The Surprising Pickleball Serve Rule Most Beginners Don't Know

The Surprising Pickleball Serve Rule Most Beginners Don’t Know

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In pickleball, the serve must be made diagonally across the court and can only be returned by the player standing in the service court diagonally opposite the server. Only that player is permitted to return the serve after it bounces once on their side.

The returning player is advised to stand a couple feet behind the baseline to allow forward momentum on the return and should aim to hit a deep return down the center of the court.

After the return, both players on the serving team must allow the ball to bounce once before hitting a groundstroke or volley.

Many beginners are unaware of a unique and somewhat counterintuitive rule regarding the pickleball serve – specifically, which player is permitted to return serve.

Unlike most racquet sports where only the receiver can return serve, pickleball has an unusual rule that allows either the receiver’s partner or the receiver themselves to return serve. This singular rule enables creative serve return strategies and is a true game-changer, yet is often unknown to novice players.

When Can You Return Serve in Pickleball?

Pickleball has an unusual serve rule that differs from many other racquet sports. This unique rule states that the serve must cross diagonally over the net and can only be returned by the player standing in the diagonally opposite service court.

What Side Can You Serve From in Pickleball?

In doubles pickleball, the serve must originate from the right-hand court and go diagonally to the opponent’s right-hand court on the other side. The left-hand service court is only used when the score is even – 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.

This differs from tennis, where players alternate serving from the right and left side when starting a new game.

Who Can Return Serve in Pickleball?

After the ball bounces once in the receiving service court, only the player standing in that service court can return the serve.

This is contrary to many racquet sports where both partners on the receiving team can return serve from anywhere on their side of the net.

So in pickleball, if you are the partner of the player receiving serve, you cannot poach the return or hit the serve from outside the service court. The receiver’s partner must let the receiving player return serve without interference.

Why is the Pickleball Serve Rule Unique?

Restricting serve returns to just the receiver in the service court adds strategy and intrigue to the pickleball serve. The serving team must aim diagonally for the receiver in the service court, who has limited mobility to return the serve.

This creates an advantage for the serving team not found in other racquet sports like tennis or badminton. The unusual rule also enables creative formations like stacking where both receivers position themselves in the service court.

Overall, the pickleball serve rule adds an element of tactics and nuance that sets pickleball apart.

What Happens After the Serve Return in Pickleball?

While only one player can return serve in pickleball, after the return, both partners on the serving team are free to hit the ball.

Can Both Players Hit the Return in Pickleball?

No, only the player in the serving court can return serve. The partner must stay out of the receiving court and let the receiver return serve without interference.

However, after the ball is in play, both players on the serving team can hit the ball from anywhere on their side of the net.

This differs from tennis, where only the player returning serve can hit the first shot after serve. So in pickleball, creative formations are possible after the serve return.

Who Hits the Third Shot in Pickleball?

After the return, either player on the serving team can hit the third shot – known as the serve + 2 shot. Often, the serving partner will communicate and move into position to poach the third shot.

This enables the serving team to take control of the point early through tactical positioning and communication.

So while only one player can return serve in pickleball, both partners work together to win the point after the return. This unique aspect adds intrigue and strategy not found in most other racquet sports.

Why is the Pickleball Serve Rule Important for Beginners?

The unusual pickleball serve rule granting the return to just one player often confuses beginners transitioning from other racquet sports. However, understanding this rule is key for novice players.

Avoid Double Hits

Knowing only one player can return serve avoids double hits where both partners incorrectly attempt returning serve. This common beginner mistake results in a fault.

Don’t Poach Your Partner’s Return

Beginners may instinctively want to poach the serve return from outside the service court like in badminton or tennis. But in pickleball, only the receiver in the service court can legally return serve.

Position Yourself After the Return

While beginners cannot return serve, they can strategically position themselves in anticipation of hitting the serve +2 shot. Beginner awareness of the unique rule facilitates better post-return formations.

Overall, the pickleball serve rule enables tactical serve returns and requires beginner awareness to avoid faults. Understanding this unusual rule is key for novice players.

How Does the Pickleball Serve Rule Impact Strategy?

The pickleball serve rule allowing only the receiver to return serve creates several strategic implications that affect gameplay and scoring.

Target the Receiver

Unlike tennis, serving to the receiver’s partner does not pressure the return. So the server should precisely target the service court diagonally across the net. This limits the receiver’s mobility on the return.

Attack the Returner’s Weakness

Observing the receiver’s strengths and weaknesses allows targeting weak returns. Serving to a receiver’s forehand or backhand can produce advantageous serve returns.

Use the Two-Bounce Rule

The two-bounce rule requires the ball to bounce once on each side before players can volley. With restricted mobility, the receiver cannot sharply angle returns, enabling the server to move forward and attack shorter returns.

Poach the Third Shot

While only one player can return serve, the server’s partner can poach the third shot for a tactical advantage. The unusual rule creates unique serve + 2 strategies.

Overall, the singular pickleball serve rule enables servers to develop specialized serving strategies not found in other racquet sports.

What are Effective Tactics for Returning Pickleball Serve?

The pickleball serve rule confining the return to just the service court receiver means players should master several key returning tactics.

Position Behind the Baseline

Returning a few feet behind the baseline allows forward momentum into returns for greater control and consistency. This deeper court position also enables adjusting to various serve placements.

Hit Down the Center

With limited mobility in the service court, returning down the center of the opposing court reduces angles for the serving team to attack. Centered returns force the server’s partner to move laterally for the serve +2 shot.

Vary Return Heights

Mixing up wedge, flat, and topspin returns keeps the serving team guessing. Varying return height and depth reduces their control of the third shot.

Communicate with Your Partner

The receiver should verbally guide their partner for optimal serve +2 coverage through commands like “yours” or “poach.” This cooperative positioning disrupts the serving team’s tactics.

Overall, mobile footwork and unpredictable returns are key for receivers, given the singular serve rule.

What are Common Beginner Mistakes on Pickleball Serve Returns?

The unique pickleball serve rule causes several mistakes among novice players learning the game. Avoiding these errors will improve beginner performance on serve returns.

Double Hits

Both partners incorrectly returning serve results in a fault. Only the diagonal service court receiver can legally return serve in pickleball.

Positioning Too Close to Net

Returning serve too close to the non-volley zone limits mobility. The receiver should start a few feet behind the baseline.

Poaching from Outside Service Court

Beginners often instinctively poach the serve return from outside the service court. However, this is illegal in pickleball.

Hitting Returns Too High

Popping up returns sits up for the serving team’s attack. Keeping returns low forces the server’s partner to hit up on the ball.

Failing to Communicate

Lack of verbal commands between partners produces disjointed court coverage. The receiver should guide positioning after the return.

Avoiding these common mistakes will rapidly sharpen beginners’ serve return capabilities.

Expert Tips to Master the Pickleball Serve Return

Here are some pro tips from experienced pickleball players and coaches to excel at returning serve:

  • “Start your service return from behind the baseline to allow forward momentum into the shot,” advises Cathy Hanson, certified pickleball instructor.
  • “Keep your eyes on the ball and turn your shoulders on the return to generate power,” recommends professional player Marc Roux.
  • “Return crosscourt to keep the ball away from the poacher,” says pickleball pro Kyle Yates.
  • “Mix high and low returns to vary the pace and disrupt your opponent’s rhythm,” suggests coach Leo Durant.
  • “Don’t forget to communicate with your partner before and after the serve return,” reminds elite player Jennifer Dawson.

Mastering these professional serve return techniques will significantly boost beginner’s performance.

The Pickleball Serve Rule Creates Exciting Strategy

While the singular pickleball serve rule surprises many beginners, it undeniably adds engaging strategy and creativity to the sport.

The serving team must precisely target the diagonal service court receiver, who has limited mobility to return serve. This creates an advantage on the serve not found in similar racquet sports.

Meanwhile, the receiving team can implement clever formations like stacking both players in the service court to counter the serve. After the return, both partners on the serving team can poach and move tactically to win the point.

This unique rule enables strategic serving, creative returning, and exciting volley exchanges after the return. The pickleball serve rule is a true game-changer that elevates pickleball above other racquet sports.

While confusing at first, beginners who master this unusual rule gain a competitive edge and come to appreciate the fascinating strategy it creates. So next time you step on the pickleball court, keep this singular rule in mind and leverage it to take your game to the next level!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can both partners return serve in pickleball?

No, only the player standing diagonally across the net in the service court can return serve after it bounces once on their side.

What happens if both players return serve?

If both partners on the receiving team hit the serve, it results in a fault as this is an illegal double hit.

Where should you stand to return pickleball serve?

The player returning serve should start 1-2 feet behind the baseline to allow forward momentum into the return. Staying too close to the net will restrict mobility.

Should the server target the receiver or their partner?

The server should precisely target the service court diagonally across the net, as only that player can legally return serve.

Can the receiver’s partner move into the service court to return serve?

No, only the player already positioned in the service court can return serve. The partner cannot poach the return from outside the service court.

What shot comes after the returned serve?

After the returned serve, the serving team can hit any legal shot including groundstrokes or volleys. This third shot is called the serve +2.

Where should the receiver’s partner stand after the return?

After returning serve, the receiver’s partner should reposition themselves for optimal coverage and verbally communicate with the receiver to counter the serving team’s third shot.

Conclusion – Leverage the Pickleball Serve Rule

The pickleball serve rule allowing only the diagonal service court receiver to return serve provides a unique twist not seen in other racquet sports. This singular rule enables creative formations, specialized serving and returning strategies, and exciting volley exchanges after the return.

While confusing at first, the pickleball serve rule adds an element of tactics and intrigue that enhances the game. Beginners should embrace this distinctive rule and master returning serve from the service court along with post-return positioning. Leveraging this unusual pickleball serve rule will enable novice players to rapidly sharpen their game and achieve that addictive paddle pop sensation!

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