Pickleball Myth? – Never Miss A Serve

PB Myth # 18: You Should Never Miss Your Serve

**NOTE** – This is an article from Third Shot Sports that is reprinted with appropriate attribution and permissions.

The conventional wisdom is that you should always make sure your serve lands in. We don’t want you to hit out either but here is something to consider: if you are always playing it safe for fear of missing, are you losing out on a great opportunity?

Yes. You are.

Think about it — the serve is the one time in a pickleball game that you have complete control. The ball is in perfect position, you are totally on balance and you don’t have to hit it until you are completely ready. There is no other moment when the conditions are so much in your favour. Yet most people squander this opportunity by merely putting the ball in play. Here are some alternatives:

1) Aim for a weakness. If you have identified that your opponent has a preferred side (usually their forehand) this is a great time to challenge them to play the shot they don’t want. Use this opportunity to aim near a sideline and force them to hit a tougher return.

2) Pin them back. In most cases, the returner will want to come to the net after playing the ball. Make this more difficult by serving deep in the court and pushing them back behind the baseline.

3) Take away their time. A slow, high-arcing ball gives your opponents lots of time to prepare for the return. Why not hit the serve with some speed and challenge them to catch up?

4) Hit with spin. Add some difficulty by using sidespin or topspin on the serve. Doing so will make the ball bounce differently than the usual spin-free shot.

With each of these suggestions I’m encouraging you to “go for more” when hitting your serve. And yes, there is some risk in doing so. Hitting near the sideline increases the chance that the ball will go wide. Aiming for the back of the court or trying to hit the serve fast may mean your ball occasionally sails long. Hitting with spin will likely reduce your control and cause you to miss.

But with these risks comes the possibility of real reward.

A more challenging serve makes it more likely that your opponent will fail to hit the return the way they want. They are more likely to struggle with their first shot which is good news for you. They are more likely to hit the return short. They are less likely to have pinpoint accuracy. They are more likely to hit out of bounds.

Of course, if you are hitting many of your serves out of play, you are probably being too aggressive. And one ought to be selective about when they choose to go for more (serving at 9-10-2 might not be the ideal time to attempt an un-returnable serve). But I don’t see anything inherently wrong with the occasional missed serve so long as it is the result of looking to gain an advantage with the first shot.

There is an old saying that “if you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying hard enough”. Perhaps we could adapt this to “if you never miss your serve, you aren’t going for enough”.


Mark Renneson is a pickleball coach and 5.0/PRO level competitor. He is the founder of Third Shot Sports. He can be reached by email mark@thirdshotsports.com.

 
In Summary, I think these are the take-aways from the article:

  • Conventional wisdom is often “safe,” but may not be the best for a given play.
  • Serving is the only time a player has total control of the situation.
  • Serve to an opponent’s weakness. (You have to find it first)
  • Still serve the ball deep.
  • Change the style of serve using spin, pace, etc.
  • Weigh the risk-rewards ratio for your style of play and decide if you should “go for it” at certain times. (As the article points out, in a close game I tend to play it conservatively most of the time and just get the ball in the service box.)

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Thanks to Mark and Third Shot Sports for allowing this to be presented on JBRish.com

Link to the Original Article- http://www.thirdshotsports.com/articles/2016/9/9/pb-myth-18-you-should-never-miss-your-serve
The comments at the bottom of the article are interesting with people sharing their personal philosophies and ideas.

Pickleball (Video): Base – Line / Serve and Stay

Avoid service creep!

 

While this may seem like a rather simple video, it delivers an important message. While I see this problem more with beginning players, it also happens from time-to-time with more advanced players. Some pickleballers develop this behavior as a habit and then it is hard to break.

One of the keys to winning pickleball is to hit the ball low at your opponents feet. This type of shot is more difficult to return effectively. Nobody wants to be in “no man’s land” because that exposes the player to having the ball land precisely in this hard to return area.

After serving, don’t meander toward the net until after the return of serve is played otherwise the opposing team has a chance for a hard return at your feet. The video is very persuasive as Mark Renneson of Third Shot Pickleball, shows how the best players remain behind or very near the baseline until after they have returned serve.

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Pickleball – Good Service – The Evolving Serve

I have only been playing pickleball for a couple of years. When I began my pickleball experience and the serve was explained to me, the mantra at the time was “Hit the ball high and deep.” The idea was to keep the players on the opposing team back in the court and away from the net as long as possible and hopefully force a more shallow return because they would then be hitting the ball from an area near their baseline.

Instructors would sometimes point out how the serving team is at a disadvantage because they start with both players at the rear or the court while the receiving team generally has one player near the NVZ. Now that younger players and athletes who are coming from other sports are entering the game, there seems to be change in the service philosophy. The serve has been given a new status as perhaps a way to earn the advantage.

After about eight months of play, this is something I figured out on my own and here is my take on the situation…

I have tried to develop three elements to my pickleball serve:

  • Change of pace – I do not to use the same serve all the time. This prevents the receivers from knowing what to expect and any doubt in their mind can cause indecision or a poor selection of a return shot.
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  • Spin – When using spin, the serve will sometimes cause just enough disruption to throw off opponents. A sudden twist here or there will cause the returning player to make a last minute adjustment which may not allow them to execute the shot they have planned. There are ways to disguise the spin somewhat so it is not anticipated too early in the shot.
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  • A Hard, low shot – This serve is a bit of a risk. As Joe Baker points out in his videos, the harder the ball is hit the less accurate it tends to be. My success rate with this serve is better than 85%, but I still use it only selectively. Smart pickleball dictates that a player should pick-and-choose when to use certain shots and with only an 85-90 percent accuracy rate on this one, I don’t take chances in very close games; most of the time

With all this in mind, I use my general moderately fast, moderately high serve, but if I see a receiver moving up in the receivers box, I may change to hit it hard and fast. From time to time, I throw a spin at them just to keep them guessing.

Based on my observation in the games that I have played in club play, this is my biggest lesson:

On the serve, ball placement can trump everything else. If I can get the serve angled to the backhand of most of my opponents, I very often get a weak return. If the receiver is protecting their backhand and I can get it down the center line, I often get a weak return. I am only an average club player, but keeping an opponent off-balance has helped me win more points. I don’t necessarily win on a service ace, but as a result of a weak return and winning with a follow up third or fifth shot!

I am not an expert and I don’t proclaim to be a coach or instructor so don’t take my word for it. There are excellent players who are coaches and/or instructors and they currently seem to be offering similar advice.

You can read Death of the Meaningless Return By Mark Renneson, Third Shot Sports

Pickleball 411: Three Serves and Why You Need Them

And below is a video with Jennifer Lucore, Bob Youngren and Alex Hamner demonstrating a variety of serves.

Keep those paddles up!

Pickleball – Serve Yourself – Serving Styles and Options

When I first started playing pickleball, the rule of the serve back then was to “just put the ball in play” and “don’t miss a serve.” The mantra was hit the ball high and deep; or some variation on that theme. Indeed this does work at the beginning levels of play. The emphasis on keeping the ball in play is a solid one because your team can only win points on the serve.

Since that time, I have seen a shift in attitude regarding the serve. New players entering the pickleball court are bringing skills from other sports like racquetball, ping pong, tennis, etc. There seems to be a bit more openness to trying something different on the serve and taking risks.

I too have adopted the more open philosophy in that I will take some chances during a game such as trying to serve the ball close to the line if it is to the backhand of the receiving player. I will also try to spin the ball once in a while just to keep the opposing team off balance a bit.

Here is my rationale. I don’t have a killer serve and most 3.5 and better players can get my serve back without a problem so the point needs to be won during a rally or volley.

There are times, however, if I take a risk and try one of the trickier shots mentioned above, I can often win one or two points a game on my serve by hitting an outright winner or forcing a weak return shot.

Because of this, I figure I can take a chance with my serve until I miss one or two and then I scale back a bit. This makes the game more fun for me and I hope more challenging for my opponents.

Mark Renneson of Third Shot Sports, who has been featured on JBRish many times, has a video addressing the serve. Interestingly enough, I recently had a pickleball coach watch me serve and he made the same points as Mark does. One key element I wasn’t getting quite right, was that I was not hitting the ball low enough on my serve. I was told it should be just above the height of my knee. Keeping this in mind has helped my serve.

Watch the video below and pay attention to the key points Mark makes about hitting the serve.

In Summary, I think these are the take-aways:

  • Pre-serve routine
  • Don’t throw the ball too high in the air
  • Make contact with the ball “out front”
  • Relaxed follow through

Click the link to register to receive the Third Shot Sports Pickleball Newsletter

Click the link to see Third Shot Pickleball Past Newsletters.

Click the link to visit the Third Shot Sports Pickleball website.

Thanks to Mark and Third Shot Sports for allowing this to be presented on JBRish.com

Pickleball – Not All Serves Are Created Equal

When playing pickleball, one way to gain the advantage when serving to a right-handed person when you are serving from the left service court is to hit the ball to their backhand. Most beginning and average players have a weaker backhand and will return a backhand shot that is easier to handle if they are forced to use their backhand. This is easier said than done in some cases, but you can try to stack the odds in your favor by standing in a better location before serving.

Look at diagram 1 below:

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If the serve hits anywhere near the red dot; even a foot or two farther back, the person returning serve (green square) will have great difficulty running around it to hit a forehand. They will most likely have to hit a backhand resulting in a weaker return.

Notice where the server is standing in this drawing. They are aligned fairly close to the center line and the angle to hit that spot is very narrow and unlikely to achieve the goal as the line of trajectory shows.

Look at diagram 2:

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In this scenario, the server has moved far to their left and has increased the angle and margin of error so they have a much better chance of serving the ball near the target area. This would make it very difficult for the receiving player to hit a forehand shot.

The video below from Third Shot Sports, demonstrates this in real time. Watch the demonstration and see if this is something you would like to try.

Quick improvement of service by standing all the way to the side when serving from the “odd” court.

 

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Pickleball: Let’s Talk About the Serve

When players look at this diagram (below), I receive mixed reactions.

 

Diagram of a Pickleball Serve

Some think it is an illegal serve because it looks like a side-arm swing. Others think that it is legal because it meets all of the elements of a legal serve, but admit it is close.

What do you think? Watch the video below to find out!

Did you know the three main elements of the serve?

 

JBRish.com originally published this post

See more post and videos about Pickleball HERE

Pickleball – Why Short Serves Are Not Good!

Mark Renneson of Third Shot Pickleball and PB champion explains why it is generally not a good idea to hit a short serve.

This point was also made in a recent video I posted on JBRish.com which defines PB strategies for winning! If you missed that video with the top ten tips, you can see it here: Doubles Pickleball Strategy 101-How to Play Smart Pickleball, Ten Tips

Pickleball Serve: Is Variety the Advantage You Need to Win?

Many of the essays, articles, books addressing the Pickleball serve will advise players to hit the ball high and deep and sometimes the word SLOW is used in conjunction with the advisory. The idea is twofold:

  • 1) Keep the opposing team away from the net and
  • 2) Make them supply the pace (power) behind any return shot

The two elements above may help the serving team get to the net as quickly as possible and it is true that the idea is to gain control of the net. All else being equal, the team “controlling” the net should win most of the points.

The popularity of Pickleball is soaring and more and more young people are finding their way to the Pickleball courts. This is great for the game. With their athleticism and speed, the serve is taking on more importance as a factor in the game.

Tennis and Pickleball Coach Mark Rennseson, with more than eighteen years experience, agrees with The Pickleball Show host Chris Allen that, once again, all things being equal, the team serving the ball only has a forty percent chance of winning the point. The receiving team has a 60-40 chance of winning the serve so why not try to change those odds?

Mark also suggests that since the serve is the only time you have complete control of the ball and where it is going to go, you should take advantage of it by doing more with the ball than “just getting it in play.” He doesn’t believe serving high and deep is the way to go for everyone.

Coach Rennseson encourages the more adventurous and perhaps intermediate to advanced players, to take more of a chance to gain the advantage. By varying the type of serve, the receiver’s potential for hitting a weaker return increases thus enabling the serving team to gain the upper hand. The issue of missing the serve a couple of times a game might not be that bad if the server(s) can cause the receiving team to make enough errors.

You can listen to this discussion via the podcast of The Pickleball Show, episode 7, starting at 13:19 into the show.

As a matter of fact, the Pickleball video (below), Pickleball 411: Three Serves and Why You Need Them, provides an explanation of what the three types of serves are and reasons for using them. NOTE: This is not an instructional video of “HOW” to execute these shots, but an explanation why you might want to use them.



“In this episode (above) of Pickleball 411, our host, Rusty Howes, is joined by Jennifer Lucore, Alex Hamner and Bob Youngren who demonstrate the different serves they use and explain when and why they use them. We hope this detailed episode will help all of you take your pickleball game to the next level!”

Deb Harrison also agrees that having “the ball in your hand” on the serve warrants doing more than just getting it in. You can listen to her explanation of what to do with the serve at 13:02 minutes in to The Pickleball Show podcast 11.

To summarize:

  • If you are just starting out playing Pickleball and you are playing with beginning to average players, keep the serve high and deep.
  • If you are playing among intermediate to more advanced players, i.e. 3.5-5.0, you might want to try to do more with the serve. Varying the serve keeps the opponents guessing and may cause an instant of hesitation in a very fast game. In Pickleball, fractions of seconds can make the difference.
  • High and Deep Serve can be used at any level and is used for a change of pace.
  • The Power Serve – This serve is low, deep and hard. This serve is varied by changing location. Right, left or in the middle of the appropriate service court. Of course, one needs to practice to be able to get this serve in consistently.
  • Soft Angle Serve – Once again, keeps the opponents guessing and, when done right, can force them to the outside of the court leaving a lane down which one can hit the ball.

What is your philosophy about the Pickleball serve? Have the above points changed your approach to the Pickleball serve?

Pickleball: Almost Just Like You

The link below is to the Grand Canyon State Games 2015 men’s Pickleball finals in El Mirage, AZ between Justin Rodgers & Dave Weinbach and Steve Wong & Aspen Kern.

I would encourage you to watch the video. I wouldn’t say it is an exceptionally exciting match, but there are some good observations that can be made:

These are top notch players, perhaps best in the world, and they make the same mistakes we all make. They just make them less often.

  • Notice how much of the game is played in or near the non-volley zone.
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  • Also note how every once in a while the direction of the shot is changed by the player hitting the ball into the opposing non-volley zone. Angling the shot seems to give the offensive player better odds at getting the ball over the net and keeping it shallow and low. I have found this to be the case in my playing as well.
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  • Interestingly, the lob was NOT used to back the opponents off of the non-volley zone area. Beginners and some intermediate players use the lob quite often. This underscores the difficulty of making great lob shots and turning a defensive position in to an offensive one.
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  • The players do not serve hard, but try to serve in such a way that they can get to the net on the third shot or shortly thereafter.