In a previous article we mentioned four different pickleball serves: the high soft serve, the power serve, the angle serve and the snap serve. In a different blog post we discussed the spin serve and the backhand serve. In today’s blog post we are going to discuss the hard serve and the snap serve.
As we discussed in the other articles on serves, you need to be able to master a few different serves. You do not want your opponent hanging back at the baseline expecting hard flat serves every time. Nor do you want your opponent playing a little closer to the kitchen expecting sharp angle serves with side spin. You have to vary your serves, which means you have to learn how to hit a few different types of serves.
Here are two serves you can practice. The hard flat serve is by far the easiest to learn. It’s the serve that most players use 90% of the time. That’s not to say that 90% of players hit a good hard flat serve. In fact, very few players at beginner or intermediate level can hit a flat hard serve good enough to gain an advantage off the serve.
The second serve we will look at his the snap serve – the snap hook serve and the snap twist serve. As you will see, these are very difficult serves to master but certainly worth practicing to see if you hit them effectively.
For a terrific video on the hard power serve we return to David Alexander. In long video called “How to Hit a Hard Serve for Pickleball,” Alexander demonstrates how to hit a hard serve. His primary focus is hitting the serve flat and deep. Later in the video he demonstrates how to put topspin and side spin on the hard serve.
One of the most interesting aspects of Alexander’s technique is that he hits off of his right foot; in other words, his right foot is forward. If you come to pickleball from tennis you will find this very awkward. Tennis players when serving keep their left foot forward. Right-handed pitchers, right-handed batters and right-handed golfers all start with their left foot forward.
I was out playing pickleball this morning at Caloosa Park in Boynton Beach, FL and tried this technique with the right foot forward, and in no time I was hitting all three serves – flat hard, topspin hard and side spin hard – extremely well. I was able to hit them deep and keep my opponents back near the baseline for return of service. I was also able to get my lob serve in so I used it occasionally to set up my hard serves.
Keep in mind when you are serving the worst thing you can do is not get your serve in. It’s a lost opportunity that you can never recover, and of course your partner will be very upset if you hit it into the net on your serve. Alexander says “respect the net.” In other words, don’t hit the ball into the net. Ever! Clear the net on your serve, for sure, but also get it over the net on every shot.
Alexander also demonstrates a lob serve with a little side spin so that it bounces to the right. The idea is to slow the ball down. Like the snap serve we will discuss next, the ball will move away from a right-handed hitter if you are serving from the deuce court or to the backhand of a right-handed hitter if you are serving from the ad court.
There are two videos of advanced players hitting hard serves that are worth viewing. Both are courtesy of Pickleball Channel. The first one, called “The Power Serve with Slow Motion,” shows Alex Hamner hitting serve after serve. It also features slow motion of her hard flat serve.
The next video, also called “The Power Serve with Slow Motion,” features Rob Elliot, hitting power serves. This video also features slow motion of Rob’s serve.
Probably most pickleball players, unless they watch YouTube videos as much as I do, have never heard of the snap serve. Deb Harrison, who has a number of terrific videos on all aspects of the game of pickleball, demonstrates the snap serve in the next video. She says that she picked the serve up from someone else, but, as you can tell from the video, she has mastered it and can teach it as if it were her own invention.
In this video Deb demonstrates two types of snap serves: the snap hook and the snap twist. If you can’t get this serve in 95% of the time, she says, then stick with a traditional serve you can get in. When you watch the video carefully, you can see that the snap hook serve if done properly can have the same result as the slow angle shot in the sense that it can land in the corner near the baseline and the sideline, forcing a right-hander to move in and over to the sideline out of position.
The snap twist shot, on the other hand, is similar to a hard deep slice in that it spins away from a right-handed opponent forcing him or her to hit a backhand shot. The technique is a bit unusual in that Deb really does snap her wrist. She keeps the ball low and uses a very short toss. She tosses the ball and takes a quick, short swing and finishes low, around hip high, whereas, with a traditional serve you would finish around head high.
I do not use either version of the snap serve. For me it is nearly impossible to consistently hit it in the box so I stay away from it. I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner or intermediate level player, but if you are a professional or advanced player you might want to learn this serve and see if you can master it.
Today we looked at two important types of serves: the hard flat serve and the snap serve (hook style and twist style). We also discussed the importance of mixing up your serves so you can keep your opponents off-balance and guessing. You never want your opponents to feel comfortable they know what kind of serve you are going to be hitting at them at any given time.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. I have been practicing my serves, how about you? I like hitting hard deep serves most of the time, but occasionally I’ll try a very nasty short slice always aimed at my opponent’s backhand. What is your favorite serve and why? I would love to hear from you about serving or any other aspect of the game of pickleball.