In the most former-accountant move ever, Pro Zane Navratil has published a multi-page report that analyzes data, focused on serves and serve-returns, from over 150 matches and presents a number of findings.
As the USA Pickleball Rules Committee mulls over whether to outlaw Navratil’s signature spin-serve, both opponents and proponents of the serve have been voicing their opinions. In a recent PPA broadcast, Pro Jessie Irvine expressed her opposition to the serve, and various other players have followed suit. If you’ve read our last two issues, then you know that players like Navratil and Morgan Evans are two of the biggest proponents.
According to the report, 65% of pros think the serve should be illegal. Navratil, however, argues that this is likely due to a lack of understanding of the serve’s true impact on the game. While the introduction of the serve resulted in an initial spike of missed returns, players have adapted over time, diminishing its impact, suggests the data.
Zane Navratil has released his ‘2021 Serve Study’ this morning. The report covers:
- The Serve is Being More Weaponized Over Time
- The Chainsaw Results in an Initial Spike of Missed Returns
- Morgan Evans’ Serve is More Effective than the Chainsaw Without the Use of the Paddle Hand
- Where the Pros Stand
- Zane’s Take
The Serve is Being More Weaponized Over Time
- In reviewing men’s singles matches dating back to 2014, there is a trend in the weaponization of the serve in general (more risk and more reward).
- It should be noted that sample sizes from 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018 are small due to the lack of filmed matches.
The Chainsaw Results in an Initial Spike of Missed Returns
- The chainsaw was first utilized in February 2021.
- When players encounter the serve for the first time, they are far more likely to make return errors.
- As more players become more familiar with the serve, the % of missed returns will diminish, as seen in August 2021.
- As a player sees the serve more, they are less likely to miss returns.
Morgan Evans’ Serve is More Effective than the Chainsaw Without the Use of the Paddle Handle
- Morgan Evans spins his toss with his non-paddle hand, and professionals overwhelmingly agree that his serve is the most dominant in pickleball.
- Since March of 2021 approximately 1/8 of Zane’s serves have been unreturned compared to 1/5 of Morgan’s
Where the Pros Stand
Zane created a poll that was sent to the top 25 singles players and top 50 doubles players of each gender, according to PickleballTournaments.com rankings. 51 responses were recorded, each of which included answers to the following questions:
- Do you believe that adding spin to a service toss with the paddle should be legal or illegal?
- Do you believe that adding spin to a service toss with the paddle-hand should be legal or iillegal?
- Do you believe that adding spin to a service toss with the non paddle handle should be legal or illegal?
- Which professional player has the best serve?
The Serve is being weaponized over time. The days of “the serve is just a way to start the point” are gone, and they have been gone for some time.
We’re making a (likely) irreversible change to the game. The results committee is basing a decision on five months of data, and that timeframe does account for players getting used to the serve.
What is the goal of the rule change? If the purpose of the rule change is to limit the effectiveness of the serve, the most efficient serve in the game (Morgan’s) will still be legal.
Ban the Paddle Toss. There is further room for manipulation of this rule. I agree with 90% of pros that believe it should be banned.
Present the Ball. The spin coming off my serve, Morgan’s serve, and others’ serves are entirely readable as long as the returner can see the ball.
Let the Game Grow. Pickleball is a forever evolving game. Innovations like the erne are some of the most fun aspects of the game.