Legal Pickleball Serve

2024 Guide to Legal Pickleball Serve Rules

Legal pickleball serve: underhand, paddle below the waist, upward arm movement; options include volley and drop serves; new rule for volley serve – one hand, bare hand (no glove).

Learn the rules, techniques, and strategies to serve below the waist level effectively.

When the pickleball ball and Paddle’s contact point is below the player’s waist level, this service is considered the legal pickleball serve.

Pickleball Sport

Since 1965, Pickleball sport gained tremendous popularity in recent years, attracting players of all ages and skill levels. One crucial aspect of pickleball is the service, which sets the stage for each rally. You’re proficient in making the scores by performing the best rally shot. Regarding this, you need to delve into the concept of a legal pickleball serve, techniques, and tips, and explore the rules & strategies. These prospects can assist you in mastering the serve shots in the match. 

Grab your Paddle; let’s get started.

Serving Tips

Types of Legal Pickleball Serve

There are two major types:

  • Underhand serves
  • Forehand serve

Both types have specific playing techniques but result in a successful legal pickleball serve.

Underhand Serve

The Legal Pickleball Serve is considered the most player-friendly and easier to play than all other serves. Players must perform it with a lower trajectory on the net and slower speed.

However, standing behind the court’s baseline and maintaining your feet parallel to each other (can be slightly staggered). Settle your paddle facing downwards and to your waist level. You can drop or toss it now for 6 inches, not higher of it. After that, allow it to hit forward before bouncing on your courtside.

Underhand serve must land into the courtside diagonal from where you’re playing it. 

Forehand Serve

The common service form includes the stand on the right corner and gazing toward the opponent’s courtside.

Thus, you can start your game by throwing up the ball and striking it with your paddle forward across the service line, diagonal into the opponent’s court.

Notably, you must set your foot behind the baseline while serving. Both feet will remain in the service court before hitting your ball.

Definitive Serve Legality

It usually depends on the following:

Serving Position

Your serving position plays a vital role in delivering an effective service.

As our recommendation, you should stand with a shoulder-width stance, balancing the weight evenly on both feet. Moreover, as a server player, you must set your position slightly towards the centerline, which makes a better angle for the serve. Ultimately, this stance allows greater reach and control when striking the ball.

Legal Serving motion 

As the server player, your paddle head is lower; likewise, your ball and paddle’s contacting point is below your waist. 

Executing the smooth serving motion is essential to maximize the effectiveness of the serve. You may start by holding the Paddle comfortably, ensuring a firm but not overly tight hold. Once you’re ready to play the serve shot, bring the Paddle back behind you while keeping your non-dominant hand holding the ball at waist level. Now, swing the Paddle forward, making contact with the ball below the waist and following through with the motion. 

Service Faults

Playing pickleball, certain faults can make your serve illegal, and that ends up in losing your score points or a side-out happens. However, these can be:

  • Failing to strike the ball below the waist.
  • Stepping on or beyond the baseline before striking the ball.
  • Serving into the incorrect service box.

Illegal Serve

Learning how to avoid faults and maintain your legal Pickleball serve is crucial.

Double bounce Rule

The additional element works as the best strategy to play the legal Pickleball serve. Though both serving and receiving teams must let the ball bounce once on each side before attempting to volley the ball. This rule of Pickleball has eliminated the dominancy of making powerful serves and encourages playing your best from the beginning of the game.

Criteria of the Legal Pickleball Serve

Whether you’re an advanced or novice player, there are following certain fundamental points to consider about the standard (volley) serve:

  • Players must maintain at least one foot behind the baseline on the court.
  • The server’s feet shouldn’t come in contact with the court’s playing surface, especially out of imaginary extension of the centerline or sideline. Meanwhile, your ball-releasing position must be watchable to the receiver player.
  • As a server player, your arm must move toward an upward arc while striking the ball with your paddle.
  • During the toss, the server player cannot impart the spin on his ball.
  • A ball contact should never be above the waist.
  • Your paddle head’s higher spot should never surpass the higher point of your wrist when striking your ball with a paddle.
  • The server player is permitted to perform one serve.

These seven criteria are essential to know for playing the legal Pickleball serve. So, you may know that hitting the ball diagonally across the net to the opponent’s service area is termed the serve in Pickleball.

To execute your legal Pickleball serve, you must stand behind the baseline, underhanded, striking the ball below the waist level, and keep your foot in touch with the ground until you strike your ball. However, you must go through the basic rules of Serving in Pickleball (volley & drop serve rules).

Pickleball Serving Rules

Volley Serve

It is executed by hitting the ball directly without letting it bounce with the court surface. This shot is performed by backhand or forehand movement. Hence, an appropriate volley serve comprises these components:

  • The server player’s arm moves upward while paddling the ball.
  • When striking your ball with the paddle, the Apex of the paddle is never above the highest part of your wrist.
  • Ball’s contact won’t be higher than the waist.

Drop Serve

This serve allows striking the ball while following its bounce on the court’s playing surface, leading to a drop serve. You can play this shot by backhand or forehand motion. Remember, there are no limitations on the number of bounces your ball may make or the explicit region of the court where it can bounce. Though there are the following vital components of this service:

  • The server player is capable of releasing his shot with a single hand. Or you can drop it off the paddle from any of your desired heights.
  • Volley serving rules are not applicable for drop serve.
  • Your ball will not move upward with the paddle, tossed or never propelled downward.
  • It shouldn’t follow the criteria of the basic three rules; ‘upward arc arm movement’, ‘Contact below the waist’, and ‘paddle low to the wrist while contacting’.

Strategies to play the strong legal Pickleball Serve

  • Players’ power and placement in court
  • Adding the Spin and Slice techniques to your serve shots
  • Maintaining the variety of serves by varying directions and speed


In 2023, spin servings will be officially legal. It’s only applicable when server players insert a spin on their ball with a paddle. They don’t put a spin on their fingers or hands. 

When your serve hits the net and then lands in the service box, it’s considered a “let” serve. The server player obtains another prospect to serve without any penalty.

Yes, it’s officially recommended that serve in Pickleball must be executed underhand. Making the overhand serve would be considered a fault, and it is not allowed.

Pickleball players are allowed to make the serves either by backhand or underhand motion. In this position, when striking the ball, the server’s arm will go in an upward arc. Following the legal Pickleball Serve criteria, you can make the backhand serve legally.


Mastering the legal pickleball serve is the most significant point in winning the match. However, you need to know the accurate criteria for performing the serve. You may become a powerful and consistent serve performer by knowing serving rules and playing strategies. However, these dedicated playing techniques lead to make you a formidable weapon in your pickleball arsenal.

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