Pickleball Spin Serves

As a new player, learning about pickleball spin serves is a crucial part of pickleball. It’s one of the first things that beginner pickleball players should know, and it’s something even professional players continue to work on.

Once you’ve sorted out your pickleball wardrobe and found a pickleball paddle, you’ll probably spend the majority of your time on the court working on your serving technique. The pickleball serving rules seem pretty simple when you read them, but it can be tricky to apply them when you practice them. Don’t let that scare you off; it’s one of the only things about the game that you need to wrap your head around!

What makes learning pickleball harder than the rest of the things you know about the game is that the best pickleball spin serves are constantly changing. If you’ve been playing pickleball for a short time or even a long time, you can no doubt have had several debates about serves! So, what are pickleball spin serves?

A Brief History of Pickleball

First, let’s quickly go over the history of pickleball. Like many of the world’s great inventions, pickleball accidentally came about. Former congressman and lieutenant governor Joel Pritchard invented the game with his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum one afternoon at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA. 

The group wanted to play badminton but could not find the shuttlecock. So they improvised. Finding a perforated plastic ball, they lowered the net to ground level and fashioned some impromptu paddles from leftover plywood. 

In other words, they created the game by stitching elements from several different games: hard paddles like ping-pong, played on a badminton court with a tennis-style net using a Wiffle ball. This Frankenstein approach gave the sport its name. 

 According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”


This earliest version of the game had no actual rules and simply provided a means to hit a ball back and forth over the net. Little by little, the activity gained structure, eventually establishing rules that cobbled together tennis and ping pong elements with a few minor tweaks. 

From those humble beginnings, the sport has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, gaining the most popularity in the US and Canada. Barney McCallum founded the first official pickleball company Pickle-Ball, Inc., in 1972, fashioning the first wooden paddles using a bandsaw in his basement. 

By 1976, the sport had gained nationwide popularity in the US, with Tennis magazine publishing an article called “America’s newest racquet sport.” The first tournament took place that year in Washington and has only grown from there.

In 1984 the first official Pickleball association was formed with the express intent to organize and grow the game. Today the sport is not just a hobby but a staple of physical education curricula across North America. Courts have begun to crop up in Europe and Asia as well.

Are you looking for more information on what pickleball is? Then, check out our guide, What Is Pickleball?

Pickleball Spin Serves

Here are the two ways to add spin to a pickleball ball when serving. 

Topspin Serve

To apply topspin to the ball requires you to produce a low to high strike on the pickleball ball with the paddle. This will get the ball spinning in the right direction and rotate forward during flight so that it skittles a little on its bounce. All this means is it will bounce lower than a no-spin serve. However, I would like to mention that the more spin you try to apply, the closer you will get to breaking the serving rules of pickleball, so there is a limit to this. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so don’t try and do anything too crazy. Now, if you want to apply a right or left spin on the ball, it requires you to swipe the ball in the direction you want it to go when it comes in contact with the paddle. 

Backspin Serve

If you’re looking to apply backspin to the ball, you must conduct a high to low strike on the pickleball ball with the paddle. This will cause it to spin in the right direction, which means you get the ball rotating backward during flight so that it bounces higher than a no spin serve. In more practical play, you may know the backspin serve as a slice or cut, which is where the ball will bounce like a backspin serve but will either veer or cut left or right on the bounce. A cut or slice shot will cause the ball to be struck on more of a high to low side swipe. 

Pickleball spin serves can be difficult for some to master; more a topspin serve when serving underhand and complying fully with pickleball serve rules. However, don’t let that acre you. It can be mastered with practice. Pickleball spin serves are a fantastic way to take your game to the next level, so don’t give up and stick with it. You’ll be glad you did!

Serving the Ball

To play the game successfully, you’ll need to understand the rules for serving in Pickleball and the technique used for legal serves. The team that serves the ball and the ball’s route determines the points earned and other critical events in the game.


Unlike other sports, the purpose of serving the ball in Pickleball is to get the ball into play. Therefore, you do not want to hit the ball aggressively or as hard as possible. A common mistake is that they think they must quickly and powerfully serve the ball to overtake their opponent. This is one potential strategy, but not one that comes highly recommended.


Proper serves travel diagonally across the court, starting with the “right-hand serving square” and alternating for each serve. In addition, each serve has to clear the “non-volley zone,” which is the seven-foot portion of the court directly on either side of the net. 

Once the ball has cleared the net, it must land in the service court diagonal from its starting point. If it doesn’t, it’s not valid. Players must also serve the ball with an underhand motion with the paddle, and the paddle must remain below the waist for the whole serve.

Pickleball serving line rules also require that players keep both of their feet behind the court’s line when serving. The ball cannot bounce before touching the paddle. This motion may sound easy, but it does take some practice to get right. Aiming the ball towards the correct portion of the court on the opposite side of the net can take some skill.

Tips for Legally Serving the Ball in Pickleball  

Pickleball Serving Rules: Tips for legally serving the ball in pickleball infographic

There are a few tips to keep in mind for the best serves regarding Pickleball serving rules. Here are some helpful tips for getting the serve right and maintaining your advantage during the game:

  • Don’t Rush! Take your time when serving the ball as adequate serving is a natural motion that is comfortable and not overly quick. The motion should feel like bowling, and your movements should be smooth.
  • Look at where you want to aim: When you serve, looking down at your paddle is a sure way to miss the part of the court you’re aiming to hit. Instead, lock your eyes on your target. Keep that place in mind as you look at your paddle briefly to serve. This strategy is similar to golf in the sense that you orient where you will hit the ball before actually hitting it.
  • Follow-through: Your arm should swing past the point of impact, but the ball should impact the paddle below your navel. After impact, the paddle in your hand should swing up to approximately shoulder height in a smooth motion.
  • Watch your lead shoulder: If you’re right-handed, your left shoulder is considered your “lead” shoulder. This part of your body will indicate the direction the ball will travel when you hit it with the paddle. For better aim, orient the correct shoulder in the same direction as your target before serving.

Suppose you find yourself in need of more specific tips and tricks for serving and greater detail about what are the rules for serving in Pickleball. In that case, several videos online focus specifically on this topic. These videos also provide an excellent demonstration of technique and help give a visual of the court simultaneously.

Pickleball Serving Strategies

It may surprise you that the team serving the ball in a Pickleball game is at a disadvantage, which is different than in other sports such as tennis. This disadvantage comes from the receiving team having the opportunity to move towards the net. This makes it easier for them to prevent the other side from scoring.

There are also a few strategy differences to consider when playing a doubles game of Pickleball. Of course, aiming for consistency will always be your friend when it comes to serving. Here are a few other strategies to consider at different points of the game, whether you’re playing with two players or four:

  • Aggressively serving the ball won’t guarantee you’ll win a point, and it might backfire. The best idea is to serve carefully and precisely aim toward the right side of the court. You want to get the ball in play and give your team the best possible chance of scoring.
  • Once you get better at aiming the ball, you can focus on the finer points of serving. Some finer points are the ball’s spin, velocity, and exact placement. Until you’ve mastered a consistent serve, don’t worry about mixing up different types of serves.
  • To throw your opponents off, you can serve to their backhand where they are weaker. Mix up how deeply you serve the ball on the court, and choose different locations for where you serve the ball. Many players dislike higher balls, so this can be another strategy to use when serving, and many players will consistently choose a firm and deep serve.
  • When you play a doubles round of Pickleball, you’ll find that the play doesn’t get interesting until the third shot. This progression is partly because there are two players on either side, but there is also less room for error and an increased emphasis on your serving and how consistently you can hit the ball where it needs to go.

As you get better at serving and consistently aiming the ball precisely to other parts of the court, you can attempt different non-standard serves such as sharp-angle, and heavy-spin serves. These aren’t beginner moves, and there’s a lower probability of success even if you’re proficient at them, but they offer a compelling mix of serves that you can use against your opponent.

Wrapping Up

Now that you know about pickleball spin serves. Hopefully, any questions you had were answered, and you’re now closer to figuring out how to maximize pickleball spin serves and serve properly.

Looking for more? Here are some other articles I put together:

Brianna Goulet

Brianna loves to get outdoors for everything creative and fun. She has a passion for all things Pickleball and is an avid player. It is her goal to share everything you need to know about Pickleball so you can get out there and play with confidence!

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