Duluth Area Pickleball Association

Pickleball Advanced Rules & FAQ

Can you pass the USAPA Player Rules Quiz?


What is a legal serve?

Serves in pickleball must be underhand. This sounds pretty easy, but over the years there has been some discussion of it. There are three basic elements of a legal serve:

  1. Upward motion
  2. Below the waist
  3. Paddle head below the wrist

Upward motion means that when you strike the ball, it must be going up, not down. When you strike the ball, it must also be below the waist, which is defined as your navel. Finally, the highest part of the paddle head must be below where your wrist bends. This rules out pretty much all sidehand serves. The video below does a very good job at demonstrating these three elements.

Elements of a legal pickleball serve

Where do my feet have to be?

When you are serving, pretend that the center line and the sideline extend back from the court. You must stand between these two lines. You also cannot step on the court or touch the baseline until you make contact with the ball. One foot must be planted behind the baseline. Watch the following video for a demonstration (starting at 48 seconds).

Elements of a legal pickleball serve

What if the ball hits the net but still goes over?

Sometimes when you serve, the ball will brush or hit the net but still go over. What do you do when this happens? It depends on where the ball lands:

  • If the ball lands where the serve would otherwise be good, it is a "let" or reserve.
  • If the ball lands where it otherwise would not be good, it is a fault (serve goes to your partner or the other team).
  • Since the non-volley zone line is considered out on serves, if the ball hits this line, it is a fault.
  • If the ball hits an opponent before bouncing, it is a let. If it hits you or your partner, it is a fault.