court.

2. Foot Faults

There are several ways you can commit a foot fault. However, the two most common are jumping when serving or stepping onto or within the baseline. You must remain behind the baseline when serving and have at least one foot on the ground when you make contact with the ball.

3. Raising the Paddle Face Above the Wrist

While most people can get their head around underhand serving, some people can’t help but lift their paddle face for that extra bit of power.

Remember, your paddle’s face needs to be below your wrist. When you strike the ball in an upward motion, you get plenty of power, so there’s no need to risk faulting by rotating your wrist.

4. Serving Out of Sequence

It happens in all doubles sports games. You zone out for a second and forget who is serving. But don’t fret. Simply ask your partner whose turn it is, and if they’re just as clueless as you, ask the umpire or your opponents.

Pickleball Receiving Faults

serving rules in pickleball 2 receiving faults

1. Hitting the Ball Before It Bounces

This isn’t squash! You must let the ball bounce after a serve before striking it. If you don’t, you immediately relinquish the point. We recommend taking a step or two back if you are volleying the ball. This should give you plenty of room to wait for the bounce.

2. Receiving Out of Sequence

Just as the serving team can make the mistake of having the wrong player serve, the same is true when it comes to the receiving team.

An easy way to prevent this is to stay where you are. Receivers never change positions with one another in doubles, so if you stick to your side, you’ll never receive out of sequence.

3. Make a Call During the Serve

As is the case with many other sports, you can’t interrupt play once it has begun unless for extenuating circumstances. And asking what the score is doesn’t constitute extenuating circumstances.

So once the server has begun their serving motion, keep all questions to yourself until the point has concluded.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Serves in Pickleball?

Each player has one serve only, they hold the serve if their team wins the point. In doubles, this means each team gets to serve at least twice except for the start of the game — here, only one player serves before a side out.

What Are the Pickleball Serve Rules for Doubles?

The pickleball serve rules for doubles are the same as for singles. The only difference relates to the serving sequence. While in singles, both players switch between left and right when a point is won by the server, in doubles, only the winning pair switches sides. The receivers remain where they are.

What Is the Double Bounce Rule in Pickleball?

The double bounce rules calls for the ball to bounce at least once on each side of the court before volleying is allowed. This prevents teams from serving and immediately rushing the kitchen for a volley.

Can You Volley in Pickleball?

You can volley in pickleball provided the double bounce rule is not in effect and you are not standing in the kitchen, otherwise known as the non-volley zone.


While serving in pickleball is more restrictive than most racket sports, I think you’ll agree that serving is pretty simple, and even the serving sequence isn’t too difficult to get your head around.

The quickest way to become familiar with all of the serving rules in pickleball is to just get started with playing. With over 44,000 courts across the US, there has never been a better time to give it a go.

Read More: How to Play Pickleball (The Hottest Game Going!)

Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.