You Should Miss More Pickleball Serves (Here's Why)

James Ignatowich serving in pickleball

Top five pickleball pro James Ignatowich here. There is a risk reward trade-off for anything in life, and the pickleball serve is no exception. 

If you aren’t missing 1 out of 10 pickleball serves, you aren’t taking enough risk. But the key is how you miss them. More on that below.

Long gone are the days of the top pros just “laying in” their serves with no intention of creating any offense, or earning “free” points off of missed returns.

Advancements in paddle technology have changed pickleball for good, and the top pros can regularly be seen hitting the serve with power, depth and topspin.

Taking “risk” on the serve, by virtue of hitting the serve with depth and pace, requires some courage.

I would know - I used to be terrified of missing a serve. After all, if you miss a serve, your chances of winning that point immediately go to 0.

You might lose your scoring momentum and your partner may even get mad at you for it. I play mixed doubles exclusively with my girlfriend, so that last factor is very concerning.

So, to make things easier on myself, I would just lay the serve in and get ready to hit a third shot.

Fun fact: I went 9 straight tournaments without missing a serve in 2022. I was congratulated for the streak back then, and I suppose I felt proud of my consistency on the serve. Looking back, it’s nothing to be proud of. 

Hitting a hard, deep and aggressive serve has proven to be the superior strategy on the professional circuit.

Successful aggressive serves set you up for success:

  • They increase the likelihood of missed returns
  • They set up easier third shot drops
  • They also give the serving team better set ups for special maneuvers such as the “drive and crash”

This is why I recommend hitting the serve as hard as you can, as long as you make 9/10 of them.

If you can hit the serve very hard and earn some missed returns, I’d argue that making “only” 80% of your serves is your target.

After going over all of my professional doubles matches in 2024, I’ve actually earned MORE missed returns than serves that I’ve missed. That math alone tells me I’m doing something right.

Read Next: No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

If we consider the easier third shots I receive as a result of short returns, it’s a clear home run. 

Remember: if you're going to miss, miss wide or deep. Nobody wants to see a netted serve.

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

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