Pickleball Serving Rules | How to Serve in Singles and Doubles

Like every other sport, pickleball has its basic serving rules, and there are a few similarities and differentiations between them when it comes to serving while playing in singles vs doubles.

For example, one similarity is that a team can only score points while serving. The serving team only stops serving when one of the players on the serving team makes a fault, like when the pickleball drops on any part outside the volley zone.

On the other hand, one difference between serving in singles vs doubles is that both partners get a chance to serve the ball before it can be turned over to the other team.

In this guide, we are going to take a look at the basic pickleball serving rules and break down the differences between singles and doubles serving rules.

Pickleball Serving Rules | Singles and Doubles

pickleball serving rules

Perhaps the biggest and most important of the pickleball serving rules is that the ball must be served underhand. For it the be considered a legal serve, the server's arm must be moving in an upward arc with the paddle head below the wrist when it strikes the ball. While it's great to be prepared with things like the best pickleball paddles, knowing basic serving rules like this is essential for learning to serve properly. 

While there are some differences when serving in a doubles game compared to a singles game, there are some basic rules that must be followed regardless:

  • All serves must be underhand.
  • Points can only be scored by the serving team.
  • A player on the serving team (the server) starts from the right side of the court. If they score, they move to the left side and serve again. The first serve is from the right; the second serve is from the left. And so on.
  • If a player on the receiving team (the receiver) makes a fault, the server gets a point.
  • When serving, the ball must be contacted below the server's navel. 
  • The server's feet must stay behind the baseline while serving and until the serve is complete 
  • Players standing in the non-volley zone are not to come in contact with the pickleball before it bounces. If they do, it's a point for the serving team.
  • The server must serve the ball diagonally across to the receiver’s service area. If the pickleball falls on any part outside the non-volley area, it is regarded as a fault.
  • It is considered a fault if the ball bounces more than once before the receiver hits it.
  • The ball is considered in if it touches any part of the baseline.
  • If the receiver hits the ball after its second bounce, it is a fault.

Faults are clearly stated in pickleball serving rules. It is considered a fault if the ball lands in a non-volley zone, contacts the player's cloth, or the player's cloth or paddle touches the net while the ball is in play. It is also a fault if the ball touches the wall or ceiling before landing in the court.

Pickleball Doubles Serving Rules

While most of the pickleball serving rules will be the same as singles when playing doubles, there are a few differentiations that you should be aware of:

  • The server starts the game by hitting the pickleball from their right side of the court.
  • If the first server commits a fault, another server takes over the serving. When the second server faults, the opposing team takes the serve. The player on the right side of the opposing team begins the serve. The game continues in this pattern.
  • If a server scores a point, they switch sides with their teammate. The receiving team does not switch sides. 
  • The server has only one attempt at service unless there's a let.

As you can see, most of the rules are the same, but there are a few variations when serving in a doubles game. Knowing the difference between the two styles of play is an important part in learning how to serve in pickleball. 

Can You Serve Sidearm in Pickleball?

Yes, you are allowed to serve sidearm in pickleball. Players that serve sidearm strike a serve with a sideways sweep of their arm. This way, they always have an upward stroke with their serve, technically making it an underhand serve. Whether the ball is served conventionally or sidearm, basic pickleball serving rules must be followed:

  • The server should contact the ball below the waist level.
  • The server's arm must move in an upward arc.
  • The paddle head must be below the wrist when the server strikes the ball.

If any of these rules, or other basic pickleball serving rules are broken, it will result in a loss of possession for the serving team.

Final Words

Serving in pickleball sounds a bit more complex than it is, and once you've played a few games you'll get the hang of it. Like anything, learning the pickleball serving rules just takes a little bit of practice. Once learn the rules and get into the flow of things, you'll have it down in no time.