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What are the Serving Rules for Pickleball?

By Kurt Johnson

The rules for the sport of pickleball are set by the USA Pickleball Association. The sport--a combination of badminton, tennis and ping pong--was created in the backyard of U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard and named after his dog, Pickles. Pickleball is a competitive sport with a national governing body, and also a popular activity for school physical education classes. There are a number of specific rules regarding serving to put the ball in play while playing pickleball.

Service Rule

The server in pickleball has to have both feet behind the baseline and one foot on the court. The back section of the court is divided in half to make two service landing areas; the serve must pass over the net diagonally to land in the landing area opposite from the server. The serve has to clear the nonvolley area as well. The nonvolley area runs from sideline to sideline and includes the 7 feet closest to the net on each side. The serve must be underhanded and players get just one chance to serve. If the ball strikes the net and still lands in the proper service landing area, the player is allowed to redo the serve.

Serve Rotation

In singles pickleball, a player keeps the serve on his side of the net until he loses a point. Once he does, the serve goes to the other player. When playing doubles, the first team with control has just one player serve until she loses a point before the other team takes over. After that, both players on the same team have to serve and lose a point before the serve goes to the other side of the net, where the same situation applies. The player on the right serves first for each team.


A player keeps his serve until he or his teammate commits a fault. This happens when the ball is hit out of bounds or doesn't make it over the net. It also happens when a player volleys, or hits a ball, without letting it bounce, while standing in the nonvolley area. When a new point begins, the team receiving the serve must let the ball bounce before playing it back; teams cannot volley the service return. Also, the serving team must play the first returned ball only after it has bounced. In pickleball, this service rule is called the double bounce rule.

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