USA Pickleball Rules Committee chairman Mark Peifer told the Pickler Podcast this weekend that the panel has voted on the fate of the spin serve and it will likely be headed to the USAP board for a vote “as early as Friday.” He said it was an “easy” vote for the Rules Committee and was not split, as the vote on rally scoring was.
Peifer said he had several discussions with Zane Navratil and John Cincola, who famously use the spin serve, as well as others who don’t use it.
“I’m not optimistic that the spin serve will survive,” Peifer said.
Reminder: Dinkheads first gave players a heads-up this might be coming back in December 2021. Navratil and Kyle Yates gave Dinkheads their takes on the chainsaw and spin serve back in February 2021. More spin serve coverage from our archives can be found here.
Pickler Podcast co-host and pro John Davison said the serve “got a little out of control,” without providing how and why he felt that way. “Sometime the ball really kicks,” he complained, and said he wanted to keep pickleball “exciting” (in contrast to tennis, he said) by preserving long rallies instead of incentivizing quick points. (Wait until this dude discovers how tennis players are transforming the game through unprecedented aggression, speed, and roll shots! Will those be banned, too?)
Peifer added that since the serve hadn’t deeply penetrated the sport widely and hadn’t been outlawed since the sport began in 1965, it was a “strong reason we allowed it in 2022.” But since it has become a “specialized shot” among pros and some amateurs, Peifer argued that it is now unfair to use the spin serve to drive players “into the fences” on converted tennis courts with little space.
“Now the sport has changed” and “it was one of the biggest reasons the Rules Committee took a close look at this,” Peifer explained. He seemed somewhat disingenuous in saying the panel “recognized the power of innovation of the sport, but not at the expense of having fun at the sport.”
Both Davison and Peifer acknowledged that pro players were reading the serve and getting used to it, so what’s the problem?
Good deep lobs can drive players back into the fences. So can other types of deep serves…or returns for that matter. Ernes and ATPs put pickleballers in awkward, uncomfortable places, too. Are those next on the ban list? (Why, yes, yes, one of them is! Ugh.)
We’re reminded of a great interview Dinkheads did with pickleball athlete Lake Johnson, who went viral in a video grappling with the wicked spin serve of young pickleballer Porter Barr (son of pro pickleball athlete Susannah Barr). Johnson was the epitome of good sportsmanship and told us how she dealt with the serve:
“Porter’s serve is one that I have never seen or experienced before,” she told us via email. “It was a very quick and fast learning curve for me. It’s difficult to even describe the bounce that his serves would take without actually experiencing it first hand. I was informed by some of the other teams in our bracket on what to expect; unfortunately, I wasn’t even able to witness his serve prior to our match, as we never crossed paths throughout the bracket until that gold medal match. Even with some insight on what to expect, you don’t truly understand how great of a serve it is until you’re in it…I personally found short hopping was the most effective way to return Porter’s serve for me. For others, that is probably not the case—some may have found it more beneficial to stay back and give themselves time to react; some may find a combo of the two to be most beneficial or some may have found something completely different to work. Just like anything else in Pickleball and many things in life, there isn’t just one way to do something effectively. It’s finding out the best way to do it for YOU to find success.”
“Improvise, adapt, overcome” used to be a popular motto of Marines and tough-minded competitors. Now it’s “Criticize, attack, outlaw.”
The bellyachers have won for now. So back to the drawing board for the innovators. Where there’s a pickleball will, there’s a way!