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The PERFECT pickleball return of serve: Rules and strategies for every level of pickleball player

The PERFECT pickleball return of serve: Rules and strategies for every level of pickleball player


By Danea Bass & Barrett Bass

On: 02/28/2024

serve

strategy

drills

video

The pickleball return of serve shot is one of the most undervalued shots in the sport.
The pickleball return of serve shot is one of the most undervalued shots in the sport.

The return of serve shot is one of the most undervalued shots in pickleball. If you hit a good serve return, it will give your team an advantage to win the rally. We're going to give you tips to execute a good return of serve, as well as a drill to help you practice.

Tips to execute the perfect serve return

The return of serve is the first shot hit on the court after the initial pickleball serve. It is returned by the player who is standing diagonally across the net from the server. You have to let the serve bounce, so you will want to make sure you give yourself some margin at the baseline in case they serve a really deep ball.

Tip #1: Choose depth over speed

When returning a serve, you will want to focus on getting the return deep. If you are choosing between a slow loopy deep return or a short and fast return, in most circumstances you will be better served by choosing the deep return. This will put your opponent back on their baseline and is going to make that third shot harder for them and give you an advantage.

Tip #2: Transfer your weight to your front foot

Placing your feet in the right place will help the trajectory of your ball and make sure that you're hitting the return of serve on your front foot. Hitting your return of serve shot on your back foot will cause your momentum to take you back, and you are more likely to pop your return up high. To stay on your front foot, you will want to give yourself a margin at the baseline, step into your shot, and finish with your weight on your front leg.

Tip #3: Drive forward with paddle-side hip

When you're hitting your return of serve, you will want to use your core to generate power instead of your upper body. Take your paddle side hip and drive through the ball, which will create momentum with your backside hip and carry you forward as you swing.

Tip #4: Hit through two imaginary pickleball balls

A mistake many pickleball players make when returning the serve is not following through your ball, which can cause a shorter return. Because you want to hit a deep return, imagine you're hitting two or three balls ahead of where you're going. This will help you create a better follow-through for a good serve return.

Tip #5: Let your momentum take you to the net

Learn how to use the return of serve to your advantage by following your return into the kitchen line. A lot of players, especially those that come from a tennis background, are very comfortable returning the serve and staying back at the baseline. But in pickleball, we want to put pressure on our opponents as they're hitting their third shot — so it's more advantageous to hit that shot and let your momentum take you to the kitchen line.

Drill #1: Practice hitting a deep return of serve

Watch the video above to practice hitting a deep return of serve during your next game or practice.

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