Pickleball Spin Serves | How to Return

If you have been playing pickleball for some time now, chances are that you have experienced spin serves. This is a very popular form of serve in pickleball and is designed to confuse the receiver. They can be tricky for beginners to read and react to, despite having the proper gear like the best pickleball shoes. To help out, we have put together a guide on pickleball spin serves, explaining what they are, how to return a spin serve, and how to spin your serves to catch your opponent off guard.

Types of Spin Serves in Pickleball

There are two main types of pickleball spin serves, each with a different purpose.

  • Topspin 
  • Backspin

Each of these serves are best used in specific situations. Below we are going to break down each one.

Topspin

Pickleball Spin Serve

A topspin serve will bounce further and higher than usual. The ball will be served with a forward spin and that momentum will cause the ball to bounce more.

To deliver a topspin serve, all you have to do is put a front spin on the ball. You can do this by swinging the paddle from low to high when hitting the ball. This will cause the ball to spin forward and bounce more after it drops on the opponent’s side of the court.

Backspin

A backspin serve functions the opposite way of topspin. When the ball is delivered with backspin it causes it to bounce significantly less than it is supposed to and rolls back towards the net.

To deliver a backspin serve, you have to swing the paddle from a high to low motion. This will cause the ball to spin backward and when it drops, and the backward momentum will reduce the amount the ball bounces.

How to Return a Spin Serve

Now that you know the types of spin serve that are played in pickleball, it's time to learn how to return a spin serve from an opponent. We have two general tips for this:

Play the Ball Late in the Arch

This is a piece of general advice to play better shots when you are facing pickleball spin serves. New players tend to play the ball as soon as it is playable after the bounce. They tend to hit the ball in between the peak of the arch and the half volley.

The problem with this is that the ball still has a significant amount of spin on it. As a result, the stroke will not be delivered accurately. The spin might even cause the ball to become a volley that will result in an easy overhead smash or a low shot that might not be high enough to cross the net. Be sure to wait for the ball to start dropping from the peak, as hitting the ball after it starts coming down allows you to play a more accurate shot.

Watch the Opponent’s Paddle

Now that you know how both types of pickleball spin serves are played, you can try to look for visual cues from your opponents to figure out what kind of spin the opponent is applying before the ball even bounces on your court. This split-second awareness will give you a better chance of returning the shot, as you will have a clear idea of what to expect from the serve and can respond accordingly.

If you see that the opponent’s paddle moved from a low to high position during the service, you can easily know that the ball is being delivered with topspin and will bounce more once it drops. On the contrary, if you see the paddle moved from a high to a low position, you can determine the service is going to have a backspin on it and the ball will bounce much less than expected. This is will give you a positional awareness.

Some beginners tend to focus on how high the paddle is moving or how fast it's moving. Don’t focus on that. That is a distraction that might cost you a valuable point.

Final Thoughts

Spin serves is a very common thing in pickleball, so it’s important to learn how to return them effectively. It is not a very complicated once you learn to recognize it, all you need is some practice.