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Technique Overview of the Underspin and Sidespin Serves in Pickleball

Jerry Jayapal

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When learning to serve the pickleball, it’s important to understand the difference between underspin (also known as backspin) and sidespin. With underspin, the ball rotates backward as it moves toward a target, whereas sidespin causes the ball to curve as it flies through the air.

To create underspin, contact the ball near the bottom of the ball with the flat face of your paddle. The ball will fly at a high trajectory over the net and bounce higher off the court.

To create sidespin, you’ll want to “carve” the ball. This means contacting the ball with your paddle at an angle so you cut across it. This causes the ball to curve as it moves forward over the net. Typically, a spin serve flies at a lower trajectory than an underspin serve. 

Pace can also affect the height of the ball’s trajectory. In other words, the harder you hit the ball, the higher it will fly. If your goal is to hit a low-trajectory serve, you can accomplish this by reducing the pace, adding spin to the ball, or both. If you notice your trajectory is too high, you’re likely putting too much underspin on the ball and not enough sidespin.

Keep in mind that adding spin can cause you to serve less consistently. Taking some pace off the ball as you learn the spin serve technique will help you keep the ball in bounds. The key is finding a balance between underspin and sidespin to create the trajectory and movement on the ball that you want.

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