Pickleball is similar to tennis and badminton in a number of ways. But the most marked difference between these games and pickleball is how points are scored in the latter. In pickleball, points are scored only on the serve.
This means the team or player that decides to serve first takes the lead in scoring points. The other team may not get a chance to score points if the serving team is good at playing the game. Because of this difference, it is often debated whether it is better to serve first in pickleball.
Both serving first and receiving first have pros and cons. However, it is believed that since the player who serves first is able to lead the game and dictate play, it’s better to serve first in pickleball.
Pickleball was originally designed to be played in doubles. This is because singles tend to be a ruthless game in pickleball since the player has to be very agile and powerful to be able to return the ball every time. Therefore, in a doubles game, it is usually better to serve first.
Nevertheless, we will discuss here both advantages and disadvantages of serving first in pickleball, so you can decide which would be better suited to your playing style.
Serving Rules in Pickleball
The service zone in pickleball is a 7-foot by 20-foot area on the right side of the court for right-handed players and on the left side of the court for left-handed players. The player must serve the ball from behind the baseline and not step on or over the line when serving.
The let rule in pickleball is simple – if the ball hits the net on a serve, it is a let, and the serve is replayed. This rule is in place to give players a fair chance at serving and to avoid any potential advantage that could be gained by hitting the ball into the net on purpose.
The team or player who wins the toss can choose whether they want to serve or receive first. Well, most people would prefer to serve first as it is advantageous for the player. However, some people also choose to “break” their opponent and get a chance for two serves instead of one.
In pickleball, the player who decides to serve first has to do so from the right-hand side of the court and hit the ball diagonally. Then, if the same player wins the point, they again get a chance to serve, but this time from the left-hand side of the court.
This cycle continues till the returning player wins a point. Then it is their turn to serve, and they serve from the right-hand side of the court.
Another serving rule in pickleball is to serve the ball underhanded. This means if you serve the ball overhanded, it is counted as a foul. Since the ball used in pickleball is very light and perforated, the service is never so much powerful as to win the serving team any points.
Want some REAL Pickleball balls?
Check out these: Onix Fuse G2 Outdoor Pickleball – Official Ball of PPA and APP Tours
Advantages and Disadvantages of Serving First in Pickleball
One advantage of serving first is that the player has the opportunity to control the game from the start. The player who serves first can dictate the game’s pace and put pressure on the opponent. Additionally, serving first gives the player the chance to break their opponent’s serve and take an early lead in the match.
As mentioned earlier, the serve in pickleball is not powerful enough to score any points. Therefore, players have to concentrate on ball placement instead of how much power to apply. Moreover, it’s tough in pickleball to put pace on the ball, especially if it is closer to your body.
The idea is to keep the ball as far off as possible in order to swing hard. However, if a player decides to serve first, hitting the ball out is probably one of the most challenging techniques they would have to master.
Check out this article: What Pickleball Paddles Do The Pros Use?
One downside of choosing to serve first is that the player has to focus on hitting the ball in a specific spot and with just a small amount of power. If the player makes a small mistake, it can make an easy point for the other team. This puts pressure on the server and can lead to more mistakes being made.
Another disadvantage of serving first is that when the receiver is standing across from the server, they can often read their body language and anticipate where they will hit the ball. This gives the receiver a significant advantage and can often lead to easy points.
Who Should Serve First in Pickleball?
In a doubles game, the question arises of which of the two players should serve first. The general rule is that whoever is standing on the right-hand side of the court serves first. If the team can score a point, this server will move to the left-hand side, and the other player will serve next.
Read more on how to play pickleball in this article: How to Play Pickleball.
As soon as the serving team commits a mistake, they lose their right to serve. The team has to make sure they do not violate the service rules for as long as it’s practical. If they don’t possess the right skills to win after choosing to serve first, serving first will not benefit them.
Whether or not you decide to serve first, you must remember that it won’t be possible to score any points when you’re on the receiving side. If you lose the opportunity to serve first and if your opponent team is strong, it’s a possibility you might never get a chance to score any points at all.
So, if you ask an expert, they would probably tell you that it’s better to serve first in pickleball. However, you will have to make sure that you take this opportunity very seriously. If there is even a slight mistake in introducing the ball onto the court, you will lose your chances of winning right from the beginning of the game.