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7 most common illegal pickleball serves

7 most common illegal pickleball serves


By Jaclyn Brandt

On: 03/18/2024

serving

pickleball tips

Learning to serve in pickleball can be one of the most difficult parts of the game for a beginner. Here are some of the most common illegal pickleball serves.
Learning to serve in pickleball can be one of the most difficult parts of the game for a beginner. Here are some of the most common illegal pickleball serves.

Learning to serve in pickleball can be one of the most difficult parts of the game for a beginner. Part of learning the rules though is also learning what is not allowed, including illegal serves. Here are some of the most common illegal pickleball serves.

Legal serves

Before we go into illegal serves, it’s important to understand what a legal serve is in pickleball.

Read our full post on pickleball serving rules.

Foot on the line

The most obvious fault you can make during your pickleball serve is stepping on the line. This includes both the baseline and sidelines, or the imaginary extensions of the sidelines above the baseline.

To serve, you need to have at least one foot behind the baseline and between the imaginary extensions of the sidelines (at least one foot because the other is allowed to be in the air).

Not hitting the ball within 10 seconds of calling the score

Previously, swinging at and missing a serve completely was a fault. However, in the latest version of the USA Pickleball rules, you can drop the ball, or throw the ball up, and completely miss it. This in itself is not a fault. However, it will be a fault if you fail to pick the ball up and re-serve within 10 seconds of calling the score.

Learn more about the 10-second rule in pickleball.

Serving when it is not your turn

When you are playing doubles pickleball, there are specific rules on when you can serve. When your team receives the ball back from your opponent, the player on the right side of the court at that moment will be Server 1, meaning they will serve first. They will continue serving as long as your team continues to win points. Once your team loses a rally, Server 2 will take over serving, and will continue to serve as long as your team continues to win points.

An illegal serve will happen if this sequence is done wrong. Some examples:

  • When the ball is returned to your team, the player on the left side of the court serves first.

  • When Server 1 wins a point, Server 2 takes over serving.

  • When Server 2 wins a point, Server 1 takes over serving.

Not switching sides before a serve

When it’s your team’s turn to serve, the official rule says you must switch sides with your partner as you win points. So, Player 1 will first serve from the right side, with Player 2 on the left side. If your team wins the point, then Player 1 will serve next from the left side.

An illegal serve will happen if you fail to switch sides before the serve. For example:

  • If Player 1 serves from the right side, wins a point, and then serves from the right side again.

Serving to the wrong side of the court

When you are serving, you must serve into the cross-court. For instance, if you are serving from the right side, the ball must land on the left side of the court.

An illegal serve will happen if you do not serve cross-court. For example:

  • If you are serving from the right side and the ball lands in your opponent’s left side of the court (from their point-of-view).

  • If you are serving from the left side and the ball lands in your opponent’s right side of the court (from their point-of-view).

Serving outside the cross-court area

Serving cross-court also means the ball must land within that side of the court. This includes:

  • Within or on the baseline, sideline, and center line.

  • Outside of the kitchen, including the kitchen line.

An illegal serve will happen if the ball lands in a different area. For example:

  • In the kitchen.

  • On the kitchen line.

  • Behind the baseline.

  • Outside the court completely.

Hitting the pickleball ball into the net

If you are serving in pickleball, it is not necessarily an illegal serve if the ball hits the net. The ball is allowed to hit the net as long as it follows all the other rules of a legal serve.

An illegal serve will happen if the ball does not follow the serving rules. For example:

  • The ball hits the net and then lands in the kitchen or on the kitchen line.

  • The ball hits the net and then lands outside of the court lines.

If the ball hits the net and lands within the court, past the kitchen line, it is a legal serve.

Illegal pickleball serves

These illegal pickleball serves are the most common, but this is not a comprehensive list of all illegal pickleball serves. Learning what a legal pickleball serve is will help you determine, in the moment of each game, whether a serve is legal or not.

Illegal serves in pickleball will become more apparent as you play more and more. But learning these basics will help you make the calls when you are out on the pickleball court.

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