Pickleball Serving Strategy To Fool Your Opponents

Pickleball Serving Strategy

It’s the last game of the day. You’re up to nine and serving for the match. All you need to do is win this last point. For the last three points, you went for powerful deep serves. Your opponents made them in, but they really push them back. But on this next point, though, you have a new trick up your sleeve.

You can see that since you started serving harder, your opponent started standing way further back. He’s practically standing ten feet behind the baseline, on this next serve you’re not gonna go hard. You’re going to go for a low screwball serve. You go for it and it works. Game, set, match. Hey, guys. welcome to our website The Comprehensive Minds.


Today we’re talking about pickleball serves. So most readers of our website can consistently make their serves. But today we’re going to go over how to mix up your serve so that your opponents are always guessing. And let me tell you, the most effective way to do this is probably not what you think. But actually, guys, there’s no worse feeling than when you can’t win a point on your serve. Trust me, this has happened to every pickleball player at some point.

That said, mixing up your serve can be a cool hack to throw your opponents off so that you can get some of your momentum back. But before we go into how to mix up your serve, I want to go over the main different types of serves that we can switch between.

Topspin Serve

The first I want to bring up is the topspin serve. If you’re to watch pro, are there any high-level players? This is what they’re going to be using most of the time. Pound for pound. This serve will be the most effective and consistent you can use. This is because it’s generally pretty easy to make and we aim it higher over the net, which gives us more margin for error.

In order to get the topspin, you just need to make sure that the paddle is moving up and down as it’s going forward and backward. You don’t want it to go too much up and down though, or you won’t be able to get enough power. And you may miss it.

a player making a shot in pickleball game
Image: Screenshot| Enhance Pickleball

As I said, a little height helps on the serve to play around with it, but I think hitting it about three feet over the net actually makes it a little bit trickier for your opponents to react to the bounce. And remember, always try to get your serves deep.

Screwball or Sidewinder Serve

The next serve I want to talk about is the screwball or Sidewinder serve. In my opinion, this serve is a great way to mix it up because it really stays low. As opposed to brushing up as I do in my topspin serve on this serve, I’m cutting from right to left. Because of this if I get enough spin, the ball will actually curve slightly to the right. If your opponents are in the 3.0 to 4.0 range, this will definitely throw them off.

One key thing on the surface is that you aim at a little bit lower because there’s no topspin on the ball it won’t bounce very high. That said, the serve is a great change from our higher topspin serves.

Lob Serve

The last serve on our list is the lob serve. The lob serve can be the ultimate changeup to throw off your opponent’s rhythm. Ideally, it goes deeper in the box too. In theory, it should be easier to return the serve, but a lot of players just aren’t used to seeing it because of this if you use it at the right times, you’ll get some short returns and free points.

That said, the lob serve is something that I wouldn’t recommend throwing in as often as the other two serves on the list. Think of your lob serve as an occasional changeup that you pull out 1 to 2 times per game. That said, those are the three serves that I use. But if you think that I missed something. Comment below.

A few weeks ago I would have included the spin serve in my website, but if you haven’t already heard it, the spin serve was banned for 2023 Play. More specifically, you can no longer add extra spin with your hand. So now that we know the three main serves to use, let’s talk about how often that we should use them.

How to use these Serves

When we look at most high-level players, the topspin serve is definitely seen as the base. The serve is what you should use at least 50% of the time. Like I said before, pound for pound. This is the most consistent and effective serve that we can use. You can get really good at hitting the serve hard and deep. You’ll consistently make things difficult for your opponents.

That said, we’re thinking about mixing up our serve. We should be considering when to throw in the other two serves that we talked about, but there’s no straightforward answer that I can give you on this. The way I see it at the beginning of every game, we need to test between our hard topspin and our low screwball serves.

While we’re doing this, we’re surveying what type of results we’re getting from each. If your opponents are having no issues with your topspin serve, but you can tell that the screwball is bothering them. You can use this more. If your topspin serves giving them trouble, then you can focus on using this most of the time. The lob serve is something that we should use less frequently.

Like I said before, maybe 1 to 2 times per game. Just know you’re always playing against two different players, so your strategy may need to adjust depending on which one you’re serving. A really important thing to keep in mind is that the higher level your opponents are, the less effective your serves will become. If you’re playing a 4.5-plus player, they’re probably going to make 90% of your serves back no matter what you do.

That said in the 3.0 to 4.0 range, we can get some pretty crazy results from mixing up our serve. So if you’re playing in your opponent’s or getting your serves back, no matter what, it may make sense to just focus on consistency and getting the ball deep. But if you’re winning tons of points on your serve, this is where we can start to think about mixing it up in the nine-tenth rule.

The nine-tenth rule means that we should take enough risk on our serve, so we make it nine out of ten. The theory states that the free points and shorter returns that you get will well make up for the one out of every ten serves that you miss. So this is an important thing to consider when we’re thinking about how much risk that we should take on our serve.

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How to adjust within each type of serve that we’re going for

More specifically, we need to consider how hard it deep to serve and where we’re aiming in the box. An important thing to think about here is how hard your opponents are hitting their returns. If they’re hitting the returns really deep and hard, you might want to try to push them back a little bit. This comes with the risk of missing long, but it’ll be worth it to get an easier third shot.

For whatever reason, some players hit their returns really deep and hard. So these are the type of players that you want to try to push back. If your opponent is giving you short returns, then you probably don’t need to take on the extra risk of going deeper. It’s all about managing your consistency.

So if you’re the type of player that can go deeper and harder on your serve and still make it go for it. But if you haven’t mastered this yet and you still miss them, I wouldn’t go for it unless you need to. Another thing to keep in mind is whether we should aim for the forehand or the backhand. Generally, most players backhands are worse, especially in the 3.0 to 4.0 range. So if you have enough accuracy to get it there, go for it.

A lot of the time though, when players have worse backhands, they cheat over to the left and make it impossible for you to get it there. A cool hack to keep these players honest is to serve it really far out to their forehand because they’re cheating so much to their backhand, they’re leaving a ton of court open and you could really throw them off like this.

players playing pickleball game
Image: Screenshot| Enhance Pickleball

If you do this a few times, they may even scoot over a little bit and give you an opening to go to their backhand. Another really important aspect of mixing up your serve is when you choose to do so. Generally, as I said, your hard topspin should be considered the base serve that you use most of the time.

At what point in your game should you sprinkle in the others?

One good time to throw in some change up serves is at the very beginning of a match. A lot of time players haven’t fully gotten their focus early in a game. Think about it. How many times have you missed the first return or serve of a game? The changeup at the beginning of a game can be a great way to take advantage of your opponent’s lack of focus.

One time that I wouldn’t use changeup is on big points. My personal belief is that in important situations you should go for a safer serve that you know you can make every time. You do not want to risk going for a changeup here and missing the serve.

Also, I think returners are generally more focused on these bigger points, which makes it harder to throw them off. Other than that, you should throw in your changeup, serve sporadically throughout the game to keep your opponents on edge.

For example, if you just hit three topspin serves in a row, maybe throwing a screwball. The real key is that you assess what’s working in each individual game and you lean towards these types of serves. You have to learn to adjust depending on who you’re playing against and your own strengths and weaknesses.

One thing I’ll say though, guys, is that it’s very difficult to add variety to your serve if you don’t spend time practicing them. When you’re practicing each technique, try to work on getting your serves deep and aiming them at different parts of the box.

a man practicing in pickleball court
Image: Screenshot| Enhance Pickleball

Remember, after getting your technique down, the only way you’ll improve is by getting a ton of reps. The more time you spend intentionally practicing these serves, the faster they’ll improve and the easier it will be to add variety in real games.

And if you want to practice other shots on your own, we created the ding pad to be your new drilling partner. The ding pat sticks onto any wall and gives you a way to do wall drills with references for keeping the ball low and out of your opponent’s strike zone.

If you’re someone who needs to work on your dinks, quick hands resets, or pretty much anything a ball shot, then check out the ding pad by clicking HERE.

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