Pickleball is a fast-growing sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. The game is played on a badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net, using a plastic ball and oversized paddles.
One of the unique aspects of pickleball is the “service box” – the designated area on each side of the net where the serve must be made from. Understanding the precise rules around the service box is crucial, as a fault on the serve results in a loss of serve.
So what exactly are the regulations for the service box in pickleball?
- What Is The Service Box In Pickleball?
- Where Can The Server Stand Inside The Service Box?
- What Shot Types Are Allowed On The Serve?
- Where Should The Pickleball Contact The Paddle Face On A Serve?
- What Foot Position Is Required On The Serve?
- Is A Second Serve Attempt Allowed If The First Is Faulted?
- What Happens After The Server Makes Contact With The Ball?
- What If The Serve Hits The Net And Lands In The Service Court?
- What If The Serve Hits The Net But Lands Out Of The Service Court?
- What Happens If The Wrong Server Takes Their Turn Before Their Partner?
- Conclusion: Master The Service Box For Pickleball Success
What Is The Service Box In Pickleball?
The service box is a rectangular area on each side of the net measuring 20 feet long by 10 feet wide. It is bisected down the center by an imaginary extension of the non-volley zone line.
The service box has these basic boundaries:
- The baseline (back line)
- The sidelines
- The non-volley zone line
- The imaginary extension of the non-volley zone line to the sidelines
The serve must be made from within this service box area to be valid.
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Where Can The Server Stand Inside The Service Box?
The server can stand anywhere inside the lines of the service box to serve. There is no set position. Typically, the server stands close to the baseline, near the centerline.
Some players prefer to stand very close to the middle non-volley zone line extension when serving, allowing them to step directly into the court for the return. This inside position can maximize the angles for the serve.
What Shot Types Are Allowed On The Serve?
The serve must be made using a forehand or backhand motion.
Forehand serves involve the paddle face moving from behind the body to forward in an arc. Backhand serves go in the reverse direction.
The face of the paddle must be angled upwards on contact with the ball. Underhand serve motions are not permitted.
The server can utilize topspin, backspin, or hit flat drives when serving. Slice serves with sidespin are also common. Any paddle stroke that involves a forehand or backhand swing is legal.
The variety of serve types gives pickleball players many options for starting the point.
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Where Should The Pickleball Contact The Paddle Face On A Serve?
An important serving rule is that the point where the paddle contacts the ball must be below the waist.
Specifically, rule 7.A in the official USA Pickleball Association rulebook states the ball must be hit below the navel level to be a legal serve.
The navel generally marks the transition between the power-generating core muscles of the torso and the weaker muscles of the shoulder.
By requiring paddle contact below the navel, the rule prevents players from generating excessive power by serving overhead. It helps standardize serving ability.
What Foot Position Is Required On The Serve?
Servers must have at least one foot in contact with the playing surface behind the baseline when the ball is hit.
Both feet can be behind the baseline. Or players can step one foot forward toward the non-volley zone line while leaving one foot planted behind the line.
The server’s feet must also be positioned between the imaginary sideline extensions coming out from the non-volley zone line. Stepping outside these extensions would be a foot fault.
Essentially, the feet must be placed inside the service box just like the strike zone for the paddle.
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Is A Second Serve Attempt Allowed If The First Is Faulted?
No, pickleball does not allow a second serve attempt.
If the first serve fails to land legally in the diagonal service court, it is a fault. The serving side immediately loses the serve.
This “one serve only” rule adds pressure and excitement. Servers must execute their first serve or else face surrendering the offensive momentum.
The strict single-serve policy applies in both singles and doubles matches. Teams do not get a “second serve” like in tennis.
What Happens After The Server Makes Contact With The Ball?
After hitting the serve, the server or their partner must do one of two things before the return:
- Call a timeout
- Ask the referee to confirm or clarify the score
Either action must take place after the ball is struck but before the ball lands in the opponent’s service box.
This prevents questionable late calls of timeouts and score checks that could be used as gamesmanship tactics.
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What If The Serve Hits The Net And Lands In The Service Court?
If a served ball clips the top of the net, net tape, or net cord and then lands in the correct service court, play will continue. This is called a net serve.
There are no “lets” or re-serves in pickleball when the ball touches the net on the serve. As long as it lands legally in the opposition’s service box, a serve that hits the net is valid.
This is one of the major ways pickleball differs from tennis rules around the serve. It helps speed up the game by eliminating re-serves.
What If The Serve Hits The Net But Lands Out Of The Service Court?
If a served ball makes contact with the net system but then fails to land inside the confines of the diagonal service court, it is considered a fault.
For example, if a serve hits the net tape and bounces into the non-volley zone, lands beyond the baseline, or exits the sidelines, it is a faulted serve.
The server loses the serve, and the faulted team will not be awarded any points on the rally.
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What Happens If The Wrong Server Takes Their Turn Before Their Partner?
In doubles pickleball, players must serve (and receive serve) in the correct sequence:
- Player 1 serves
- Player 3 receives
- Player 3 serves
- Player 2 receives
- Player 2 serves
- Player 4 receives
- Player 4 serves
- Player 1 receives
If a team serves out-of-order, in the wrong sequence, it is a fault. Once discovered, the serve immediately transfers to the opposing team.
Both partners must keep track of the serving sequence. An accidental wrong server is not allowed to replay the serve.
Conclusion: Master The Service Box For Pickleball Success
Understanding the nitty-gritty rules around the service box, serve motions, foot faults, net serves, and server sequence is an important foundation for solid pickleball play.
Following the precise protocols for the serve will help you avoid faults and score aces. Master your service box skills through focused practice and repetition.
Work on hitting serves to precise targets in the service court, using an array of spins and placements. Strive for consistency across a range of service motions and stances.
Polish your pre-serve routine to ensure you are centered, balanced, and ready to execute. By honing your overall serving skillset, you’ll gain an offensive edge right off the bat in every pickleball match.