Raymond H. Goettsch
This year, USA Pickleball adopted a provisional drop serve, Rule 4.A.8. Under this rule, the server can drop the pickleball and then serve after the bounce. No limitation is based upon the height of the drop beyond the physical limitations of the server’s reach. However, the ball must be dropped, not bounced. One advantage of the “drop serve” is that the server’s paddle head does not have to be below the wrist for a valid serve, as required otherwise under Rule 4.A.4. Many SaddleBrooke Pickleball Association (SPA) members have adopted this drop serve.
Some SPA members, such as Ron Blake and Jerry Getlan, have incorporated the drop serve into their toolbox of serves. As a result, the drop serve is only used intermittently as a change-up serve. One way the drop serve has been used in this situation is as a fake serve. Rule 4.A.8.b. permits the ball to be dropped more than once within a 10-second timeframe before the ball is struck. Consequently, a crafty server could drop the ball, creating the anticipation of a drop serve, but then execute a more traditional serve. Also, executing the drop serve on the second or third bounce could confuse the receiver.
Other SPA members, such as Kris Letterman, Karen Schmidt, and Susan Love, have adopted the drop serve as their regular service motion. Kris explained that she was in a period where her regular underarm serve was having the “yips.” As a result, she tried the drop serve and found that this serve overcame her problem with errant serves striking the net or going out of bounds.
Karen had had problems with her right-hand underarm serve. Her solution was a backhand serve, done by holding the ball across her body to her left side and striking the ball backhand. She found that the backhand serve gave her more control because there were fewer “moving parts.” But now, Karen has changed to the drop serve on her right side, which allows her to execute a lower serve over the net.
When Susan Love began playing pickleball a year ago, she adopted the drop serve at the outset. Susan explained that the drop serve allows her to hit the ball lower and with more force, without having to worry about the paddle head being below the wrist.
Since the drop serve is only approved on a provisional basis, a committee has been created to review the efficacy of this option. The committee is gathering data regarding the utilization and the effect of the drop serve on the game, and it will make recommendations to the Rules Committee for the 2022 Rulebook.