CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

Pickleball Serve Rules-Should This Serve Be Legal?

Making the Case

The chainsaw serve has received plenty of attention of late. Ever since Pro Player Zane Navratil began using it successfully, many players have, rightly, asked whether the chainsaw serve is something they should add to their game. As you may already know, the chainsaw serve has been banned for 2022. But there’s another equally devasting alternative. The Morgan Evans’ one-handed finger-spun serve, which is still legal according to the pickleball serve rules for 2022.

Before we go deeper into this, I am not intending to criticize Zane Navratil, Morgan Evans, Porter Barr, or any other player who has used or is using this sort of serve: chainsaw or finger spun. It is (was) not a rule violation and is within their rights as competitors in this sport to find whatever advantage they can within those rules.

There is also no intention to criticize the volunteers, rules committee at USA Pickleball or the IFP who give their time to discuss and adopt the official rules of our game. Instead, this writing aims to make the case as to why the powers that be should, as soon as possible, ban the spin serve, whether chainsaw or finger spun.

To be clear, this is not about the basic serve with spin in the more traditional sense of spins being imparted by the paddle after the ball has been hit. Topspin and underspin are spins that often result from just regular stroke mechanics and are a natural part of the game. It would be impossible to play a game where the ball did not spin in some direction or the other after it was hit (i.e., where the ball traveled without any spin, like a knuckleball). That is not what we are talking about here.

The spin serves we address in this writing is where the ball is vigorously spun prior to being hit by the paddle, where a pre-serve spin is applied to the ball.

In the “chainsaw” serve, the player generates the spin by rolling the ball against the paddle, usually including the grip, as the ball is being tossed. The fast-spinning ball is then hit to complete the serve. The rotation imparted onto the ball is what makes it kick left or right or sometimes up or down. This serve, at least the part of it where you could previously roll the ball against the paddle to generate spin, will no longer be allowed in 2022.

BUT … the same serve can still be hit, just without rolling the ball against the paddle. Pro Player Morgan Evans perfected this serve. In this serve, the pre-serve ball spin is obtained with the fingers of the hand tossing the ball. Think of the fingers moving in a scissor motion squeezing and spinning the ball as it is tossed (we’ve included some videos below so you can see how it is done).

The net effect of this serve, which we will call the “finger-spun serve,” is exactly the same as the chainsaw serve. The serves have the same sharp kickout to the side or up/down when they land in the return box. In fact, if you were to look only at the resulting serve – without having seen how it was being executed – you would not be able to tell the difference between the chainsaw and finger-spun serves.

As noted above, the pickleball serve rules as modified this year ban the chainsaw serve for 2022.

We are not privy to the details of the communications that led to the rules committee adopting the chainsaw serve ban, but there can be only one reason: the spin imparted by that serve is inconsistent with the game. Otherwise, why would it matter whether the player tossed the ball from their other hand, their forehead, or the paddle face?

There is simply no difference between the chainsaw serve used by Zane Navratil, and the finger-spun serve used by Morgan Evans. They are the same in effect. We can think of no rationale for differentiating between the chainsaw and finger-spun serves. If one is going to be banned, then it would seem to follow, logically, that the other would be banned as well.

Take a short survey to let us know what you think about the finger spin serve.

Here are 8 reasons why the finger-spun serve should be banned from pickleball:

1. It creates a too-big gap where a single shot can determine the outcome of a game.

There are numerous YouTube videos highlighting the skewed competitive advantage of the serve when the ball is pre- spun, whether with the paddle or the fingers. Several of these videos are linked below.

One game that has garnered particular attention, and deservedly so, is the Tournament of Champions 4.5 19+ finals game where 14-year-old Porter Barr used the chainsaw serve to complete an 11-0-2(start) game (no criticism of the player intended – see below). A few things of note from this game:

      • This game occurred in the finals of the 4.5 19+ division at a national-level tournament. The players playing in the match were clearly 4.5 players, just from the fact that they had made it to the final match that day.
      • The players were young and not hampered by age or obvious physical limitations in their movement.
      • During the game, there were:
        • 9 service winners: Nine serves were either not hit at all or resulted in a shot into the net or out. No successful shots were hit after the serve. At a 4.5 TOC finals.
        • 5 serves were not hit: Half of the points in a pickleball game decided by service aces (a term seldom used on a pickleball court before now).
      • The two rallies that did not end with service winners ended after the third shot, aided by the short/hampered returns that were hit. In other words, the longest “rallies” in the game were serve, return, third shot, and missed fourth shot. Again, at 4.5.
      • The server’s partner, Livvy Phillips, did not hit – or have to hit – a single ball the entire game.
      • On the receiving team, Lake Johnson did not hit a single shot other than two missed returns of serve. The other four times she was involved in a “rally,” the result was unhit returns of serve.
      • The entire game lasted 2 minutes. I cannot stress this enough – this was not a rec game where uneven players were matched. This was a final game in the 4.5 division at a top national tournament.

If you have 2 minutes to spare, you can watch the entire Tournament of Champions game here: https://youtu.be/j-ImuiCjQvI. The question for you to ponder as you watch it “Is this the sort of game that we envision for the future of pickleball?”

If you are inclined to dismiss the relevance of this match because the server was using the now-banned chainsaw serve – the same serve can be accomplished with the finger-spun serve. Shea Underwood made this clear in his video on the finger-spun serve, which he called The Deadliest One-Handed Serve In Pickleball. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/I70xk8fma7o.

2. It provides a different sort of competitive advantage.

The finger-spun serve is a singular shot over which one player (the server) has complete control and which, by itself, can determine the outcome of a game. The other shots that you may master still have to be used in conjunction with other shots as well as proper court movement and can also be countered. The finger-spun serve requires no other skills – except perhaps knowing to move forward to attack short returns of serve.

Compared to tennis, the serve in pickleball has never been a defining shot (a “kill” shot). The offensive “kill” shot nature of the finger-spun serve will start to skew pickleball towards favoring the serve over the rest of the game in a way that weights the serve too much; this is what has happened in tennis and is a great barrier to entry/improvement (more on this below).

The current regular serve is an important shot but not more important (and arguably less important – a discussion for another day) than the fourth shot volley. The serve would be 2 or 3 times more important than the fourth shot volley in this new world. Again, the finger-spun serve is a shot that can, by itself, determine the outcome of a game. This is particularly true at the recreational and < 4.0 levels.

Elevating the serve this far over the other shots in the game will vastly change the nature of pickleball play and will make it a unidimensional game (more on this below).

3. It changes the nature of the game.

One of the beauties of pickleball is the relative ease with which you can get into a rally. Just “bop” the ball into the big rectangle and start playing. Unfortunately, the finger-spun serve incentivizes going for it on the first shot, not allowing the players to even get into a rally.

If the finger-spun serve stays in the game, the best strategy will be to look for free points by hitting big offensive serves. Both teams should adopt the same strategy. Result? Lots of missed serves and missed returns of serve. This outcome drastically changes the nature (integrity?) of our game.

Pickleball players often cite exercise as a reason they play the game. Unfortunately, there is not much exercise in standing around while the servers exchange bomb finger-spun serves repeatedly. Watch the above 4.5 match and see how much the players moved as serve after serve scored point after point.

The Morgan Evans’ video below has garnered 100,000 views in 3 months. Zane’s video, also below, has 33,000 views, and Shea’s Deadliest Serve video has 75,000 views in 2 months. So the interest in the finger-spun serve is clearly out there … and growing.

As players figure out that they can gain an incrementally large advantage with this serve, should we not expect them to add it to their game?

4. It reduces competitiveness, including between levels and ages

Recreational play has always been an integral part of pickleball. Players from different levels and ages all get together and enjoy some pickleball. But what happens when you introduce a player with an effective finger-spun serve into the mix?

Recreational games in which one (or more) of the players has this finger-spun serve will simply not be competitive. And the difference between players of different skills and ages will be more pronounced. Younger players who adopt the finger-spun serve will not be able to play with older players who will have difficulty tracking or hitting these serves. This will be as it is in tennis where a player with a big serve can simply overpower their opponent, making it more difficult for varying ages or skills to play on the same court.

5. It makes pickleball unidimensional (a lowest common denominator)

One of the greatest aspects of pickleball is that it allows players with different backgrounds, including those with no sports background, to enjoy the game. Each player can craft a strategy that works for them. Tennis players will bang more. Non-racket sports players will play more of a third shot drop, reflex volley game. And so on.

The finger-spun serve will make pickleball a one-shot game. Think of it this way:

You are providing instruction to a 3.5 pickleball player (without knowing anything particular about that player). What would you focus on? Generally, it would be some combination of working on stroke mechanics and strategy.

If, however, the finger-spun serve remains a part of the game, this focus would probably no longer be the best. So instead, your instruction would shift to work on one thing and one only – developing a killer finger-spun serve. This approach would give your student the most wins with the least amount of effort.

And this would be the same instruction given to all pickleball players. As a result, the game would devolve into a serving contest and no longer be a game of rallies and strategy.

Speaking personally, if this serve remains legal, I would be remiss not to spend the majority of my training time mastering the finger-spun serve. When I play a tournament, my focus would be primarily on executing this serve to obtain the disparate competitive separation that it offers.

But, not to lose sight of it, the effects of the finger-spun serve increase as you move towards recreational play. And recreational play is what the vast majority of players come to pickleball to enjoy. Therefore, a rule (or lack thereof) that can have a devastating effect on recreational play should be carefully weighed.

6. It needlessly increases the risk of injury.

The finger-spun serve is, by its very design, unpredictable. After it lands, the ball jumps jerkily to the left or the right. The best finger-spun serve looks like it is going one way and then jerks the other way or dives down (like a slider pitch in baseball). If you have not seen it, watch the way the ball jumps around in the videos linked below.

Because of its erratic movement, the receiver’s body is quickly and often violently pulled in different directions as the player tries to track and hit the ball. Watching a few minutes of receivers trying to deal with these serves (see above and below video links) should leave no doubt of the violent movement the receiver is subjected to.

The players in the videos we have watched with the finger-spun serve are mostly younger. Despite their youth, these players have difficulty moving to the ball. One of them (at the 2:54 mark in the below Morgan Evans video) takes a tumble trying to return one of Morgan’s spin serves.

If a player my age or older fell as the player did in that video, the results may not have been just popping up off the court afterward. Morgan’s serve is even known by the name “the ACL Tear.” It is a catchy name but one that the recipient of an actual torn ACL may not find endearing.

I would suggest that the risks posed by the finger-spun pickleball serve are more significant than the risks posed by even the hardest tennis serve. This is because a tennis serve does not switch direction after it bounces on the court. On the other hand, the finger-spun serve ball quickly changes direction after its bounce.

This change in direction requires that the receiver’s body jerk one way or the other. To be clear, this sort of body movement is reflexive and involuntary. It would be silly to suggest that a player, in a competitive game environment, can just simply not move towards the ball as it changes direction.

A review of finger-spun serves in the videos linked in this writing and of the receivers trying to hit those serves clearly shows the risky nature of the receiver’s movement. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that this movement significantly increases the risk of injury to the players, which will only increase as more players head down the serve “arms race” that should result from the potential effectiveness of the finger-spun serve.

All sports come with a risk of injury, and pickleball is no exception. But the risks added by the finger-spun serve are simply not warranted.

7. It can engender frustration and lack of enjoyment.

Player frustration, alone, may not be a sufficient metric to impose or change a rule. But repeated player frustration to the point of being disheartened with the game should be sufficient to warrant consideration.

The finger-spun serve has the possibility of making games so unenjoyable for the players on the court that they leave the courts frustrated. Would it not be fair to expect that player to stop coming to the courts if that happens repeatedly? If there is no hope for a player to be able to compete because they cannot even make contact with the serves being hit, why would that player come back to play?

Pickleball has been the No. 1 growth sport in the United States for several years. This, certainly at least in part, is because players of all backgrounds can come in and start playing pickleball quickly and enjoy the sport. There is currently no single impediment to them enjoying the game.

The widespread adoption of the finger-spun serve (which is the only logical conclusion as players vie to gain competitive advantages in their games) would change that. The finger-spun serve is so different than anything else that a player will have to hit when they play that it will require players to learn a particular skill set (on both serve and return) to integrate this serve into their games. This will create an impediment to new players coming in and mounting frustration for those already part of the sport.

Just as the serve impedes new players from learning how to play tennis, the finger-spun serve will create the same impediment to the growth of pickleball.

8. It is effectively identical to the now-banned chainsaw serve

The master of the chainsaw serve is Pro Player Zane Navratil. In this video, Zane explains the chainsaw serve: https://youtu.be/TgihSyh9_Kw. The serve used by Porter Barr in the video linked above was also the chainsaw serve.

As Shea Underwood explained in his video, The Deadliest One-Handed Serve In Pickleball, the finger-spun serve can be used to the same (if not more offensive) effect as the chainsaw serve. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/I70xk8fma7o.

You can see the finger-spun serve in the Pickleball Highlights video called 3+ Minutes of Morgan Evans ABUSING opponents with his serve (https://youtu.be/e5a6BirqS6M). As in the above Porter Barr video, the returners tripping over themselves trying to hit Morgan’s serves are advanced players. In one game, the score is 11-11. Morgan serves two service winners in a row and they win 13-11. Is that how a pickleball game should be decided?

In its latest rules, USAPickleball banned the chainsaw serve. But even though the finger-spun serve is the same in all effects, it remained untouched. There is no discernible reason to ban one but not the other. Consistency requires that either both serves be allowed – or neither. For the reasons articulated above, both should be banned, but, in any event, their treatment should be identical.

Curiously, the initial proposed rule included language that would have effectively banned both the chainsaw and finger-spun serves: an open-hand (table tennis style) serve. However, as the rule progressed through the process, it was modified to only ban the chainsaw serve. The reason for this progression of the rule as it went from committee to committee is unclear to me at the time of this writing. But the rule as presented to the USAPickleball Board for consideration banned only the chainsaw serve and left the finger-spun serve in place.

For the reasons set forth above, as well as the simple fact that the finger-spun serve is effectively the same as the chainsaw serve, the finger-spun serve should be banned from pickleball.

Two more subjects require attention: (a) timing and (b) method.

If players adopt the finger-spun serve in the same way they did the chainsaw serve, would it not be natural for USA Pickleball to ban the serve for the same reasons that the chainsaw served was banned this year? Given the foreseeability that players will adopt the finger-spun serve and that it will cause the same sort of issues as raised by the chainsaw serve, it makes sense to “nip it in the bud.”

Waiting will create another year with the above downsides (including the increased chance of injury) and wasted time for players who are going to spend their court improvement time to master this one shot, only for it to be disallowed (the same thing Zane Navratil must be thinking now that the chainsaw serve he devoted his time to learn is no longer allowed).

I am not an expert in the rules adoption procedures of the IFP and USA Pickleball (I actually learned a lot from watching Shea’s video on the process. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/cy3iewYwu0o). But if there is any procedure where the rules can still be modified for 2022 to ban the finger-spun serve, I would urge the USAPickleball Board to do so imediately.

 

Conclusion

If you’d like to see our live discussion click the video below.

There are two ways that come to mind to ban the finger-spun serve.

First, there is the language of the original proposed rule: serve the ball from an open hand. This is similar to the rule used in table tennis. I am not completely opposed to this approach, but think it may add some needless complexity to the serve. Holding the ball in a flat open hand and then tossing it or dropping it into the strike zone can result in variability in the toss, resulting in needless errors.

Rather than the open hand, I would propose that we make the serve a drop/bounce serve, combining it with the already known three rules of the traditional in-air serve. The modified drop/bounce serve is one that returns the serve to its originally-intended rally starter. Of course, the server can still do some things with the serve: hit it deep or shallow, apply some paddle spin, hit it hard or not, etc. But it removes the ability to pre-serve spin the ball, no matter the source of the pre-serve spin.

There may be other solutions that make sense and those should be considered. The result, in any event, should be a ban to the application of spin to the ball before it is hit with the paddle as it is served. Feel free to leave your comments below.

Ready to weigh in an tell us what you think about the pickleball serve rules? Make your voice heard with this short survey. We’ll share it with the people we know at USA Pickleball.

We’ll also sharing the results with our email subscribers so if you aren’t on the list click here to join us and we’ll send you the Three Pillars of Pickleball, A Systematic Way to Improve Your Pickleball.

78 Comments

  1. Deb DeNardo on November 4, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    I don’t think either of those serves makes the game better. It would definitely give the server an advantage but it wouldn’t be fun. I guess if you are in a tournament and want to win it would be a benefit but I think it changes the game.

    • John on November 6, 2021 at 11:26 pm

      Agreed. Just as much as the NVZ is very very carefully defined and understood-so should serving have a set of mechanics that can keep the game both enjoyable to watch and to play. If not, what’s next? Some spring loaded paddle loaded w buckshot and smoke to deafen, and blind, and trick your opponent? I’m exaggerating of course. Great players who don’t use this chainsaw finger twisting stuff still hit tough served. Nothing wrong w aggressiveness. But the greats like Simone Jardime and Kyle Yates play exceptionally well but don’t seem to be eager to adopt the one-serve-conquers all attitude. BTW The coaches of Pickleball , the excellent training camps, would all fizzle to nothingness. It would be one thing and one thing only. The flashy serve. I guess, as for me and my friends, we’d play the “old way” and still have fun. But we’d have no desire to enter formal tournaments where it’s one and done serving.

      • Robby. on November 7, 2021 at 11:41 am

        Hi John. I have to disagree as the spin serve, both hitting, receiving and watching is great to be a part of for so many. Spin serves are just an inovation and can be returned by good players who can read spin. Watch the fingers and also the elbow movement, and bingo. Of cours, people can play what rules they wish amongst their fours etc and rules evolve and are sanctioned etc for competitions and tournaments. I think it’s sad that people can’t embrace the changes and strive to try them.

    • Scot Mardis on November 7, 2021 at 5:04 am

      Deb is right in recreational play the spin serve takes away many of the reasons the game has become so popular- social, exercise , most importantly fun .
      It should be banned from recreational play .

      But as a professional who is being paid to play is another story . I do think it takes away from the fan perspective enjoyment of watching the game . But would you have them ban a two handed backhand, top spin etc , it’s just another shot .
      On the fence on professional use of spin serve , glad I don’t have to make that decision. Thanks for the great article and appreciate all you guys do for the game .

      Scot

    • Rick Griz on November 7, 2021 at 10:57 pm

      To everyone,
      Coming from a tennis background, I want to laugh at all of the talk about the chain saw serve, etc.
      The tennis serve is so much faster, kicks so much farther, etc. You just have to learn where to stand, how to adjust to each person’s kick or spin, etc.
      The arguments that are used to ban these newer serves seem like you are really reaching for reasons to justify your reluctance to change and adapt.
      I personally think there are already too many rules for serving in pickleball. And from an amateur perspective, when I play pickleball with all levels of players and servers, I never question how a person is serving– I just play and have fun:)
      Rick

    • Mike Woods on November 10, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      There are and should be more elements, more skills involved in playing the game, than just a clever serve.

  2. Marty Fleischman on November 5, 2021 at 11:11 am

    I totally agree that there should be a ban on any serve that has spin not generated by the paddle. It seems the “Founders” of pickleball had the genius of deciding that the outcome of the point should not be determined by the serve. Ace serves ruined tennis. Let’s not let it ruin this great game of pickleball that is growing at such rapid pace.

  3. Pat on November 5, 2021 at 5:19 pm

    Both serves should be banned immediately neither makes the game better just uses a flaw in the rules to gain an unfair advantage over their opponent. The game of Pickleball is a wonderful sport that is by nature very inclusive to all age groups and the new fancy additions do is make it harder to get into a competitive game situation. The beauty of Pickleball is in the long rally’s to win a point.

    • Jay Walshon on November 7, 2021 at 1:58 am

      I agreed with everything stated until the final recommendation to relegate the serve to being a drop/bounce serve. It seems to me like going from one spectrum end to the other. For 50 years the “traditional” serve wasn’t a significant issue of concern. There is no reason to not simply endorse THAT.

      The “chainsaw ” and “hyper-spun finger spin” are readily identifiable. Simply eliminate those from the game and move on. Anything else is unwarranted interference with the game we love.

      My personal opinion is that the drop serve should be permitted exclusively to 3.0 level and below…but that’s a discussion for another day. However mandating that the drop/bounce serve become THE method of serve to me is absolutely unconscionable.

      Dr J

  4. Bobbie on November 6, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    I agree that it should be banned. Let’s keep the game fun for all players at all levels of play. We want the sport to grow not die. What fun is it to watch someone server. That’s not a sport it’s a circus act.

  5. Ron Flanders on November 6, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    I agree completely, Tony. We all like winning, but for most of us, the joy in pickleball is the great rallies where there are multiple exchanges on both sides, not a 1-3 hit point. Although I do use a powerful serve, I’m unhappy in rec play when my opponent is unable to return the serve and adjust it if necessary (while of course still trying to win the point!)

    A good serve is important, but it shouldn’t be the game decider.

  6. Sharyn Smith on November 6, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    Both should be banned. What would be the point of these serves to improve the game? The game needs to stay competative and enjoyable. Let them use it in a tournament if they cant win any other way! Terrible idea to change the game in this way! Ban them and all the other serves that don’t improve the “game” of pickleball

  7. Ti on November 6, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    When I see the game of pickleball taking changes as this, I ask myself what has happened to the game of pickleball ( I can understand some of the changes ) .

    So no, these serves should be banned.

    I really don’t see a purpose except to prove you can and the persons way to win their game.
    Can you imagine playing a game with no rally, no volley ( 1,2,3 – 11) and losing the game because of the serve. Wooo, what a good game. I don’t think so ! ….lol

  8. Lynn on November 6, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    As long as it is below the waste, I think it should be allowed! The game has to evolve. Learn to deal with challenge!

    • Robby. on November 7, 2021 at 11:43 am

      My thoughts and hopes too Lynn. Inovation is great and makes us think as we want to be as good as we can be.

      • Mike Woods on November 10, 2021 at 5:05 pm

        My observation in many areas, not just a sport, is that there is a close connection between innovation and money. No, innovation is not necessarily a good thing. Innovation needs to benefit everyone, especially in the world of recreation.

  9. Jeanette Brown on November 6, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    I agree totally, they should both be banned…this is not baseball. I’m thinking the folks who invented the game should be the first source of information and that pickleball should be played by their design. It seems there are other folks who are anxious to begin “tweaking” everything…why? Have human beings’ anatomies changed? It’s already the fastest growing adult sport in America–isn’t that a good indication a lot of people like to play it the way it is? And can play it this way? As some have already mentioned, look around at sports like tennis, racquetball, etc…what happened?

  10. Millie Hensley Tylka on November 6, 2021 at 10:52 pm

    Please, please ban both serves immediately. Pickleball is known as the fun exercise . Many players will get frustrated and quit pickleball if it turns into the “server’s” game. The fun of pickleball is the long rally. Keep it alive.

  11. Tom Roelse on November 6, 2021 at 10:57 pm

    As a fellow instructor I too would not be doing my job if I didn’t help my clients obtain this serve advantage and thus creating a one trick pony (which is the opposite of what I’ve been trained to do).
    I’ve experienced one of the listed gentlemen’s spin serve and after some adjustments of my return positioning it wasn’t the game changing event he though it was. But I also witnessed him using it on lower skilled and older players during open play and it was devastating to the point I told one of his victims not to play against him due to chance of injury and because it removed the enjoyment for him to play.
    I’m all for aggressive competitive play but I’m not sure that’s what was envisioned for Pickleball when the rules were adopted. I’ve always felt that the ability to score a point was the serving team’s advantage and court positioning was the return team’s advantage, thus creating a balancing of scales and great play.

    • Debbie Burton on November 7, 2021 at 10:10 am

      Yes definitely both spin serves should be banned. Serve aces is the reason I left tennis as the game became boring to play as well as to watch and I wasn’t getting any exercise. I did not want to devote all my time on this one skill so I too could play a dull boring game of tennis.
      Leave the sport of pickleball alone and stop trying to make it the same as other sports like tennis. It is unique and fun because it is inclusive, especially to older players looking for some enjoyable exercise. Perhaps just allow the spin serve in pro level matches only where players are rewarded for gaining an advantage with a payout. However, the matches would be very boring to watch without rallies.

  12. Steve Bagot on November 6, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    The one handed spin serve perhaps results in a serving advantage if you’re able to learn it. No different than improving your offensive drive or any other shot. Explain to me the advantage if every player on the court has the opportunity to learn and deliver a spin serve? What I’m hearing is complaining from people who doubt they can learn a new skill or aren’t willing to invest the time learning. Do we want the game to develop into a real sport where the best athletes rise to the top, or preserve it as a recreational game for old folks to enjoy? Maybe we should go back to wooden paddles as well.

    • Robby. on November 7, 2021 at 11:45 am

      Well put Steve.

    • Colton Babcock on November 8, 2021 at 1:08 am

      ” Explain to me the advantage if every player on the court has the opportunity to learn and deliver a spin serve?”
      The advantage, then, goes to whoever serves first….Serve….Serve….etc., game over. It then doesn’t matter of the opponents had the same opportunity to learn if they never have the opportunity to serve.

  13. John on November 6, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    I completely agree! For me , the allure of the game has always been the opportunity to develop different aspects of the game. The 3rd shot drop, the deep mid court service return, the various dink strategies, the serve. The lob. Inside out shots. Top spin. Slices. The endorphin producing slams. You know-Pickleball. As time progresses my pals and I have generally become much better players. The pace of the game has picked up. But if the game morphs into a one shot game I’ll be left w only a few limited choices. Focus all the remainder of my Pickleball practice on learning this serpent serve. Or not showing up to play. Cuz just a game of clever serves is a shitty game and it will die as quickly as it has risen. It may catch lots if YouTube clicks. But we’ll all fire of watching one-sided games 11-0. NiP this in the bud! The drop serve may be the answer.

  14. robert hammer on November 6, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    How did the gods of pickleball rules decide that the “finger-spun” serve is reasonable with all of the safety issues that were brought up?

    Currently, there are lines of players waiting to play at courts across the country every day. Do you feel there will be increased interest with this rule?

  15. gart on November 6, 2021 at 11:16 pm

    i personally think any serve that requires a toss rather than a drop should be outlawed

  16. Michael Pesile on November 6, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    I am opposed to the spin serve.
    If pros are having trouble returning it where does that leave the rest of us. The win goes to the person having the best tricks or is the best player.
    Michael Pesile

  17. Tom on November 6, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    Like tennis Pickleball will continue to evolve in many different areas including tactics and serving and returning. I do believe spinning the ball, either with one hand or both, gains a distinct advantage to the serving team. Higher level players soon adapt to those serves but us lower level players struggle to return them effectively. I think it diminishes the game and adding spin to the ball before it is served should be illegal. That said, many players can add wicked spin to their serves without adding spin to the ball before the serve is hit. So, we have to be careful not to restrict the servers options too much.

  18. Raymond Raphael on November 6, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    Pickleball is such a fun game for people of all ages and levels and has such a wide variety of shots to learn and use, that to place such a significant advantage to one shot, the serve, in non-pro play would take away accessibility and more so, the fun of the game –unwisely changing the nature of this sport that has been attracting such ever increasing participants.

    Raymond Raphael

  19. John on November 6, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    Agree with everyone else has said. The serve should be illegal. It is not different then the chainsaw serve.

  20. David Knapp on November 6, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    The finger spinserve will become the lowest common denominator for success rather than the physical and cognitive skills that are now required. A lot of frustrated old adults will quit.

  21. Kathleen Durlak on November 6, 2021 at 11:57 pm

    Both should be banned! There should be more to Pickleball than serving. It’s almost a trick play and I don’t like what it will do to the game.

  22. Steve DeMars on November 6, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    Please ban anyone that can play better than me. That way I can really enjoy the game. Seriously, I play recreationally and practice 100’s of spin serves (using just the paddle) each day. I try couple times most games to use this serve. I am successful about 60% of the time. Which makes me happy the other 40% of the time it makes my opponent happy. Every sport evolves, the forward pass football, etc. If you need to change a rule start with the “No Let” on serves of the net.

  23. Jeff White on November 7, 2021 at 12:06 am

    Totally agree both should be outlawed. While a good deep serve is ideal, spinning it to create a ridiculous kick should not be allowed.
    Notice an overhead tennis type serve is not allowed. Why? Simple, pounding the ball down into the court is simply too much of an advantage to especially a taller player among other obvious serving reasons.

  24. Jeff White on November 7, 2021 at 12:08 am

    Totally agree both should be outlawed. While a good deep serve is ideal, spinning it to create a ridiculous kick should not be allowed. Ace serves are really not what we are looking for.
    Notice an overhead tennis type serve is not allowed. Why? Simple, pounding the ball down into the court is simply too much of an advantage to especially a taller player among other obvious serving reasons.

  25. Julie Hill on November 7, 2021 at 12:11 am

    I feel that the finger spin serve has shown at even in a pro level 3 players on the court were just standing around and not able to play out a point on almost all his finger spin serves. It starts to take away the fun of being engaged in a point what about the dink game, this serve being allowed will diminsh the point strategies and envolment and just plain ole fun !!!!!!!!!!!!! I am against it and hope it fails and is no longer allowed. if PB wants to have a special event with wild and crazy stunts then this would be perfect but as the sport grows having this show up on the average court game I say NO

  26. David Olive on November 7, 2021 at 12:15 am

    Yes I agree to ban that new fangled serve. Let’s keep the fun and equal playing field in the game. Ban the two fingered too also!

  27. Julie Hill on November 7, 2021 at 12:16 am

    i thought of something else, As a massage therapist of 30 yrs, the body mechanics with the finger spin serve will come back to haunt the body of those that go through these girations…. It is not a natural body motion look at all the slow motion evidence! User beware!!

  28. Dr. Frank Seitz on November 7, 2021 at 12:16 am

    The birth and evolution of Pickleball were and are marvelous events. And then the “competitive, self-proclaimed pros” come along and “mess in the punchbowl.” My advice: “Get a life! We’re dealing with ping-pong paddles and holey (not holy) balls.” Those who need to build pickleball into a vehicle for ego-boosting, see a Shrink … and let the rest of us have some fun. If you don’t play for fun, get off the pickleball courts and spend more time looking in a mirror … alone … or maybe do some spinning serves at it.

  29. Julie Ann Hill on November 7, 2021 at 12:16 am

    i thought of something else, As a massage therapist of 30 yrs, the body mechanics with the finger spin serve will come back to haunt the body of those that go through these girations…. It is not a natural body motion look at all the slow motion evidence! User beware!!

  30. Marty Garrels on November 7, 2021 at 12:45 am

    I believe the intent of the inventors of Pickleball was to make the serve a non factor in the outcome of the game as it is in tennis. Yes you can hit the serve hard or add a little spin with your paddle but normally it isn’t a large advantage in the game. Using the chainsaw serve or snap finger roll to add spin gives those players a greater advantage and yes almost everyone could work on those techniques to develop a spin serve but why. Again the intent at the beginning of Pickleball was to not have the serve become a large influence in the outcome of the game. If we allow chainsaw let’s also take away the kitchen and make it more like tennis which I’m sure most of us don’t want.
    Marty G

  31. joanna stover on November 7, 2021 at 12:47 am

    Ban both. Pickleball exploded because it was competitive and FUN! Don’t allow “tricks” to undermine the fun element. They banned baseball’s spitball because the ball was “doctored.” The should ban any pickleball serve that uses ball manipulation.

    • Craig on November 8, 2021 at 4:36 am

      I agree both serves should be banned, as they banned the spitball is baseball. Its something extra the server puts on it to the disadvantage of the receiver. And it only involves just the server and the receiver. To continue with the baseball analogy, for me watching a no-hitter in baseball is completely boring. That’s because no one is hitting, running the bases, catching the ball in the outfield, throwing the ball to second to see if the hitter is safe or out. The entire game is just about the pitcher and the batter. The rest of the team might as well go to sleep or go home.

  32. Janice Nicolle on November 7, 2021 at 1:09 am

    Totally agree on all points. It changes the game completely and not for the better

  33. Timberrr on November 7, 2021 at 1:13 am

    If this kind of playing (pre-serve spin) is the future of Pickleball, you can have it. Count me out.

  34. Charlie on November 7, 2021 at 1:33 am

    Any spin serve that is not generated by the paddle needs to be banned. Who wants to watch or participate in a game that lasts 1 to 3 hits per point.

  35. Donna Slavin on November 7, 2021 at 1:51 am

    I definitely agree that if both serves accomplish the exact same thing why would you not ban both? Why would you even think NOT to do that! It’s only logical to ban both. And…it certainly is not an improvement to this wonderful game and would cause alot of frustration.

  36. Eric Eckelkamp on November 7, 2021 at 2:08 am

    Ban any spin serve created by using your hand. It takes away from the competitive nature of the game and makes a less interesting match to watch.

  37. Colton Babcock on November 7, 2021 at 4:39 am

    Drop/bounce serve should be the rule., for the same reason that the no-let rule was adopted. With the original service rule there is often a question about above the waist, below the wrist, hitting up, and so on. With drop bounce, no questions about legal or not. Simple.

  38. David Moyle on November 7, 2021 at 5:22 am

    Although the finger spin serve is more difficult than the chainsaw serve, they both accomplish the same thing, so if the chainsaw serve is outlawed, so should the finger spin serve. It seems to me an easy rule to adopt is that you cannot impart spin with the toss, only with the paddle.

  39. Ernie Medina Jr on November 7, 2021 at 8:07 am

    Interesting to read the comments. Most agree with Tony and CJ. I’ve tried it and it takes quite a bit to learn (I still don’t have it down consistently). Seems those who want to ban all spinning assume it will just sweep the pickleball world, causing the server to have too much advantage.

    I personally am not convinced that will happen. Also for the person who uses it in rec play on lower level players in order to beat them are probably the same player who drives their 3rd shot at the 83 y/o player to shake and bake them every time…and eventually that player will get a win-at-all-cost and people will refuse to play them. Serves them right to, if they are so he’ll-bent on winning a Rec game.

    Most on the board want to take a wait and see stance this year. If you really want to ban it, netter try and convince someone on the rules committee or the board 😉

    Ernie Medina
    USAP Ambassador; Board of Directors member

  40. Keith Bing on November 7, 2021 at 9:45 am

    The chainsaw and finger spin serve have no place in pickleball. Want to take away the magic of the game of pickleball? These serves will do the trick. The thrill of pickleball involves rallies and what to do with the 3rd shot, the 4th shot the 5th shot ……. Allow a traditional or drop serve, with no spin on the toss or drop, with the swing low to high, ball hit below the waist and the frame of the paddle CLEARLY below the wrist. WHY ruin the fun and culture of pickleball when it is already exciting and just plain fun?

  41. Dan Coffey on November 7, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Make it illegal to pre-spin the ball (either with paddle or fingers or any other means prior to serving the ball) BEFORE striking the ball with your paddle during your serve.

  42. Dan Coffey on November 7, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    See above comment

  43. Marcia Lee on November 7, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    I actually played a person that had this serve in rec play. It was frustrating. I had waited 20 minutes to play and the game ended in less than 5. Woohoo. Pickleball, love the strategy of the game but never got to use. All my partner and I did was try to figure out how to return the serve. I guess if it is all about winning then….

  44. Will Ware on November 7, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    I agree with all of your reasoning so will not repeat any of it. Any type of preserve spin should be banned.

  45. Bill Kuerz on November 7, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    1. I do not know the “intent” of the originators of pb.

    2. I agree with Morgan Evan’s, let the game evolve. The NBA should not have allowed the slam dunk or 3 pointer. MLB shouldn’t have lowered the mound to give hitters the advantage or currently allow the infield shift. Racquetball shouldn’t allow the server to have 2 serves. And tennis shouldn’t have improved their racquets nearly eliminating the serve and volley game. If you practice against and expose yourself to the spin serve, it isn’t all that people think it is. How many aces did Zane have in the current MLP. Let the game evolve.

    • Amelia R on November 8, 2021 at 10:16 am

      Totally agree and further I think we should be allowed in the kitchen to slam too. In fact we should just remove the kitchen line altogether. If folks can’t return a slam from the net, they just need to practice more. Let the game evolve.

    • Dale Coffing on November 9, 2021 at 12:14 am

      TOTALLY agree with Bill. Keep the spin serve. I have tried the spin serve and the reality is that an effective finger-spun serve is VERY difficult to execute consistently while returning one is learned relatively quickly and easily. I have played against players doing it and they miss just as many as they make so it all evens out. The people (including CJ and Tony who I think are alarmists on this topic) complaining about this serve makes me wonder if they have EVER played against someone yet with it. It is NOT that difficult to return. When they show a video of a pro missing a spin serve, just watch the WHOLE match and see how quickly they can adapt to it.

      • Tony Roig on November 9, 2021 at 1:18 am

        How’s it going Dale. Only ever been an alarmist about the cost of honey in September. You ever seen how crazy that gets?

        • Dale Coffing on November 9, 2021 at 1:06 pm

          Bwaaahahaha Love it!

  46. Richard on November 7, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    I applaud players who found any legal ways to make serves harder to return, and I think one can probably become adept at returning pre-strike-spin serves — until someone combines shielding view of the toss with high rpm; then this serve becomes essential for all competitive players, whereupon short rallies and serve winners will be common unless a rule is added to simply outlaw pre-serve spin.

    I agree there’s no logic to banning chainsaw without also banning fingerspin if their effect is comparable, as seems to be the case.

    I agree that pre-serve spin is a kind of a gimmick unlike any other skill: the more rpm, the more the ball moves in a way that has nothing to do with ball-striking mechanics. If anything, one could argue it reduces all other masterable serving techniques to secondary importance and puts a premium on pre-contact rpms.

    I suspect allowing fingerspin will lead to a flood of repetitive strain injuries for pickleballers as nearly everyone seeks maximum pre-serve rpms;

    It’s really not very complicated to ban both without significantly changing or limiting other legal serves. Here are two options:

    1) Allow open palm toss or drop serves.
    or
    2) If even the above feels too restrictive, just ban pre-serve spin and ban sheilding the referee’s & opponent’s view of the tossing hand (e.g. with body or paddle). When it’s pronounced enough to have an effect, I think it’s pretty obvious in the toss. (We should not start making accusations based on inferences from trajectory or rebound: watch the tossing hand.)

    (Next problem: one-armed players granted option of tossing from the paddle develop trick of imparting wicked pre-serve spin in the modified toss?)

  47. mesa somer on November 7, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    I played with a very good player and was expecting to lose, which I did, but I had no fun. There was no game. I never got to experience his great ball skills, never got to try and become a better player as I played against him. He had a great chainsaw serve, and it was point over every time he served. No fun, no game. As a moderate tournament player, the heart of my pickleball experience is in the rallies. I respect a good serve, and have a few myself, but they aren’t absolute killers, there is still ways a good player can return them. When the game comes down to ta virtually unreturnable serve and that’s it, it’s no longer a game I want to play.
    mesa somer
    ps the very good player mentioned above now serves regular serves to me on my request and I have a great time losing to him due to his superior ball play.

  48. Rob A on November 7, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    Make the Drop serve the only serve, and that eliminates any pre-spin, fingers or otherwise!

  49. Bill on November 7, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    I’m glad the rules committee so far has chosen to ignore the advice of these self-appointed arbiters of pickleball morality, and is retaining the Morgan Evans-style finger spin serve for 2022. To my mind it’s added something new, interesting and challenging to the game. Chainsaw serve is a different kettle of fish, because 1) it’s very difficult to read the spin when done off the paddle or paddle hand, and 2) it was only made possible by the covid-inspired rule change implemented in 2021. It was always accepted in the past that the ball should only contact the paddle or paddle hand once during the service motion, and IMO should remain that way.

    Generating meaningful spin with the ball toss hand requires holding the ball between index and middle finger and then snapping those fingers, usually in a forward direction. It’s a very difficult maneuver that few rec players will be able to master. So the idea that the public courts are about to be invaded by hordes of finger-spinning ghouls is laughable. Pure scare-mongering as far as I’m concerned. People could raise the same sort of objections about the Erne or around-the-post shot. Let the game evolve. Continuing to allow finger spin serves is hardly the end of pickleball as we now know it.

  50. Petra on November 7, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    I agree with Mesa Somer, though I am strictly a recreational low intermediate (if that) player. I would soon learn to avoid playing with someone who never let me get it back over the net. I never mind losing, if there are some good rallies in the game. Likewise watching the pros; not much interest in watching a one-sided game. Ban them both for a more enjoyable game that employs more than one developed skill that may lead to long-term injury. BTW, I am 75 and not well coordinated, so (pardon my bias) I would be the first to injury myself in attempting to return this serve. I love this game!

  51. Jana Keely on November 7, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    Let’s play the game of pickle-ball and NOT try to create serves the majority of people can not do! This game is so enjoyable let’s keep it that way. Is winning what’s most important??

  52. Bill on November 7, 2021 at 9:57 pm

    Banning the chainsaw serve was the correct call, because it’s too easy to disguise spin when using the paddle or paddle hand. Continuing to allow spinning with the ball toss hand was also the correct call, as there is nothing inherently bad about it, other than the fact that it’s hard for some players to return. If it was as awesome a weapon as implied above, wouldn’t Morgan Evans be the number one male player in the world? Except that he’s not. I don’t think he’s even in the top ten. Obviously there are plenty of pros who have figured out how to handle his serve.

    And despite what seems to be the consensus expressed above, what polling I’ve seen indicates the majority of both pros and rec players favor keeping the Evans-style hand spin legal. Zane Navratil conducted a poll of 51 fellow professionals, and found that they favored keeping the ball toss hand spin legal by a margin of 63 vs. 37 percent. And a poll of 301 rec players conducted on the reddit pickleball forum resulted in a similar outcome, with the majority opposed to banning the hand spin serve by a margin of 60 to 40%.

    Any rec players who are unalterably opposed to this serve can make an informal arrangement with the people they play with. The finger flick is actually an extremely difficult move to master, so I think this will end up being far less of an issue for most players than some are making it out to be.

  53. Ann Maes on November 8, 2021 at 1:53 am

    Ban them both! It’s more of a challenge for the server to hit angled serves or low serves with top and side spin using the face of the paddle only. Don’t ruin the game with these shortcut serves. Keep it fun!

  54. ROB KRIEGHOFF on November 8, 2021 at 2:02 am

    Bottom line here is the originators of the game designed the rules to eliminate the opportunity to ‘run the table’ by the serving team at the start of the game, and to equalize both sides often, i.e. the original serve rules, two bounce rule, the non volley zone rules, the line calls rules.
    If the powers that be want to encourage more spectators at tournaments and grow the television viewing they had better rethink this…there is nothing more boring than watching someone run the table with points won on serves. Millions of former tennis players are now playing pickleball, all over the world because it is different and easier to play than tennis. Keep changing the rules like this and folks will no longer be playing pickleball. They may still be using the balls and paddles, and the same courts, but they will no longer be playing pickleball…

  55. John T. Hasselbeck on November 8, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    Ban,the power serve is why i quit tennis ,

  56. Bill on November 8, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    Ok… what’ next!?!? only serves to the middle of the opposite court count as legal….can’t serve to the backhand ….can’t hit the outside corners near the NVZ lines… No short serves….Can’t hit a fast low ball over the net….. Can’t hit deep if the return player is standing near or on the line…no backhand serves….

  57. Joe Hoyer on November 8, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    I agree that both serves should be banned, for all the reasons you cited. I would go to a drop/bounce rule for all players, period. This makes the serve more even/fair at all levels and does make it a rally starter shot as opposed to a winner shot.

  58. Tony Roig on November 9, 2021 at 1:18 am

    Sports rules aim to develop a balanced environment in which the participants can enjoy a competitive encounter. All sports have rules that limit / curtail the ability of players to “develop” or “progress” the game. We have paddle size restrictions, paddle surface grit restrictions, ball bounce restrictions, court size considerations, court net height considerations, and rules (such as the NVZ rule and the two-bounce rule) that create the competitive landscape in which we play the game.

    The issue at hand is not about unduly limiting the game. There is no suggestion to eliminate all spins, force serves into the middle of the box, ban players from hitting hard serves, or anything even remotely similar. The relevant question presented is whether the pre-spun serve, be it chainsaw or finger-spin, deviates from the competitive framework of pickleball. That is the question.

  59. Berna McRoberts on November 9, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    I agree with both of you. I don’t think it’s fun to win a game just by serving. The whole idea of the game is to play back and forth and enjoy the game.
    I say Banned these 2 kinds of serve. Use the regular serve and go back to just playing pickleball and have fun with it. Do not keep this serve. It definitely changes the whole dynamics of the game plus
    the safety issue is big.

  60. Nan on November 11, 2021 at 5:23 am

    I have only played against people who use a 2 handed prespin serve but none that use the 1-hand Finger twirl so do not have a lot of experience. But…
    I do not agree that 2 different serves are the same just because the outcome (the kick) is the same.
    I think it is important that the returner be able to read the spin and be able to return the serve accordingly. If a returner cannot read the spin (because the source of the spin is hidden, I would rather that type of spin serve not be allowed.
    At 44 feet away, I wonder how many of us can read the spin of a finger spin serve. I doubt that I could.

  61. Kathy Grable on November 19, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    I definitely agree that the two finger serve should be banned just like the chainsaw you’re correct it does exactly the same thing as the chainsaw serve.
    Spin should be imparted to the ball from the paddle face. In pickle ball the serve is mainly just to start play it should not Be allowed to be manipulated so that the serve ends the point.
    But I thought there was a comment in the new rules that the service toss was now to be from the palm of the hand.?

  62. Jason on November 24, 2021 at 3:45 am

    Amen! Everyone has the same opportunity to learn. Most people I see who are against it simply got beat by someone who already learned how to do it, and their explanation is that “it’s not fair”. It’s totally fair, everyone has the same opportunity. At a minimum, it should be allowed at 5.0/Pro levels.

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