Summer Skill Series:
Five Tips for Advanced Pickleball Serving
The serve is one of the most neglected shots in the game of pickleball. When you’re first learning the sport, you’re simply trying to put the serve in play. Once you’ve accomplished that, it’s tempting to become so focused on your return, third shot, and kitchen play that you forget to improve the first skill you picked up: serving.
Your serve sets the tone for the entire point. It’s too important to settle for just getting the ball in play. Here are five tips for advanced serving.
Choose depth over power
Most people want to add more power to their serve. It’s a great goal that we’ll cover later in the article, but power should be secondary to placement. When it comes to placement, you should take some risks with your serve. If we're measuring depth where your court position is zero, and your opponents' backline is 10, aim for a nine.
Zane Navratil is one of the best servers in professional pickleball. He expects 10% of his serves to go too deep, believing the risk is worth the reward in doubles. The other 90% of his serves nearly touch the backline, pushing his opponents so far back that a third shot is difficult and gives him more time to respond.
Use your whole body
If you do want to add more power to your serve, you’ll need to engage your whole body. You can’t produce game-changing power with your arm alone. You need to start from the ground up. Begin with a solid foundation by bending your knees, which helps generate power and stability. As you serve, transfer this energy through your legs and core, propelling the ball forward with force. A powerful swing comes from your legs and hips, not your arm alone.
Position your body for power
You can also consider starting your serving motion facing the sideline and using a rotational movement of your torso. This twisting action adds extra power and allows you to generate more speed and spin on the ball.
Create a consistent routine
Consistency is your best friend in pickleball, especially for serving. Nadal is known for his meticulous pre-serve routine in the tennis world. Why does he do it? Because it works for him. It gives him a comfortable and familiar starting point, something he can always count on no matter how the match is going.
Developing a pre-serve routine can help you find a rhythm, calm your mind, and enhance your overall accuracy. A starting point is to bounce the ball three times before you serve. This simple action provides a mental reset, allowing you to focus on the upcoming serve and clear your mind of distractions. Additionally, a consistent routine can instill confidence in your game, leading to better execution under pressure.
Practice makes permanence
Don’t neglect your first skill. There’s always margin to improve your serve. By taking just 10 minutes to practice erving, you can get in more reps than a single game. You can gamify your serving practice by setting up cones on the backline and tracking your progress. Have fun with it! Experiment with different stances, leg positions, and body movements to find what works best for you. Consistent practice will help you build muscle memory and boost your serving skills over time.