The Secret Serve: Unleashing the Offensive Power in Pickleball


In the world of pickleball, the serve has traditionally been seen as a mere formality, lacking the offensive potential that top professionals like Ben Johns and Zane Navratil are now exploiting. These players have discovered a secret weapon that allows them to increase the speed and spin of their serves, making it challenging for opponents to return.

By adding lead tape to their paddles, they can achieve a heavier paddle, resulting in a more powerful serve. While hitting an ace may still be unlikely, their opponents are left struggling to handle the serve. Surprisingly, even at the 4.5 level, amateur players rarely utilize the serve as an offensive tool.

So, how can you, as a pickleball player, improve your serve to make it more difficult for your opponent?

The answer is simple: aim to hit the ball deep into the court. This realization struck me during a recent game when my opponent consistently served within six inches of the baseline. It forced me to step back behind the baseline to return the ball, a position I rarely find myself in as my toes are usually just an inch away from that area.

The advantage of serving deep is that it forces your opponent to move farther back in the court to return the ball, giving them a longer distance to cover to reach the kitchen line. If I, as the receiver, have to stop to hit the ball when I’m a step away from the kitchen line, the server doesn’t need to be as precise with their third shot.

In other words, they have more margin for error if they choose to hit a third shot drop. Additionally, serving deep opens up the court, allowing the server to hit sharp angles near the sideline more easily.

But hitting the ball deep is not the only factor to consider when improving your serve. Let’s explore a few more tips to enhance your serving game:

  1. Consistency is Key: Focus on developing a consistent serve that you can rely on. Practice your technique to ensure that you can consistently hit the ball deep into the court, putting pressure on your opponent from the start of the rally.
  2. Mix Up Your Serves: Don’t become predictable with your serves. Vary the speed, spin, and placement of your serves to keep your opponent off balance. By introducing different serves into your repertoire, you can create uncertainty and gain an advantage.
  3. Utilize Spin: Experiment with different types of spin, such as topspin or sidespin, to add complexity to your serves. The spin can make it more challenging for your opponent to control their return, giving you an opportunity to take control of the point.
  4. Target Weaknesses: Pay attention to your opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them with your serve. If they struggle with high balls, incorporate a lob serve. If they struggle with low balls, use a slice serve. By targeting their weaknesses, you can put them under immediate pressure.
  5. Practice Placement: Work on your accuracy and placement when serving. Aim for specific areas of the court that will make it difficult for your opponent to return the ball effectively. By strategically placing your serves, you can force your opponent into uncomfortable positions and gain an advantage in the rally.

Remember, mastering the serve is not an overnight process. It requires practice, experimentation, and a willingness to adapt. By incorporating these tips into your training routine, you can elevate your serving game and unlock the offensive potential that lies within the serve.

Now, go out there and unleash your secret serve, leaving your opponents scrambling to keep up with your powerful and strategic shots.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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