Can Either Player Return Serve In Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fun and competitive game, and what makes it unique from other paddle sports is its exceptional set of rules. The game starts with a player serving the ball, and the rally continues until one of the teams commits a fault. However, there is more to serving, with “Can either player return serve in pickleball” being a common question that confuses many beginners. To answer this query, we have curated this guide that also discusses all the serving rules of this sport. So, let’s begin!

Who Can Return Serve In Pickleball?

The server in pickleball must hit the ball diagonally into the court’s other side, and only the player standing in that area is allowed to return it. Standing in that position, you must also be considerate of the two-bounce rule while doing so. However, many get confused with this. While it is named two-bounce, you must allow the ball to bounce only once before hitting the return shot. The same goes for the server, hence why this rule is named so.

Return Serve 4

When getting ready to return the serve, you (the receiver) must stand behind the baseline or within the midline and sideline extensions when the server is initiating the shot. You can definitely come forward once the ball is finally hit and is in motion. Not doing so can create challenges in following the two-bounce rule, resulting in a fault.

When you are ready to return the serve, you must do it in such a way that you achieve two major goals. One is to get closer to the net instantly, while the other is to create a difficult situation for your opponent. But how could this be done? Well, you must aim to return the serve deep into the other side of the court. However, it shouldn’t be too hard to end up out of bounds. Since your opponent must also follow the two-bounce rule, this approach will make it challenging for them to return an aggressive and accurate shot back toward you.

To achieve this, you must aim for a shot with which the ball reaches the backhand of the server. For example, if they are playing with their right hand, you must try to send the ball closer to the center line ‘T.’

This has an additional benefit when playing doubles as both players, if right-handed, can get confused about who should return the shot. In this scenario, one player may not be able to return the ball with force due to the ball being on their weak side. Meanwhile, the other player will have to run quickly to reach the ball, which can lead them to miss the shot, resulting in a loss of rally.

Tips To Return The Serve In Pickleball

Let’s explore a few tips that can help you master returning serve in pickleball:

  • When returning the serve, make sure to position yourself in such a way that you receive the ball with your forehand (front of your hand). This way, it is easier to control it. It will also help you move closer to the net after putting the ball into the play.
  • When it is the first serve of the game, you are going to receive the ball on the right side of your court’s side. Just maintain your position in a way that you can hit the ball comfortably with your dominant hand. This may require you to move a bit left or right, depending on which hand you use the most.
  • You must also be considerate of your footwork when returning a serve. The key is to stand in a way that your feet are apart by shoulder width. Simultaneously, your knees must also be bent a bit. Moreover, you must stand on the balls of your feet and not your heels to prevent injuries or missed shots.
  • Lastly, keep both your hands ready when the ball comes toward you. Of course, you’d be holding the paddle in your dominant hand. But, the situation might demand a prompt exchange of it to your backhand.
Return Serve 1

What Are 5 Serving Rules In Pickleball?

When playing professionally, you must adhere to the 5 major pickleball serving rules. Here’s a brief overview of each:

  1. It is the server's responsibility to call out the score before starting the service. It follows a precise format, which includes the score of the serving team, the score of the receiving team, and the server’s number (either 1 or 2). This applies to doubles. In singles, only the score of the serving and the receiving team is announced.
  2. When serving in pickleball, you should ensure that it is underhand. Moreover, the ball should also be struck below waist level, with the paddle head being below the wrist joint’s point of contact. The service must be in a diagonal direction, and it should land in the service area of the opposite server. It shouldn’t land in the kitchen line, or else it would be counted as a fault.
  3. After the ball is served, the receiver must allow it to bounce at least once before volleying it. The same goes for the server’s side. (two-bounce rule). It allows for longer rallies and promotes fair gameplay.
  4. The player that serves initially will not keep serving throughout the game. Instead, the opportunity will be rotated once they lose a rally. In singles, there will be a side-out, while in doubles, the other team member would serve first. Then, the chance to do so will be passed on to the opposing team when a rally is lost.
  5. There are some exceptions for pickleball serving rules doubles. For example, the initial serve will be done by only one player, and losing a rally will lead to a side-out. This means the second player will not get the chance to serve. However, after that, the usual serve rotation will be followed.

What Is Let In Pickleball When Serving?

If the ball hits the net during the first serve, it is known as let. In such a scenario, the server will get a second chance for service. Even if let happens, the ball must not land out of bounds or in a non-volley zone. In such a case, it will be a fault. To get another attempt at serving, the ball must stay inside the court.

Return Serve 2

Read More:What Are The 10 Rules Of Pickleball

Where Is The Pickleball Service Line?

To serve properly, one must be aware of the service line. It is located diagonally opposite the court’s baseline and along the imaginary sideline and middle line extension. You can stand on either. However, it is crucial to ensure that players of both teams are standing on the same service line. For instance, if you are positioned behind the baseline, your opponent must also stand there on the court’s opposite side. And the same goes for the sideline. Knowing this placement is extremely crucial to serve and receive from a legal position.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does It Matter Who Returns The Serve In Pickleball?

Yes. The player who is standing diagonal to the server should return the shot. It is in the game’s rules and must be followed. Failing to do so can result in a fault.

Can You Return A Serve In Pickleball Without A Bounce?

No. The two-bounce rule must be followed in pickleball. With this, it is necessary for the ball to bounce at least once on the receiver’s side of the court before it is volleyed. And the same goes for the server.

Can You Serve From Either Side In Pickleball?

In pickleball, the score decides which side to serve from. For example, if it is even, you must serve from the right side. Contrarily, in case of an odd score, the server must stand on the left side. However, the game is always started from the right side of the court.

What Are The Rules For Serving In Pickleball?

The key pickleball serving rules include the following:

  • Serve must be underhand
  • The server should hit the ball diagonally
  • Servers are rotated with a loss of rally

Does The Return Serve In Pickleball Have To Clear The Kitchen?

In pickleball, the return of serve must land outside the kitchen. Failing to do so can result in a fault.


That was all about returning serve in pickleball. Simply put, only the player standing diagonally to the server is allowed to do so. There are several other rules as well that servers and receivers must follow, and this guide enlists all. Whether you are a professional player or indulge in pickleball for fun, having proper know-how about all its rules is a must. It’s these rules only that make this sport unique. So, which serving rule were you already aware of? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Emma James

A distinguished writer with an impressive 8-year track record of contributing to various prominent informational websites.

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