Illegal Pickleball Serves

Illegal Pickleball Serves

The rules of serving in pickleball are simple - balls must be hit underhand, with an upward motion, and struck at or below the server’s waist.

But even with basic rules players can (and do!) try to gain an edge with innovative (and usually illegal) serve techniques.

In this 1 minute guide let’s take a look at the most common illegal serves in pickleball.

Illegal Pickleball Serves

The most common illegal pickleball serve occurs when:

  • the server’s paddle contacts the ball above their waist during the service motion. Note in this photo how the player's paddle and contact with the ball are above their waist.
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The higher contact point helps the server generate speed and depth on their serve, creating an unfair advantage for the server.

A 2nd common illegal pickleball serve occurs when putting spin on the ball:

  • the ball can not be spun or manipulated by the hand or the paddle when it is released from the hand during the service motion. This clip shows an illegal spin serve against pro players (who are helpless trying to return it!):

The other common illegal serves to watch out for are:

  • The server steps onto the service line or into court before he/she strikes the ball
  • The uppermost point of the paddle head is above the server’s wrist at impact with the ball
  • On a drop serve, the ball is propelled downward in any way other than being dropped from a natural height
  • The server’s arm isn’t moving in an upward arc at the point of contact with the ball (i.e., the ball can not be struck in a downward motion)

If any of the above take place, a fault should be called and the server loses their serve turn.

For a quick tutorial on pickleball's serving rules and the technique that should be used (with videos!), check out our post on pickleball serving here.

FAQs: Illegal Serves in Pickleball

Are drop serves legal in pickleball?

Yes - it is perfectly legal when serving to drop the ball and let it bounce off of the ground before striking it.

Drop serves are often easier to hit than a traditional volley serve. For more on the rules and technique to add a drop serve to your game, along with a how to video, see our post on Drop Serves in Pickleball.

Are serving rules the same for singles and doubles pickleball?

Yes - the rules for serving are the same in singles and doubles. However, since doubles involves 2 players serving on their team’s serve turn, doubles and singles have different approaches to where players serve from.

The rules for serving and scoring can be confusing at first, so we highlighted what to know about serving and scoring in singles in our post "Mastering Pickleball Singles".  For doubles, check out "How to Keep Score in Pickleball" for more info on doubles scoring and serving.

Does the serve have to be overhand in pickleball?

This is a trick question! Serves can not be overhand in pickleball - all serves must be underhand and contact with the paddle and ball must be at or below the server’s navel.

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