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Where To Stand In Pickleball: Serving and Returning

In the exciting game of pickleball, your positioning on the court is just as crucial as your paddle skills. Being in the right spot can help you return shots effectively and set yourself up for the perfect hit. In this article, we'll explore the best places to stand when you're serving and when you're the return team in doubles play.

Where To Stand In Pickleball: Serving and Returning
Where To Stand In Pickleball: Serving and Returning

Where to Stand as the Serving Team

When your team is serving, the server must stand behind the baseline. However, for the non-serving player, there are various position options to consider. While the official rules allow you to stand anywhere on the court, it's essential to think strategically.

If your opponents prefer returning the serve deep, which is common, the best position for you is just behind the baseline. This allows you to stay behind the ball and gives you enough space to let it bounce (a requirement before hitting it on the third shot).

On the other hand, if your opponents tend to hit dinks or shallow drop shots, standing slightly in front of the baseline might be more suitable. This way, you have a head start in reaching the ball without being too vulnerable if it goes a bit deeper.

In high-level professional matches, you might see a different strategy called "stacking" the serve. Here, the serving player stands close to the middle of the baseline and takes responsibility for the third shot, regardless of where it goes. The non-serving player stands on the sideline until the third shot is returned, and then they take their position, most likely at the kitchen line. This is an advanced tactic that requires coordination and skill.

However, in most cases, your choices for the serving team will be one of these three positions:

  • On the baseline
  • Behind the baseline
  • Slightly in front of the baseline

Where to Stand as the Return Team

When you're the return team, your positioning is slightly different. While both players can stand at the baseline, it's more common for one player (the one returning the serve) to position themselves closer to the baseline, and the other player to be at the kitchen line.

The player at the baseline must return the serve and be prepared for deep or shallow shots. They must also let the ball bounce before hitting it, just like the serving team. So, their options for positioning are the same: on the baseline, in front of the baseline, or behind the baseline.

The non-returning player has more flexibility and can choose to stand almost anywhere. Most often, this player stands at the kitchen line, ready to spring into action after the third or fourth shot. They no longer have to wait for the bounce, so they can get as close to the kitchen line as possible.

Since getting to the kitchen is a common goal for players, starting there makes the most sense.

However, there are some nuances to consider. For instance, if your opponents frequently hit high lobs to the baseline on their third shot, both players standing at the kitchen line after the return can put your team at a disadvantage. In such cases, it might be wise to back up to the baseline or give your partner space to handle the high lob from directly behind you.

As the non-returning player, you should position yourself to cover enough court space and be prepared for any shots that come your way. Standing at the kitchen line, between the middle line and the sideline, is often a good starting position.

If you're the return-of-serve player and have successfully forced your opponent to stay back, meeting your partner at the kitchen line is likely the best move.


In pickleball, there are some basic positioning rules to follow, like the serving player being behind the baseline during serves and both sides letting the ball bounce on the second and third shots. However, beyond these guidelines, there is ample room for strategic thinking and adaptation during the match.

Ultimately, the key is to ensure that you and your partner are in the best position to start each round and have the freedom to move strategically as the game progresses. By understanding your opponents' tendencies and adapting your positions accordingly, you can gain a competitive edge on the pickleball court. So, go out there, have fun, and play smart pickleball! 

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