Serve vs. Side, a Pickleball Dilemma

One of my favorite questions is “What should you choose if you are able to choose between serve vs. side?”   I find this very interesting because people seem to have very strong ideas about the “correct answer” and their justifications for their views are so varied.

serve vs. side


Some say, Always Serve First

I have heard people say always serve no matter what, while others say I want the chance to break the serve and get the opportunity for 2 serves rather than one. Frankly, I don’t have strong feelings in most cases.  I played a tournament recently where we lost the choice so we just choose the side we started on in the first game for the entire day. That way we didn’t have to think about it and we seemed to be having some good mojo.


Playing Outdoors…the Weather Factor

serve vs. sideWhen playing outdoors, I will often consider the placement of the sun or wind.  In many cases, especially in singles, I have won or lost games simply because of the side which was chosen.  I make my decision based upon the side I want to be on if it goes to a third game.  If it doesn’t go to a third game, great!  But if it does I prefer hitting with the wind to my back when we switch side at 6.

I recall playing for the single’s bronze medal in the US Open.  My opponent chose to serve first, which was fine with me because there was a fairly good breeze that day.  Throughout the first game, and the first six points of the third game I needed to keep reminding myself that I would do better when we switched sides.  Staying confident and positive was just as important as having the wind at my back!  I discussed this with Rusty on a recent Pickleball Channel episode which you can view here.

What do You Prefer?

The simple answer to the side vs. serve dilemma is for you to figure out what you prefer.  If you have a strong preference hitting into or against the wind, you may wish to consider that.  If you want to “break” your opponent quickly, then you may prefer not to serve first.  If you feel serving gives you an advantage out of the gate, great.   Whatever you prefer that is the right answer.  Perhaps it is just for the day, and the next day it may be something totally different.

3 thoughts on “Serve vs. Side, a Pickleball Dilemma

  1. Totally depends on the venue and courts for the match. If my partner and i have problems when warming up with seeing the ball due to shadow or distraction we will choose side. If none of those court specific factors, which can also include wind when outdoors, i tend totake service first as I have won games on a first service before.

  2. I would like to attend a clinic of yours when you are close to giving one in the west such as Colorado, Utah, Nevada, etc. and would like to know when you are giving one. Also, how would our club go about trying to bring you to one of our cities like you just did in Buena Vista Co?

    1. Hi Nikki
      I will be heading to Utah next month for tournament of champions. I won’t have clinics but I will do some privates. Basically, we offer a few different styles of clinics like we did in Buena vista. We can chat about what your area would like and when and see if we can make it happen! Email me here for more discussion

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