The serve in pickleball represents a dichotomy of fundamental philosophies. On the one hand, pickleball “traditionalists” will argue that, because you can’t win a point if you don’t get your serve in, it’s best not to take any chances and, instead, just use the serve to start the rally. This philosophy of thought renders the serve as an offensive weapon irrelevant.
On the other hand, some will argue that, while the goal of the serve is not necessarily to ace your opponent, the goal is nevertheless to create a weak return so that the third shot can be an offensive opportunity — or at worst — an easier/shorter drop shot into your opponent’s non-volley zone.
Setting Up your Third Shot with an Effective Serve
I favor the latter philosophy — using the pickleball serve (and taking appropriate chances) to create a weaker return so that more options are available for the third shot — whether it be a drive or drop.
Different Types of Pickleball Serves
So what types of serves set up this opportunity for offensive weaponry? Once you have mastered the serve so that you can consistently hit it past the kitchen line and into the correct service court, you will want to learn to vary your serves and give your opponent a different look from time-to-time. The following three serves can — and should — be used.
1. The Power Serve
Like the name implies, this is a serve that is hit low and hard — generally to your opponent’s weaker side (usually the backhand) and as deep in the court as possible.
The Power Serve is an effective serve to hit when you notice the service returner standing a few steps inside of the baseline. It’s also a great serve to hit if you notice the returner over-shifted to their forehand or backhand side. Hitting it hard and deep may very well result in an ace in this situation — or, at the very least, a weak return.
2. The Moon Ball Serve
The Moon Ball Serve is a high (to the moon), soft serve that lands deep in the opponent’s court near the baseline. It’s a great change-up serve that forces the returner to generate their own power and often-times frustrates them. This serve also adds variety to your repertoire and can be used to set up future, harder serves — much like a baseball flamethrower uses the change-up from time-to-time to set up their fastball.
3. The Short, Angled Serve
This is actually one of my favorite serves to hit — especially when serving from the even side. This is generally a slower serve that lands and is angled just beyond the kitchen line. It can be effectively used with the service returner is positioned several feet behind the baseline or when the service returner has over-shifted to protect their weaker side. Because of the imparted top-spin/side-spin, this serve pushes the receiver well beyond the sideline.
The short, angled serve is also extraordinarily effective against a team that is stacking.
>>READ MORE: Pickleball Serve Hits Receiver’s Partner in Air Before Bouncing — Fault? Point? You Make the Call!<<
Depth & Consistency — Important Above All Else
Consistency and depth still remain the two of the most important considerations of the pickleball serve.
And, of course, you have to be able to get your serves in with a very high degree of consistency, regardless of which serve you use. Make sure you don’t rush yourself when serving — and visualize the serve before you hit it. You’ll be surprised how you can make the serve an offensive weapon and set yourself up for easier third shot drives or drops.
Which serve do you find most effective? I would love to hear your thoughts. See you on the courts.
READ NEXT: Legal or Illegal Pickleball Serve? What Say You?
ED Ramos says
I think that most pickleball players and Pros do not take advantage of the serve as an offensive weapon and a tool to ACE your oponent. I specifically use my serve as an offensive weapon mainly because i am blind in one Eye and my Dept Preception is non existent.I really have to FOCUS ON THE BALL, when i am playing and if I don’t I miss hit alot of pickleballs. The serves I use are Hard Drives with a spin, towards the openents backhand, or serve a Moon Serve to disrupt their timing, or serve to the corner of the non volley zone and baseline, or down the middle of the servic area. Now that said, I take a basket of pickleball and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, AND MORE PRACTICE FOR AN HOUR A DAY, JUST SERVING. I hope this helps all Pickleballer.
Hi Ed, Thanks for your thoughts on the pickleball serve. I also think it could be used as more of a weapon.
Excellent summary of modern serve philosophy. I appreciate the great content.
Thank you, Robin, for your feedback. I appreciate it.
JoAnn Johnson says
But what to do when your partner is “weak” and the opposing team plays keep-away from you?
Hi JoAnn, That’s the perfect time to do a little something extra with the serve in an attempt to get a “free” point here or there and/or generate a weak return from your opponent. If that doesn’t work, you will want to read the following post: https://www.pickleballmax.com/2017/11/playing-keep-away/
Thanks for naming the types of serves. If you have time I would appreciate your also:
-Briefly describing technique for the angled serve.
Hi Lin, I will add your suggestions to my list of future blog topics & videos. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Lynda Billars says
You are most welcome, Lynda. Thanks for the encouragement.
richard jones says
I agree, to a degree. I play against such a variety of folks from 1st-timers to 4.0s that I really am not interested in gaining a point on serve. Frequently I’m down 4-0 before I have any idea how my opponents are going to play or, for that matter, how my partner is going to play. Unless most of them want to dink, I don’t even use that strategy much, so occupying the kitchen line only comes into play when they return short.
Thanks, Richard, for all you do for the sport of pickleball.