As you increase your skill level in pickleball, it’s important to begin viewing your serve as a weapon and not just a way to start a point.
To help increase the effectiveness of your serve, you should practice hitting the ball deep and in different positions to help set you and your partner up for success.
In this Selkirk TV tutorial, pickleball coach Morgan Evans walks viewers through the various serving strategies and when to use them.
Why you should strive for a powerful, deep serve
The No. 1 reason you should practice your serve is because a deep serve can earn you and your partner free points.
We’ve all made return errors, but not often do we make them off weak serves. Your serve doesn’t need to be overly powerful, it just needs to land deep on the court.
A deep serve can surprise your opponent. Even if it doesn’t cause an error, your opponent is more likely to hit a short return, setting you up for an easy attack.
That’s because deep serves force your opponent to:
- Contact the ball while moving sideways
- Overreach for the ball
- Contact the ball with their weight moving backward
Where to position your serve and why
Once comfortable serving the ball close to the baseline, start experimenting with positioning. Hitting the ball to various positions on the court can set you and your partner up for several plays and allow you to attack your opponent’s weaknesses.
A deep-angle serve
Serving deep into the forehand corner of the court forces your opponent to move further than normal, which costs them time that could have otherwise been used to get to the kitchen line.
It also opens up the middle of the court for a potential third-shot drive. You may win a point on your third shot drive, but if not, it forces your opponents to move to the middle of the court, which opens up space on either sideline.
A deep middle serve
Serving a deep ball down the middle of the court close to the center line has several benefits.
This serve can find an opponent’s backhand, a shot most players prefer not to hit. It also draws the opponent to the center of the court, leaving the sideline open for attack.
As the returner shifts toward the kitchen, look to expose the empty area of the court near the sidelines. A slow drive to their feet is also tough to handle.
How a good serve sets up the shake-and-bake
This popular play is a game-changer for many teams because many players have a hard time controlling their volleys off a good drive.
But to be able to hit a good drive, you must first create an opportunity with your serve. A deep serve that weakens your opponent’s court positioning and throws them off balance often leads to a weak return. That weak return can then create a great opportunity for a shake and bake.
Once you recognize that your opponent has hit a weak return, it’s time to drive the ball at them as they transition to the kitchen. As they are likely still recovering from the deep serve, they will already be off balance. When they attempt to hit the drive, it will likely cause a popup. Your partner can then step in and smash the ball for an easy put-away.
Practicing your pickleball serve
Luckily, practicing your pickleball serve is one of the easiest skills to work on because you don’t actually need a partner. All you need is a bunch of pickleballs and two targets.
Create two target zones near each back corner of the service box. They should start about one foot from the baseline.
Begin hitting serves toward one target zone. See how many out of 10 you can hit in the area and then try and better your score. Once you feel comfortable hitting one zone, shift your focus to the other. As your skill level increases, begin alternating your serves between the two zones.
A key consideration to make is your comfortable ball speed. Depth does not mean power. Although adding power to your serves can sometimes be helpful, it is also the enemy of accuracy.
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