The great ace debate

The great ace debate

DALLAS, TX - Being aced by your opponent isn't the most enjoyable way for a match to end.

Game over. Tap paddles. Exchange pleasantries. Move on.

World No. 1 Ben Johns and Zane Navratil are among the experts in the ace serve department, having mastered the art of setting their opponents up for a tricky return that often results in the ball heading straight into the net.

An ace is a skillful serve that must be practiced to enjoy success, and it's well worth the effort because it’s an excellent way to earn a coveted point.

There was a wild debate about aces on the Pickleball Forum Facebook Group when user Bill Langston detailed his 4.5 match in the age 70-79 bracket at the Hunstman World Senior Games.

Langston reported serving four aces during the tilt.

“The serve is an underused weapon,” he claimed.


The comments from fellow Forum users just flowed from there.

“I find that most people who brag about their ‘killer serve’ have very few other skills to offer,” responded Robert Jones.

That particular opinion received some heat. Langston, and many others, were quick to respond. Some laughed at the relatability of the assumption, while others negated the comment, insisting that skilled pickleball players are proficient in every aspect of the sport, including serves.

Ted Wheat even claimed that he spends three hours a week on serves alone.

“Perfection is in repeating over and over again,” he wrote.

As the discussion dragged on, the legality of aces in tournament play also came up. Some claimed that aces are illegal, while others argued they’re just fine.

“All the players I played with that have really good serves also had good skills in all parts of the game. Having a good serve takes skill and practice,” responded Langston.

I can’t argue with that. At a casual or recreational level, you shouldn’t join a game until you can reliably serve the ball over the net. Someone who’s good at pickleball has a good serve. It’s a fundamental part of the sport. Maybe a trained and perfectly executed ace isn’t in their repertoire, but a solid and consistent serve? That’s a necessity.

“It’s a good weapon to have,” added Joe Jensen. “But, you remove one of the fun parts of the game – long volleys. Secondly, your partner is just standing there and your ace serving is taking them out of the team sport. If I was your partner, I’d like you to use it score-wise when we were down and trying to get the game back to even.”

This sparked even more debate. And some agree that all the joy gets sucked out of pickleball when there's just a bunch of aces over and over again.

“Serves are great in competition, but so boring when playing with lower-ranked players for fun,” shared Doug Miller.

“The serve is the only shot that you have total control over,” responded Howard Loveless. And if you’re down a point, an ace serve is a great way to guarantee a point.

Some see their partners serving aces as a win-win: “Who cares if I didn’t serve it? If we get the point, I’m happy.”

Partnering up can either be a walk in the park or result in some major tension.

“Going for aces is not a high-percentage play unless you are playing with people below your level,” clarified Rebecca Hose.

The back and forth went on and on, and it seemed like people simply couldn't agree. 

“A serve is a great weapon. When you have confidence in it, even better,” wrote Frank Carril.

Sounds about right.