Pickleball Drop Serve Legal or Illegal? AND What to do if you face an illegal Drop Serve?

Pickleball Drop Serve Legal or Illegal? AND What to do if you face an illegal Drop Serve?

Pickleball Drop Serve Legal or Illegal? AND What to do if you face an illegal Drop Serve? || How to hit a Drop Serve

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Most of the issues regarding the legal or illegal nature of the serve have to do with the actual drop motion. So we’re going to focus on those first before we move on to other parts of the drop serve.

First, you cannot toss the ball up, let it bounce, and then hit it. You have to literally drop the ball before you hit it. You can toss it and hit it in the air.

Another one that seems to be creating some concern out there is the bounce serve. The reason it’s called the drop serve is that you literally have to drop the ball. You cannot bounce it, meaning you cannot propel the ball downward. The rule does not allow you to propel the ball down when you’re dropping it. So if you were to push it down before you hit it, that would be an illegal serve.

A related issue and one that comes up more frequently than I would have thought initially is can you spin the ball as you drop it? The answer to that is no because you have to propel the ball down somehow to spin it.

There’s some confusion about the height from which you can drop the ball. The answer is that you can drop the ball from as high as you can reach as long as you don’t push down on the ball.

You can also drop the ball anywhere. It can be on the court, anywhere in the court, or off the court if you want to. Where the ball bounces do not impact whether your serve is legal or illegal. Stated differently, as long as you comply with the drop rule that you don’t propel it downward or toss it up, the ball can bounce anywhere on or off the court before you serve it.

If you’re going to use a drop serve, be careful with your foot sliding either forward or across the imaginary line before you hit the serve. If you do either of those, that would be a fault. One other detail about the foot fault rule is that you can step into the court after you’ve hit the serve.

What happens if the ball bounces more than once after you’ve dropped it before you hit it?
Is that legal or illegal?
There is no rule that you have to hit it on the first bounce.

Perhaps more pertinent or useful is a tip that you can use if you drop the ball and don’t like how it bounces or when it is a windy day and the ball pulls away from you. If you don’t like the bounce, you can retrieve the ball and get back in position and start the service motion again and again as long as you serve the ball within ten seconds from the time that the score is announced.

The key takeaway from this tip is not to hit a serve off a bounce that you don’t like if you don’t like the bounce.

Once you have complied with the drop serve rules, there are no longer any rules about what I can and cannot do with your paddle to make contact with the ball. The 3 rules of the in-air serve no longer apply.

What do you do when your opponent serves illegally?
There’s no mechanism for you to call a service fault (other than a foot fault – dealt with in a separate video).

When you see an illegal serve, my recommendation is to think about it like this: Is your opponent serving illegally significantly impacting the game? If yes, you can have a conversation about it (videotape the serve to discuss it). If it is not materially affecting the game, then maybe leave it alone and just enjoy the game.

Good luck out there.
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#pickleball #dropserve


  1. olubeck on October 18, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Drop Serve Question: Suppose I drop the ball and I swing but miss the ball. Is this a fault?

  2. Rod F on October 18, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    One of your drops landed in the court you are not serving from. You said it was legal, is it? If so can you serve ‘over the center line’ as long as you body is not and you hit to proper court?

  3. Stephen Dee on October 18, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Why not jump up before dropping it to get more height for shorter players.

  4. #tomkatunleashed on October 18, 2021 at 6:13 pm

    Very informative! Comprehensive coverage of the drop serve.

  5. Mike Dierlam on October 18, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    I totally agree with your point about not worrying about illegal serves if its not materially impacting the game. I’ve seen many new players get frustrated because an "old timer" is calling them out because their paddle is a millimeter above their wrist upon contact…..even when this is having no impact on the game. The most brilliant thing about the new rule change is that it makes serving much easier to teach to new players. Stand behind the line, cleanly drop the ball, and hit it however you want off the bounce. So much easier to teach.

  6. Dale Voigt on October 18, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    I do not agree with the not addressing the issue of faulty serves; especially with newer players who are maybe just learning the game. Many player may not even know that they are doing an illeagal serve. It is better for them to correct bad form early instead of having to relearn a correct serve after having hit it illeagally many times.

  7. In2Pickle on October 18, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    Do not forget to subscribe for more great content like this. And if you like the video – that is what the thumbs up is for. 😀

  8. Gabe Gabe on October 18, 2021 at 6:38 pm

    The missing link in any conversation concerning the drop serve is that no ball dropped legally will come anywhere near the waist. It defies the laws of physics. Consequently, no one will be swinging completely sidearm when hitting the ball. Not even close. And if you are swinging sidearm (or parallel to the ground) you are hitting the ball above your the waist, which is against the rules regardless of the type of serve utilized.
    If anyone does not believe this, take a pickleball and drop it legally and prove it to yourself. I don’t care if the ball is an indoor ball, an outdoor ball, a yellow ball, an orange ball, a fluorescent ball, a green ball, or polka-dot purple ball. Any brand will do. Drop it a thousand times if that is what it takes. Film it if necessary. If you wish to question this fact take it up with Isaac Newton.
    The drop serve introduces a host of confusing, unnecessary issues that further complicate what could and should be a great game. Introducing it was a bad idea, and it should be stricken from the game. Now that is an opinion.
    Talking to the cheater, filming the serve, or approaching the leader of the club are all “mechanisms” for handling the problem. There may be no official challenge available since it is not a sanctioned tournament, but they are mechanisms nonetheless. How effective they will be is the question. Sticking the ball up the offenders a** would also be a “mechanism” that might be quite effective.

  9. LJ B RacoonCrazy on October 18, 2021 at 6:38 pm

    Well done, Details and observations from a student of the game.