Relishing Pickleball: The Return of Serve

David Zapatka

Continuing our study of Pickleball Fundamentals: Master the basics and compete with confidence by Mary Littlewood, “the player returning the serve stands deep in or behind the service court, ready to return the ball. The returner should be alert and ready for the next play. As the serve travels over the net, the returner moves to a position in relationship to the bounce of the ball that allows him to return it with a soft forehand groundstroke. The returner’s goal is to return the ball slow and deep into the backhand corner of the opponent’s court. It should be slow and deep in order to give the player returning the serve time to get to the nonvolley line and get set for the next play and to keep the serving team deep in their court.” Since the opponents must let the ball bounce once before hitting it from the back court, the receiving team can usually make their next shot an offensive shot from the nonvolley line before the ball bounces. (To neutralize this advantage, the serving team must hit a highly-skilled third-shot drop making the ball land softly in the kitchen where it cannot be hit out of the air. This third-shot drop is often called the most important shot in all of pickleball.) Doubles are won at the net.

“The second choice of a target on the return of serve is for the ball to be returned slow and deep down the middle of the opponents’ court. This is especially effective when returning the serve from behind the left service court. Immediately after executing the return of serve, the player should move forward to a position at the nonvolley line alongside his partner. The ideal position for a doubles team is side by side at the net because it is an offensive position. From this location they can cut off balls quickly. The receiving team is now at the net while the serving team is still deep in their court. Players on the serving team must stay back because the returned ball must bounce once before they can return it. With both players at the net, the receiving team has the advantage.”

Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some picklicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].