Pickleball is a fun, fast-paced sport that has exploded in popularity recently. With roots tracing back to the 1960s, pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Like any racquet sport, pickleball has a set of rules that govern gameplay and scoring. One term you may hear on the pickleball court is a “let” serve. But, “What is a Let Serve in Pickleball?” is the main question.

What is the Origin of a Let Serve?

A let serve occurs when the ball touches the top of the net and still lands inside the proper service court area on the opponent’s side of the net. This type of serve is common in racquet sports like tennis and table tennis. The term “let” likely originated from the French word “filet,” meaning net. Before 2021, a let serve in pickleball allowed the server to replay the serve without penalty. There was no limit to a player’s number of let serves in a single game. 

This leniency made pickleball unique compared to other racquet sports. However, in January 2021, the officials eliminated the let-serve rule from competitive pickleball. Now, they consider any ball that touches the net on serve and lands within the confines of the opposing service court a legal serve. Play continues without interruption.

The Reasons for Removing the Let Serve Rule

The USA Pickleball Association decided to remove the let serve from the official rulebook for several key reasons:

  • To maintain the integrity of the game by eliminating potential cheating during serves
  • To improve the player experience by reducing arguments and ambiguity on let-serve calls
  • To make officiating easier by taking away a problematic judgment call

Under the old rules, players could falsely call “let” on their opponent’s good serve to disrupt momentum. With no officials on most pickleball courts, there was no way to challenge this. Eliminating the let serve removed this loophole. The let serve also frequently caused disputes between players who disagreed about whether a serve hit the top of the net. Removing this judgment call helped avoid conflicts. Taking out the let serve helped streamline pickleball rules and improve gameplay for all participants.

How Removing Let Serves Improved Pickleball

Getting rid of the let-serve rule helped pickleball in several ways:

  • The game flows better without stops for let calls.
  • Players can’t unfairly call “let” to disrupt the game.
  • Arguments over letting serves go away.
  • An example shows why this change helps:
  • Player A makes a legal serve in a close game with no referee.
  • Player B can’t return it and calls “let” even though the serve didn’t hit the net.
  • Player A and B argue since Player B is wrongly called a let.
  • Without the let rule, this situation can’t happen anymore.

What Constitutes a Legal Serve in Pickleball

With no more let serves in pickleball, players must execute completely legal serves to remain in play. Here are the basic requirements of a legal pickleball serve:

  • The serve must be made underhand, below the waist.
  • When contacting the ball, the arm must move in an upward arc and the paddle head below the wrist.
  • The server’s feet must stay behind the baseline when serving.
  • The ball must be hit into the diagonal service court on the opponent’s side.
  • The ball can only be served once it bounces on the server’s side after the score is called.

Any violation of these service rules results in a fault. After two faults, the serving team loses the serve to the opponents. Removing the let serve means players can no longer claim a do-over after touching the net, like in tennis. The serve is either good or wrong.

Adjusting to the New Rules in Pickleball

For seasoned pickleball players who grew accustomed to the let serve over the years, adjusting to the rule change in 2021 took some time. Long-time players often had to break the habit of calling “let” reflexively when a serve grazed the net. Stopping play to call a let now leads to a fault. Newer players who learned pickleball after 2021 did not have to worry about modifying any learned behavior around let serves. The no-let-serve rule was all they knew.

Over time, removing the let serve has led to more seamless, continuous gameplay. Servers can’t rely on getting a do-over after a net graze. The change encouraged better accuracy and strategy on serves. Observers and line judges also benefited from one less judgment call to make on serves. The rule change improved pickleball gameplay for participants of all skill levels.

How Other Racquet Sports Handle Let Serves

Unlike pickleball, other racquet sports still incorporate the let serve in their official rules:

Tennis – Players are allowed one left serve per point. After a let, the server gets to replay the serve without penalty.

How Other Racquet Sports Handle Let Serves

Table Tennis – A let serve is replayed without limit as long as the ball lands on the proper half of the table.

Badminton – Let are allowed on the serve as long as the shuttlecock (birdie) lands in the proper service court.

Racquetball – Only one let serve is allowed per server. After that, any let results in an automatic handout.

Pickleball is now unique for eliminating let serves ultimately, joining squash as racquet sports with no let rule. It makes the game flow faster and eliminates potential disputes. For tips on refining your strategy in singles play, check out our article on Singles Pickleball Strategy.

Key Takeaways on the Pickleball Let Serve

  • A let-serve occurred when the ball touched the net but still landed correctly in pickleball.
  • In 2021, the let serve was eliminated to improve integrity, reduce arguments, and simplify rules.
  • Any ball touching the net that lands in the proper service area is now a legal serve.
  • Players can no longer call “let” or stop play after a serve grazes the net.
  • Knowing the evolution of the let serve rule helps us understand pickleball’s history and ethics.
  • Other racquet sports still allow serves, making pickleball unique.


So, in short, while you may still hear the term “let” used by longtime players out of habit, there is no more let serve in pickleball as of 2021. The removal of this rule has helped streamline gameplay, reduce disputes, and uphold the integrity of this fun, fast-paced sport.


Why was the let serve removed from pickleball?

They removed the let serve to maintain the integrity of the game, improve player experience, and simplify officiating. It eliminated potential cheating and arguments over let-call disputes.

What happens if a served ball hits the net but lands in the service court?

If a player serves the ball and hits the net but lands within the service court boundaries, the serve is considered legal, and play continues.

Can you call a “let” in pickleball anymore?

No, the let serve no longer exists in pickleball. Calling “let” could potentially lead to a fault.

How many let serves were allowed previously in pickleball?

Previously, there was no limit on the number of let serves in a pickleball game. Players could have unlimited let serves.

Are let serves still allowed in other racquet sports?

Yes, tennis, table tennis, badminton, and racquetball still allow serve under certain conditions. Pickleball is unique in eliminating it.

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