Rules for a Pickleball Serve (updated 2023)

pickleball player serving during a tournament

One of the things we love most about pickleball is that it’s a beginner-friendly sport. The hardest part? Nailing your serve! It’s important to know the rules for serving in pickleball and make sure you’re following them properly.

You don’t have to be an expert at your backhand or well-skilled in putting spin on the ball to play your first match, but even a total rookie should know how to serve the ball correctly.

So what are the rules for serving in pickleball?

Are pickleball serving rules different in a singles and a doubles match?

And how do they differ from tennis serves?

Let’s break down the serving rules in pickleball. We’ll also outline a few serving tips from pickleball pros to help you improve your serve for your next match.

The pickleball serve basics

  • Pickleball serves must land in the opposing side of the court that is diagonal from the server. The person on the right always begins.
  • The server must stand behind the baseline without stepping over.
  • Your serve must be an ‘underhand serve’, meaning contact with the ball is made below the waist.
  • The ball must land within your opponent’s sidelines and baseline.

Dropping a new serve

In 2021, a new rule was added that allows you to bounce the ball before serving and hitting it while in the air. This is called a pickleballdrop serve’.

It’s important to note that you are not allowed to put any force behind the bounce when you drop it. The paddle must still remain below your waist when using a drop serve.

Paddle must remain below your waist on a drop serve

Pickleball serves: singles vs doubles

Are the serving rules the same whether you’re playing singles or doubles? In short, yes!

Players serve from behind the baseline and must keep the racket below their waist in both games. Serves always start from the right side of the court (also known as the ‘even side’, as the player’s score should always be an even number when serving from this side), and if the server wins the point, they will switch sides to serve again.

The biggest difference between serving in singles and doubles pickleball is that each side only gets one serve before ‘siding out’ and then it’s the opponent’s turn.

Is a pickleball serve different than a tennis serve?

There are a few similarities between the two sports, but serving in pickleball is different than tennis in a number of ways:

  • In tennis, the server has two opportunities to hit a good serve, while in pickleball, each player only gets one serve before it goes to their opponent (playing singles) or their teammate (playing doubles).
  • You cannot bounce the ball before serving it in tennis like you can in pickleball.
  • You can serve overhand in tennis, but not pickleball.
Overhand serves are not allowed in pickleball – only in tennis

Serving Tips from Pickleball Pros

We rounded up some of the hottest tips from pickleball pros across the nation.

  • Before all else, it’s important to develop a serve that is consistent and repeatable. Focus on this first!
  • Take your time. Many former tennis players-turned-pickleball players rush to make contact with the ball in their serve because that’s what they’re used to. Give yourself a full second between releasing the ball and hitting it.
  • For a powerful serve, you need to follow through. Don’t stop your serve too short. This helpful video on perfecting your serve is a great example of this!
  • Use your whole body, not just your wrist. Your legs, core, arms, and shoulders all play an important role in maintaining a strong and consistent serve.
  • Keep your grip loose and smooth—not tight and jerky.

Now, get out there and starting pickling!


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