What Is The Chainsaw Serve In Pickleball?

Pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the United States, is playable by people of all ages, and with some unique and weirdly named serves in the game. 

Each year, pickleball brings in some new rules. Every January, USA pickleball brings out an updated rule book for the games. 

What Is The Chainsaw Serve In Pickleball?

While the 2023 changes were not extreme, the 2022 changes did have a few players having to adjust their play quite a bit. This includes the chainsaw serves. 

However, the chainsaw serve has some controversy around it, some love it, and others hate it. 

Today, we will tell you all about the chainsaw serve, and you can decide if you are on team ‘love it’, or team ‘hate it’.

What Is The Chainsaw Serve?

The chainsaw serve is when the player uses their paddles as a form of leverage as they serve to help to generate a higher spin rate, this causes the ball to end up kicking much more than usual. 

The chainsaw serve was made into a famous move by famous pickleball Zane Navratil. It was ruled against and deemed as being an illegal move in the US pickleball rule book as of the very start of 2022. 

This means that a player can only use their non-paddle-bearing hand to toss and spin the ball, they can no longer use the paddle to generate any spin on the ball before they strike it. 

This rule is an official rule. 

Sadly, it would seem no one will ever be able to use this serve again, but what does this mean for the chainsaw serve in pickleball? Will it ever come back? Or is the chainsaw serve as good as dead?

Zane Navratil & The Chainsaw

From some surveys it would seem that a lot of players are in favor of the chainsaw serve being legal, it seems to be a fun move and plenty of players like it. However, let’s look into this a bit more.

The pickleball rules changed the chainsaw to being illegal in amateur games.

The USA Pickleball restrictions have focused on the integrity of the game, and these rulings came in as a statement of how powerful and even spin-friendly a paddle can be in some cases. 

USA Pickleball does not want it to be a power game or fast-paced, which would go against what the game stands for. The game is meant to be leisurely and slower. 

The opposite was seen in racquetball and tennis, as times progressed, equipment changed, players got stronger and faster, and the whole sport ended up changing, which is exactly what we do not want here. 

Amateur Play Vs Pro Play

Now, we agree, the chainsaw needs to stay illegal in amateur play, but what about in pro play? Allowing it to be legal in pro-play would not be so bad.

The current pickleball pros are athletic and elite. And all pro players could easily execute this service and can defend against it as well. 

Navratil wants to free the saw and bring back the chainsaw as a legal move, and this could happen in the future, but we can’t see it happening for amateur play, only pro play, but this could be just what the game needs.

What Is The Chainsaw Serve In Pickleball?

Why It Should Be Banned

Since we are discussing if the chainsaw should be legal or not, there has been a lot of talk about it since it was made illegal in 2022. There has been a lot of talk about it since Zane Navratil used it. 

Some people love it and want it legal, whereas others want it banned. 

Let’s take a look at the arguments for why it should be banned first.

  • You cannot return a chainsaw serve.
  • Not everyone can do this serve.
  • The spin on the ball should be imparted just from the paddle stroke.
  • This serve totally defeats the purpose of the game being an underhand (see also: What Is An Underhand Serve?)serving game.
  • The chainsaw makes it harder to make Pickleball a popular game.
  • Too many aces ruin a game, like too many chefs ruin a broth. 
  • It takes away from the simplicity of the game. Its simple nature is a big part of what made it popular, to take away from it could be very damaging.

Why It Should Be Legal

The arguments for it to stay banned are strong, and we do agree with them.

Pickleball has a large senior player base, and complicating the game would likely make the game less attractive to older players, and could even prevent them from playing. 

However, there are plenty of good points for why it should be legalized. 

  • There were no rules against it until 2022, and prior to the ruling, USA Pickleball told Zane Navratil that the serve (see also: What Counts As A Legal Pickleball Serve?)was legal! 
  • The point of playing competitively is to win the game, ruling out ‘hard’ shots makes it less competitive. 
  • Pickleball is a competitive game, therefore it should not inhibit those who have more skill, this is what rankings are for, to help players play on an even basis, rules should not limit player skills. 
  • Fun often means different things for each individual player. Some have more fun in winning and being competitive, others may find long rallies fun.
  • Pickleball’s growing player base is getting much larger and wider. Therefore, if you are beaten by a dinker, server, banger or so on, learning to compete better or finding other opponents is more important if you are playing competitively. 
  • Chainsaw serve is a new skill that is easily learned through practice like any other serve. 
  • Changes made specifically for the chainsaw serve to set a precedent to ban other skills that are new, as well as techniques as the sport grows. (Might this hinder the growth of the sport?)

We can also understand the points for making the move legal.

However, the statements about the growth of the game may be true, and games do need to evolve, but USA Pickleball does want pickleball to deviate from ending up on the same path as tennis and racquetball. 

While it is a competitive sport, it was intended for families to play together, this message must not be lost in the competition. 

Zane Navratil’s Stats On The Chainsaw

Zane Navratil put together some stats to actually sport the serve being made legal based on a comparison with Evan’s spin serve. 

Here are some of his top points: 

  • The serve caused a spike in missed service returns during games. 
  • As more players became familiar, the percentage of returns missed dropped. 
  • The serve is notorious, but the spin by Morgan Evan is much more effective. 
  • Since March 2021 13% of Zane’s serves were unreturned.
  • Since March 2021, 20% of Morgan’s serves were unreturned.

Overall – The Chainsaw Serve Rules Today

The chainsaw serves made a point to try and further the adaptation of the game, however, USA Pickleball wants to stick to their guns that the game should be playable by anyone, and we agree. 

Adding in new serves may make it as complex as tennis over time, which has the potential to damage player numbers! Maybe it’s for the best!

Michael Walter
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