In pickleball, players must follow several rules when serving. Drop and volley serves must be underhand, and the paddle must contact the ball below waist level. Service hits (serves) must occur across the court inside the opposing teams’ diagonal court box boundaries. Only one service attempt is allowed per turn, and if you perform an illegal serve, you forgo your chance to serve again immediately.
So, what are the five serving rules in pickleball? What is an illegal serve, and what happens if the pickleball hits the net on a serve? Can your foot cross the line when you are serving, and does the return have to clear the kitchen area?
Here is the complete guide to serving in pickleball.
What are the 5 Serving Rules in Pickleball?
The official pickleball rulebook has five major rules to follow for serves. The first rule is that all pickleball players must perform underhand serves, and the ball must contact the paddle head below your waistline with an upward arc on the swing. This swing helps make the service attempt fair and playable for the other team. Secondly, all serves must go into the opposing team’s diagonally located box. The ball cannot touch the centerline during the service. If it does, then it is a fault. Furthermore, along with being played diagonally, all service attempts must clear the opposing non-volley zone.
The non-volley zone line, or kitchen line, is a small box close to the net on either team’s side. Official rules dictate that players cannot stand inside this zone and may only enter the area after the opponent’s ball bounces within the area. Next, during doubles, both players on the serving team have the chance to serve before forfeiting the ball to the other team. Following a change of serving team, the first server will be the player on the right side of the pickleball court.
After each successful point, the server will switch sides of the court, while the receiving team will never switch sides. Finally, only one serve attempt is allowed per turn, and the bounce rule must be in place, which means groundstrokes must occur on the serve and return.
What is an Illegal Serve in a Pickleball Game?
An illegal serve is any action that breaks the official pickleball rules for serving. A couple of examples of an illegal serve would be serving overhanded or making contact with the ball while the paddle head is above waist height. An illegal serve can also take place in the following ways.
- The serving team player steps on or crosses the line before contact.
- When the ball goes to the wrong side of the court on a serve.
- The ball is goes out of bounds past the baseline or sideline on a serve. Also, if the serve lands within the kitchen line on the court.
It is illegal if the ball touches or hits the net during service, does not cross to the other side, lands out of bounds, is in the wrong zone, or is in the kitchen zone. Any illegal serve will result in the loss of service for the player who committed the violation.
What Happens if the Ball Hits the Net on a Serve?
If the ball hits or glances the net on a serve and ends up either not crossing to the opposing side or winds up not landing in the diagonal court box, then the service is illegal.
Previously, if the serving team hit the net during the service, but the ball still went over the net, it would result in a ‘let’ serve. However, recent rule changes now say that if a service shot hits the net but still lands in play past the non-volley line, it is a legal serve.
Can Your Foot Cross the Line When You Serve in Pickleball?
The server must have both feet behind the baseline when serving. Pickleball rules state that the server can not cross the baseline or touch the service court until after the ball has been contacted on the serve.
Servers may start either one or both feet to serve, but both feet must stay behind the baseline until after the ball is hit. Following the serve, players are free to move about the court as they please so long as they don’t step into the kitchen zone before the ball bounces.
Any violation of these rules will result in an illegal serve.
Does the Return Serve in Pickleball Have to Clear the Kitchen Area?
As the serving team, it is crucial to remember that while the server must clear the kitchen line, the receiving team has no such obligation. The return serve can legally take place into the non-volley zone, and the serving team must be on their toes. Playing the service return into the non-volley zone can be a highly effective strategy to catch the serving team off guard.
Conclusion: What are the Pickleball Serving Rules?
To summarize, the serve must be underhand, with the pickleball paddle contacting the ball below the waist. The serve must occur crosscourt into the receiving teams’ diagonal court box. The service cannot touch the baseline, sideline, centerline, or land within the marked non-volley zone. During a service, the server must have both feet behind the baseline and cannot cross onto the court until after contacting the ball. The final rule is that there is only one attempt to serve legally. Any illegal service or fault will result in the loss of service.
An illegal service is any service that breaks one of the above rules. The serve is illegal if the server steps on or over the baseline before hitting the ball. If the ball lands within the kitchen zone, then the serve is illegal. If the ball touches the net but lands in play in the correct box, then the ball is live. However, if the ball touches the net and lands out of bounds or in the kitchen zone, then the serve is illegal.