Is Your Pickleball Serve a Weapon?
Perhaps the simplest shot in all of racket sports is the underhand pickleball serve. For the beginner and improver, the serve is not an offensive shot, but merely a way to get the ball in play and start the point.
A traditional pickleball serve must meet 3 criteria:
- Paddle face must be below the wrist
- The ball must be struck in an upward motion (underhand)
- The contact point must be below the waist/navel
Following these rules, it’s pretty hard for a pickleball serve to be used as an offensive weapon, and indeed, PPR coaches normally suggest that the goal of the pickleball serve is to simply get the ball in play and start the point. It’s pretty challenging to hit an offensive serve underhanded.
Drop Serve Rule
The new drop serve rules may be changing the way we think about the pickleball serve. Take 10 minutes and watch the following video demonstrating the array of new possibilities for hitting the pickleball serve.
In essence, once the ball bounces, you can hit the serve anyway you want. The 3 rules above no longer apply. There are sure to be “new” ways to serve the ball as Jason demonstrates in his video.
Risk vs. Benefit | Pickleball Serve
With new techniques come new possibilities. For example, adding topspin, power or slice may indeed turn your serve into a weapon, but with added risk as these shots are technically more difficult to hit.
The underhand serve is as technically simple as it gets, and therefore, probably the lowest risk of creating a fault.
When to “Go for It”
It’s a risk vs. benefit question. My friends Doug and Scott asked my opinion a couple of weeks ago and I’m not sure I know the answer, but here’s what you need to consider:
Momentum is a big force in pickleball. Especially in tight matches. Be sure to do everything you can to avoid giving away “free” points and ceding momentum. While the receiving team will not score a point with your serving fault, they still will appreciate your small gift.
If the score is tight, you want to keep the pressure on your opponents – including resistance to giving up your serve. This is probably not the best time to go for the offensive service winner.
Sequence of server. You may have more latitude to try an aggressive serve if you are the 1st vs. 2nd server. Can your partner serve consistently?
Ability of your partner is huge. If you are the 1st server and miss your risky serve, how apt is your partner at serving?
Your ability matters. If you have similar or better skills compared to your opponents, consider the aggressive serve.
Weakness of your opponent. If you have identified a weakness in your opponent, you may indeed consider serving to that weakness. Executed correctly, an aggressive serve to your opponents weakness may be worth the gamble.
Conditions vary, especially when playing outside. Wind can really change the flight of your ball this may not be a great time to consider an offensive serve.
What Can You Do?
Practice and hone your technique and shots. The times to “go for it” will increase as your confidence grows. It’s a Michael Jordanesque approach: “The key to success is failure,” meaning, you can’t have a successful offensive serve until you’ve failed often.
This may be a very exciting year for pickleball. The new (provisional) rules allow players to be more creative and thus, more aggressive with their serve compared to the traditional underhanded serve.
May be the time has come to start working on acing your opponents….if it’s worth the risk.
Thanks for Visiting. Remember to keep your game:
“Below the Net,”
Randy Wong, PPR
Bob Lynn, Pres