January 17, 2020

2021 USA Pickleball/IFP Rulebook + Rule Search Engine

Click here to run the Pickleball Rule Search Engine

The full set of rules are below:


2021 USA Pickleball/IFP Rulebook

Click here for a summary of the 2021 rule changes

Last Updated:12/28/2020 @8:08pm Est

New: 2021 Alternate Rulebook

Also new in 2021 is an Alternate Rulebook.  The Official 2021 Rulebook is the one that will be used as a reference during tournaments.  The Alternate Rulebook, however, is an attempt to simplify how the rules are presented.  The Alternate Rulebook can be used in any venue other than tournaments, without restriction.    The Alternate Rulebook will enjoy the benefit of a one-year public comment period.   User comments should be directed to [email protected]  Here are some of the key features:

  • Similar/related rules grouped together in three major parts
    • Part I – Basic information and rules not applying to play
    • Part II – General rules applying to all play
    • Part III – Additional rules relating to tournament play
  • Faults listed with their related rules
  • Redundancies and duplication eliminated
  • Headings for every rule to aid navigation
  • Simpler, clearer language and consistent terminology
  • Non-volley zone rebranded as no-volley zone
  • Wheelchair rules integrated into general rules
  • Expanded index

2021 USA Pickleball/IFP Rulebook

The USA Pickleball Association (USA PICKLEBALL) and the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) were organized to perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on an international level and to set goals for worldwide play and recognition.

USA PICKLEBALL and IFP are committed to furthering the growth and development of pickleball among all players. USA PICKLEBALL and IFP are the governing bodies of American and international pickleball that formulate and interpret all the rules of the sport in a manner that preserves the traditional nature and character of the sport and the skills traditionally required to play the sport. All such decisions by USA PICKLEBALL and IFP are final and not appealable.

The purpose of the rulebook is to provide pickleball players with the rules necessary for organized league and tournament play. Some sections of this rulebook are designed to be used only for the conduct of sanctioned tournaments. A sanctioned tournament allows players to be ranked on a national or international basis.

Non-sanctioned tournaments may also use these sections as guidelines. Tournament Directors for non-sanctioned tournaments may be flexible in the use of these guidelines to better fit the skills,
ages, and diversity of their players. USA PICKLEBALL and IFP enthusiastically encourage these non-sanctioned tournaments to promote knowledge and growth of the sport, skill development, and having fun while playing pickleball.

USA PICKLEBALL published the first rulebook in March 1984. The first IFP rulebook was adapted, with permission, from the March 28, 2010, version of the USA PICKLEBALL rulebook.

The IFP invites national pickleball organizations from all countries to become members of the IFP and to observe these rules as the international rules of pickleball.

These rules will not be changed without good cause. Comments and opinions are always welcome. If you have any questions in regard to the rules, please visit:


USA Pickleball Association (USA PICKLEBALL) Website: www.usapickleball.org

International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) Website: ipickleball.org

Cover photo credit – Pickleball Magazine © 2010, revised 2021


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section 1 – The Game …………………………………………………. 1

Section 2 – Court and Equipment …………………………………. 3

Section 3 – Definitions ………………………………………………. 11

Section 4 – The Serve, Service Sequence, & Scoring Rules 17

Section 5 – Service and Side Selection Rules……………….. 27

Section 6 – Line Call Rules ………………………………………… 29

Section 7 – Fault Rules ………………………………………………. 33

Section 8 – Dead Ball Rules ……………………………………….. 35

Section 9 – Non-Volley-Zone Rules ……………………………. 36

Section 10 – Time-Out Rules ……………………………………… 38

Section 11 – Other Rules ……………………………………………. 44

Section 12 – Sanctioned Tournament Policies………………. 48

Section 13 – Tournament Management and Officiating … 55

Section 14 – Wheelchair Rules …………………………………… 63

Index……………………………………………………………………….. 72


SECTION 1 – THE GAME

On Jan. 25th 2021, the 2020 rule-book will be terminated. To ensure consistency, 2021 tournaments that begin play before Jan. 25th should play the entirety of their tournament using the 2020 rule-book. If the tournament begins on Jan. 25th or thereafter, the 2021 rule-book must be used. For a copy of the 2020 USAPA-Rulebook contact us.


2021 Rules

Pickleball is a paddle sport played using a special perforated ball on a 20-foot-by-44-foot court with a tennis-type net. The court is divided into right/even and left/odd service courts and non-volley zones. See Figure 2-1.

The ball is served diagonally across the net to the opponent’s service court using an underhand motion. The ball is struck back and forth across the net until a player fails to return the ball in accordance with the rules.

Points are scored only by the serving side, when the server or the server’s team wins the rally, or the opposing side commits a fault. The server continues to serve, alternating service courts, until the serving side loses the rally or commits a fault.

Typically, the first side scoring 11 points and leading by at least a 2-point margin wins. For example, if both sides are tied at 10 points, then play continues until one side wins by 2 points.

Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles. Doubles is the most popular.

New 2021: The Players
Pickleball is a game that requires cooperation and courtesy. A sense of fair play from giving the opponent the benefit of any doubt is essential in maintaining the game’s underlying principles of fun and competition. To that end:

  • All points played are treated the same regardless of their importance; match point is as important as the first point of the match
  • Either partner in doubles can make calls, especially line calls; there is no place in the game for one partner telling another, “that was my call, not yours”
  • Prompt calls eliminate the ‘two chance option’. For example, a player cannot claim a hinder from a ball rolling on the court after they hit a ball ‘out’; they gave up their ability to call the hinder by choosing instead to hit the ball
  • Players without the benefit of a referee strive to cooperate when confronted with a situation not covered by the Rulebook. Possible outcomes can be a replay, allowing the rally to stand, or in extreme cases, asking for a referee to resolve a dispute.

Reason: This general guideline outlines the basic fair play concepts of pickleball. Although they are quoted often, they are now in print for everyone to read.


UNIQUE FEATURES:

Two-Bounce Rule. After the ball is served, each side must make one groundstroke prior to volleying the ball.

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ). An area that extends 7 feet from the net on each side, within which a player is not allowed to strike the ball without it first bouncing.

(Wheelchair) A wheelchair player may allow the ball to bounce twice before returning the ball. The second bounce can be anywhere on the playing surface.

Share with:



SECTION 2 – COURT AND EQUIPMENT

SECTION 2 – COURT AND EQUIPMENT

2.A.     COURT Specifications. The dimensions and measurements for the standard pickleball court are:

2.A.1.    The COURT shall be a rectangle 20 feet (6.10 m) wide and 44 feet (13.41 m) long for both singles and doubles matches. See Figure 2-1.

2.A.2. COURT measurements shall be made to the outside of the lines. All lines should be 2 inches (5.08 cm) wide and the same color, clearly contrasting with the color of the playing surface.

2.A.3.   A minimum playing surface area measuring 30 feet (9.14 m) wide and 60 feet (18.29 m) long is recommended. A 10-foot (3.05-m) surrounding margin with a larger size of 40 feet (12.19 m) by 64 feet (19.51 m) is preferred.

2.A.4  New 2021: (Wheelchair) The recommended playing surface area for Wheelchair play is 44 feet (13.41 m) wide and 74 feet (22.55 m) long. The size for Wheelchair play in a stadium COURT is 50 feet (15.24 m) wide by 80 feet (24.38 m) long.
Reason: This rule is the new guideline for wheelchair play

2.B.     Lines and Areas. The lines and areas of the standard pickleball COURT are explained below. Also, see Figure 2-1.

2.B.1.    Baselines. The lines parallel to the net at each end of the COURT.

2.B.2.    Sidelines. The lines perpendicular to the net on each long side of the COURT.

2.B.3.    Non-Volley Zone (NVZ). The area of COURT bounded by three lines and the net: the parallel line 7 feet (2.13 m) from the net (non-volley- zone line) and the two sidelines, which are perpendicular to the net. All NVZ lines are inside the NVZ.

2.B.4.    Service Court. The area on either side of the centerline, including the centerline, sideline, and baseline, excluding the NVZ.

2.B.5.    Centerline. The line down the center of the COURT extending from the NVZ to the baseline separating the odd and even courts.

2.B.6.    Right/Even Court. The service area on the right side of the COURT when facing the net.

2.B.7.   Left/Odd Court. The service area on the left side of the COURT when facing the net.

2.C.     Net Specifications.

2.C.1.    Material. The net may be made of any mesh fabric material that will not allow a ball to pass through it.

2.C.2.    Posts. Net posts should be 22 feet from the inside of one post to the inside of the other post. The maximum diameter of the net post should be 3 inches.

2.C.3.    Size. The net length should be at least 21 feet 9 inches (6.63 m) extending from one post to the other. The net height should be at least 30 inches (0.76 m) from top to bottom.

2.C.4.    Edge. The top of the net should be edged with a 2-inch (5.08-cm) white binding over a cord or cable running through the binding. This binding must rest upon the cord or cable.

2.C.5.    Height. The net shall be suspended over the center of the COURT and shall be 36 inches (91.44 cm) high at the sidelines and 34 inches (86.36 cm) high at the center of the COURT.

2.C.6.    Center Strap. A center strap is recommended for permanent nets, and should be placed at the center of the net to enable easy adjustment to the 34-inch(86.36-cm)requirement at center.

 2.C.6.    Center Strap. A center strap should be placed at the center of the net to enable easy adjustment to the 34-inch (86.36-cm) requirement at center.~Old 2018 rule.

       2.C.7:    Bottom of the Net. The net may touch the COURT but should not drape onto the COURT such that it could alter the play of the ball. (See Figure 2-2.) ~NEW 2020 Rule

       2.C.8:   Ties or other non-protruding apparatus should be used to prevent the bottom of the net from lying on the COURT. If such a configuration is not corrected by the tournament staff prior to the start of play and the      referee deems a ball is affected by the draping net, it shall result in a replay. ~NEW 2020 Rule

Reason: To provide clear guidelines when the ball goes over the net and hits any part of the net
lying on the ground.

 

Figure 2-2

The ball pictured on the left in Figure 2-2 is customarily used for indoor play, and the ball pictured on the right is customarily used for outdoor play. Colors may vary. However, all approved balls are acceptable for indoor or outdoor play. The complete list of approved balls is on the USAPA and IFP websites.

2.D.     Ball Specifications.

2.D.1.    Construction. The ball shall be made of a durable material molded with a smooth surface and free of texturing. The ball will be one uniform color, except for identification markings. The ball may have a slight ridge at the seam, as long as it does not significantly impact the ball’s flight characteristics.

2.D.2.   Size. The ball shall be 2.87 inches (7.3 cm) to 2.97 inches (7.55 cm) in diameter. The maximum out-of-round diameter variance shall not be greater than +/-0.020 inch (0.50 mm).

2.D.3.    Weight. The ball shall weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces (22.1 and 26.5 grams).

2.D.4.   Bounce. The ball shall have a bounce of 30 to 34 inches (76.2 to 86.4 cm) to the top of the ball when dropped from a height of 78 inches (198.1 cm) onto a granite surface plate that is aluinimum of 12 inches by 12 inches (30.5 cm) by 4 inches (10.2 cm). The test is to be performed at an ambient temperature of 75 to 80 degrees F (24 to 27 degrees C).

2.D.5.    Hardness. The ball shall have a hardness of 40 to 50 on a Durometer D scale at an ambient temperature of 75 to 80 degrees F (24 to 27 degrees C).

2.D.6.    Design. The ball shall have a minimum of 26 to a maximum of 40 circular holes, with spacing of the holes and overall design of the ball conforming to flight characteristics. The ball must have a manufacturer’s or supplier’s name or logo printed or embossed on it.

2.D.7.    Approval. The tournament director will choose the tournament ball. The ball selected for play in any USAPA- or IFP-sanctioned tournament must be named on the official list of approved balls posted on the USAPA and IFP websites: www.usapa.org and ipickleball.org.

2.E.      Paddle Specifications.

2.E.1.    Material. The paddle may be made of any material deemed safe and not prohibited by these rules. The paddle shall be made of rigid, non-compressible material meeting the criteria located on the USAPA and IFP websites.

2.E.2.    New 2021: Surface. The paddle’s hitting surface shall not contain delamination, holes, cracks or indentations that break the paddle skin or surface.

Surface. The paddle hitting surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, tape, or any objects or features that allow a player to impart additional spin on the ball.

Reason: To remove difficult to discern language about “additional spin” and make the rule more specific to the surface characteristics of the paddle. The restrictions associated with ‘spin’ will be covered in the new Equipment Standards Manual.

Paddle roughness is determined using a Starrett SR160 Surface Roughness Tester (or equivalent). The allowable limits for roughness shall be no greater than 30 micrometers (µm)

on the Rz reading (average maximum height, peak to valley), and no greater than 40 micrometers on the Rt reading (average maximum height, peak to valley). All readings will be taken in six different directions.

2.E.2.a. Paint. The surface may be painted but must otherwise adhere to the general surface requirements.

2.E.2.b. Reflection. The paddle hitting surface shall not be adversely reflective, such that it has the potential to obscure the vision of opposing player(s). Paddles shall not have any measurement exceeding 80 GU. Measurement is to be taken at the universal measurement angle of 60 degrees with ETB-0833 Self-Calibration 20° 60° 85° Surface Glossmeter Tester 0-200 GU or equivalent.

2.E 2.c. Depictions. Any writing or pictures on the paddle must be in good taste.

2.E.3.    Size. The combined length and width, including any edge guard and butt cap, shall not exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm). The paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm). There is no restriction on paddle thickness.

2.E.4.    Weight. There is no restriction on paddle weight.

2.E.5. Alterations. Altered paddles must meet all specifications.

2.E.5.a. The only alterations or additions that can be made to a commercially made paddle are edge guard tape, lead tape,changes to the grip size or grip wrap,and adding name decals and/or other identification markings on the paddle face.

2.E.5.b. Decals and tape can extend no farther than 1.0 inch (2.54 cm) above the top of the grip nor more than 0.5 inch (1.27cm) inside the outer edge of a paddle or, ifan edge guard is in place, 0.5 inch inside the edge guard.

2.E.5.c. New 2021: Hand-drawn or handwritten markings are allowed on the paddle’s playing surface as long as they do not impact the surface roughness and are in good taste. no aftermarket graphics are allowed on a commercially made paddle other than “hand-drawn” or “handwritten” pen markings. Any hand-drawn or handwritten Depictions must be in good taste.

Handwritten markings are allowed on the paddle’s playing surface as long as they do not impact the surface roughness and are in good taste. no aftermarket graphics are allowed on a commercially made paddle other than “Handwritten” pen markings. 

Reason: To clarify that a hand drawn marking such as a logo, symbol or picture is no different than a hand-written signature as long as it does not impact the surface texture of the paddle face.

2.E.6.    Prohibited Surface Features and Mechanical Features.

2.E.6.a. Anti-skid paint or any paint textured with sand, rubber particles, or any material that causes additional spin.

2.E.6.b. Rubber and synthetic rubber.

2.E.6.c. Sandpaper characteristics.

2.E.6.d. Moving parts that can increase head momentum.

2.E.6.e. Removable parts. no removable parts except for paddle grip adjustments and/or grip wraps and lead tape on the paddle edge.

2.E.6.f. Springs or spring-like material.

2.E.6.g. Flexible membranes or any compressible material that creates a trampoline effect.

2.E.6.h. Electrical, electronic, or mechanical assistance of any sort.

2.E.7.    Model Designation. The manufacturer must have a clearly marked brand and model name or model number on the paddle. Paddles with different core material, surface material, or other significant differences must have a unique name or number.

2.E.8.    Homemade Paddles. Paddles that are not commercially made are not permitted (e.g., homemade paddles).

2.F.      Equipment Approval and Authorization. The approval of equipment authorized for sanctioned tournament play shall be made by the USAPA Board of Directors acting on a recommendation of the Equipment Evaluation Committee (EEC).

2.F.1.    Approval and authorization of a specified piece, model, brand, version, design, or type of equipment may be revoked by the Board of Directors upon 18 months’ notice on the USAPA and IFP website home pages, official national newsletter publications, or other acceptable means of communication, if the specified equipment is found to have been materially changed by the manufacturer or if the equipment materially degrades or changes under ordinary use so as to significantly alter the nature of the sport.

2.F.2.    Manufacturers are subject to annual and/or blind testing to ensure that products as produced and sold are compliant with all requirements. The lists of approved equipment may be posted on the USAPA and IFP websites: usapa.org and ipickleball.com

2.F.3.    USAPA/IFP Approved Paddle List – Players are responsible for confirming that the paddle they are using for match play is listed as Pass on the USAPA/IFP Approved Paddle List. The lists of approved equipment may be posted on the USAPA and IFP websites: usapa.org and ipickleball.com.

2.F.3.a. Violation.-If the violation is identified after the match has started, the player or team forfeits only the match being played.-If the violation is discovered after the match has concluded, the match results stand

2.F.3.a.1 If the violation is identified prior to the match starting, the player may switch to a paddle listed as Pass on the USAPA/IFP Approved  Paddle List without penalty.

2.F.3.a.2 If the violation is identified after the match has started, the player or team forfeits only the match being played.

2.F.3.a.3 If the violation is discovered after the match has concluded, the match results stand.

2.F.3.a.   Violation. If at any point during the tournament it is determined that a player is using a paddle that violates any of the paddle specifications or is not listed on the USAPA/IFP Approved Paddle List as Pass, the following penalties apply: ~Old 2018 rule.

▪    If the violation is identified prior to the match starting, the player may switch to ~Old 2018 rule.

Note: The USAPA reviews equipment testing standards periodically and, with proper notification to manufacturers, reserves the right to modify equipment specifications as needed to maintain the integrity of the game.

2.G.     Apparel. a paddle listed as Pass on the USAPA/IFP Approved Paddle List without penalty.

▪    If the violation is identified after the match has started, the player or team forfeits the match.

2.G.1.    Safety and Distraction. A player may be required to change garments that are inappropriate.

2.G.2.    Depictions. Graphics, insignias, pictures, and writing on Apparel must be in good taste.

2.G.3.    Footwear. Must have soles that do not mark or damage the court’s playing surface.

2.G.4.    Violation. The tournament director has the authority to enforce Apparel changes. If the player refuses to comply with the Apparel rules, the tournament director may declare a forfeiture of the match.

Share with:



SECTION 3 – DEFINITIONS

SECTION 3 – DEFINITIONS

3.A.1 Carry – Hitting the ball in such a way that it does not bounce away from the paddle but is carried along on the face of the paddle.

3.A.2 New 2021 Coaching – Communication of any information, including verbal, nonverbal, and electronic, from someone other than a player’s partner, that a player or team may act upon to gain an advantage or help them avoid a rules violation.

Reason: A definition of Coaching was included in the 2020 Referee Handbook, and some descriptors of Coaching were found in (2020) Rule 11.N. but there was no clear and comprehensive definition in the Rulebook. The definition includes the following: (1) Coaching is any information, including but not limited to verbal, nonverbal and electronic; (2) that the information must be actionable by the player or team who receives it; (3) that the information must have the potential to help the player or team gain an advantage or avoid a rules violation (e.g. win a rally, take a time out, or not commit a fault); (4) the information must come from someone other than the player’s partner, including spectators, volunteers, or officials.

3.A.3 Court – The area inside the outer dimensions of the baselines and sidelines.

3.A.4 Cross-Court – The Court diagonally opposite of the Court from which the ball was last struck.

3.A.5 Dead Ball – A ball that is no longer in play.

3.A.6 Distraction – Physical actions by a player that are ‘not common to the game’ that, in the
judgment of the referee, may interfere with the opponent’s ability or concentration to hit the
ball. Examples include, but are not limited to, making loud noises, stomping feet, waving the
paddle in a distracting manner or otherwise interfering with the opponent’s concentration or
ability to hit the ball.

3.A.7 Double Bounce – When the ball bounces twice on one side before it is returned.

3.A.8 Double Hit – Hitting the ball twice before it is returned.

3.A.9 New 2021 Ejection – A behavior violation so flagrant that it warrants Ejection from the tournament
by the Tournament Director. The player may stay at the venue but may no longer play in
any matches.

Reason: To provide a specific term relating to a Tournament Director’s decision to eject a player from a tournament.

3.A.10 New 2021  Expel – A behavior violation so flagrant that the Tournament Director prohibits the player from playing in any current and any future brackets of the tournament. In addition, the player shall leave the venue immediately and not return for the remainder of the tournament.

Reason: To provide a specific term and guidelines relating to a Tournament Director’s decision to Expel a player from a tournament.

3.A.11     fault – A rules violation that results in a Dead Ball and the end of the rally.

3.A.12    First Server – In doubles, the player who shall serve from the right/even service court after a side out, according to the team’s score.

3.A.13  New 2021 Forfeit – An egregious behavior violation or a combination of technical warnings and/or technical fouls that result in either a game or match being awarded to the opponent.

Reason: To account for the fact that forfeits can now be applied to games as well as matches.

3.A.14     Groundstroke – A strike of the ball after the ball has bounced.

3.A.15  New 2021 Hinder – Any transient element or occurrence not caused by a player that adversely impacts play, not including permanent objects. Examples include, but are not limited to, balls, flying insects, foreign material, players or officials on another Court that, in the opinion of the referee, impacted a player’s ability to make a play on the ball.

Hinder – Any element or occurrence outside of the player’s control that adversely impacts play. Examples include, but are not limited to, balls, flying insects, foreign material, players or officials from an adjacent Court that, in the opinion of the referee, impacted a player’s ability to make a play on the ball.

Reason: To clarify that a permanent object is not a potential hindrance which would result in a replay. Previous rules did not clarify that a permanent object cannot be considered a hindrance if it impacts a player’s ability to make a play on the ball. A pre-existing tennis net, acting as a barrier between two pickleball courts, is an example of a permanent object that cannot be considered a Hinder. In the interest of safety, players calling a Hinder due to players or officials on adjacent Court matches will be upheld.

    • Scenario A: the referee calls the score and while the server is starting her service motion, she drops the ball on her foot and the ball rolls to the side of the Court and under the bleachers. the referee should not stop the 10-second count (unless the team calls a time-out) because the ball rolling under the bleachers was caused by the server and is therefore not a valid Hinder.
    • Scenario B: In an officiated match, a player hits a sharp angle shot to the opponent’s Court. The ball is now heading towards an adjacent Court which has a match in progress. The receiving team player is running towards the adjacent Court in the hopes of making a play on the ball. In the interest of safety, the receiving team player stops their motion and does not hit the ball in an effort to avoid a collision. The player then claims a Hinder has occurred. In the judgement of the referee, the safety concern is a factor in the Hinder claim and the referee upholds the player’s request for a Hinder.
    • Scenario C: Same as Scenario B above except: 1) If in the judgement of the referee there was no safety issue, the Hinder claim by the receiving team player will not be upheld. 2) If the receiving player returns the ball and DOES NOT quickly/promptly/immediately call “Hinder”, the Hinder request will NOT BE upheld. Once the player returns the ball (basically “continuing on” with the rally) and does not call “Hinder” within a quick, reasonable amount of time, the window of opportunity to claim a Hinder has passed.
    • Scenario D: In a non-officiated match, after a rally has completed, all players agree that the cracked ball did impact the outcome of the rally. All players agree to a replay and the ball is re-served.

3.A.16  New 2021 Imaginary extension – A term used to describe where a line would extend if it projected beyond its current end point. Players and referees are to project where the line would extend if it were not limited to the boundaries of the playing area.

Reason: To provide a definition for a term that is used 8 times in the rulebook but has no written definition.

3.A.17     Left/Odd Court – The service area on the left side of the Court, when facing the net. The starting server in doubles or the singles server should be positioned on the left/odd side of the Court when their score is odd.

3.A.18     Line Call – A loud word(s) spoken by a player or line judge(s) to indicate to the referee and/or players that a live ball has not touched in the required Court space. The preferred word to indicate a Line Call is “out”. Distinctive hand signals can be used in conjunction with a Line Call. Words such as “wide”, “long”, “no”, “deep” are also acceptable.

3.A.19     New 2021  Live Ball/In Play: – The point in time when the referee or server (or server’s partner per rule 4.D.1) starts to call the score.

Live Ball/In Play: – The point in time when the referee starts to call the score.

Reason: To reflect that many matches do not have a referee and that the ball becomes “live” when the server, or the player designated to call the score, starts to call the score.

3.A.20     New 2021  MomentumMomentum is a property of a body in motion, such as a player executing a volley, that causes the player to continue in motion after contacting the ball. The act of volleying produces Momentum that ends when the player regains balance and control of their motion or stops moving toward the non-volley zone.

Reason: The term “Momentum” is used in the Rulebook in Section 9 to describe a type of non-volley zone fault. This new definition rule offers better guidance for making judgments on when actual volley Momentum ends. NVZ Momentum faults are judgment calls by a referee (or player per 13.D.1.b) on when Momentum has ended. Examples are, but not limited to; the player has regained their balance, the player has bodily control of their motion(s), the player has stopped moving toward the NVZ, etc.

3.A.21    New 2021 Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) – The 7-foot-by-20-foot area adjacent to the net and specific to each team’s end of the Court relating to NVZ faults. All lines bounding the NVZ are part of the NVZ. The NVZ is two-dimensional and does not rise above the playing surface. (See Figure 2-1 and Section 2.B.3.)

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) – The 7-foot-by-20-foot area adjacent to each side of the net. All lines bounding the NVZ are part of the NVZ. The NVZ is two-dimensional and does not rise above the playing surface. (See Figure 2-1 and Section 2.B.3)

Reason: This change is to clarify that the NVZ area pertains to each team’s side of the net for the purpose of calling NVZ faults, i.e., a team cannot commit an NVZ fault by touching the other team’s NVZ area after the ball is dead. This is further solidified by rules 9.E and 9.F.

Scenario: Team A player volleys an Erne shot outside their own NVZ but close to the net. The ball then hits the opponent on the leg and then the Team A player (caused by the Momentum from the volley) steps onto the opponent’s NVZ. This is NOT a fault because the ball was dead the instant it hit the opponent’s leg. The touching of the opponent’s NVZ after the ball is dead is of no consequence because a player can only commit an NVZ violation in their own NVZ; not the opponent’s NVZ.

3.A.22     Paddle Grip Adjustments – Non-mechanical devices that change the size of the grip or stabilize the hand on the grip.

3.A.23     Paddle Head – The paddle, excluding the handle.

3.A.24     permanent object – Any object on or near the Court, including hanging over the Court, that can interfere with play. Permanent objects include the ceiling, walls, fencing, lighting fixtures, net posts, net post legs, the stands and seats for spectators, the referee, line judges, spectators when in their recognized positions, and all other objects around and above the court.

3.A.25     New 2021  Plane of the Net – The imaginary vertical planes on all sides extending beyond the net system.

Reason: This definition was added due to several associated references in the rulebook. The net plane extends vertically above, below and on both the right and left sides of the net.

3.A.26     playing surface – The Court and the area surrounding the court designated for playing.

3.A.27     rallyContinuous play that occurs after the serve and before a fault.

3.A.28     Receiver – The player who is positioned diagonally opposite the server to return the serve. Depending on the team’s score, the player who returns the serve may not be the correct Receiver.

3.A.29     replay – Any rally that is restarted for any reason without the awarding of a point or a change of server.

3.A.30    New 2021 Retirement – A player/team’s decision that stops the match and awards the match to the opponent.

Reason: The prior definition of ‘Forfeit’ had two meanings; one behavior based, and one at the discretion of the players, most often associated with medical conditions. This defines those circumstances where the players voluntarily remove themselves from competition for reasons that are different than a forfeit.

3.A.31     Right/Even Court – The service area on the right side of the Court, when facing the net. The starting server in doubles or the singles server should be positioned on the Right/Even Court when their score is even.

3.A.32    Second Serve – In doubles, a term used to describe the condition when a serving team loses the first of its two allocated serves.

3.A.33     Second Server – In doubles, the first server’s partner. The Second Server serves after the First Server loses serve.

3.A.34     serve – The initial strike of the ball to start the rally.

3.A.35    server – The player who initiates a rally. Depending on the team’s score, it is possible that the player who serves may not be the correct server.

3.A.36     service court – The area on either side of the centerline, including the centerline, sideline, and baseline, excluding the NVZ.

3.A.37     Serving Area – The area behind the baseline and on and between the imaginary extensions of the Court centerline and each sideline.

3.A.38     side out – The awarding of the serve to the opposing team after a singles player or doubles team loses its serve.

3.A.39     starting server – For each doubles team, the player designated to serve first at the start of the game. In doubles tournament play, the starting server shall wear a visible form of identification determined by the Tournament Director.

3.A.40    New 2021 Technical Foul – A referee’s assessment of a rule or behavioral violation that results in one point being removed from the score of the offending team unless their score is zero, in which case a point shall be added to the score of the opposing side. A Technical Foul shall be issued if one technical warning has already been given and a second technical warning is warranted; or when warranted by a player’s or team’s action, based on the referee’s judgement.

Technical Foul – A referee’s assessment of a rule or behavioral violation that results in one point being awarded to the opposing team. A Technical Foul may be issued when one technical warning has already been given or when warranted by a player’s or team’s actions, based on the referee’s judgment.

Reason: The change to the point penalties minimize the chance that a Technical Foul could cause the loss of a match. This change also puts the burden of repositioning (due to the change in score) on the team that committed the violation (unless their score is zero) rather than their opponent.”

3.A.41     technical warning – A referee’s first verbal warning of a rule or behavioral violation given to a player or team prior to a Technical Foul being issued. Points are not awarded for a technical warning.

3.A.42     volley – During a rally, a strike of the ball out of the air before the ball has bounced.

3.A.43     Withdrawal – A player/team’s request to be removed from any upcoming play in a specified bracket.

3.A.44     New 2021  Profanity – Words, phrases or hand gestures, common or uncommon, which are normally considered inappropriate in “polite company” or around children. Typically included are four letter words used as expletives or verbal intensifiers.

Reason: To give a written definition of Profanity so as to help referees better determine when a technical warning or foul should be issued.

3.A.45     New 2021 verbal warning – A referee’s verbal warning (VW) is an optional, non-penalizing, game management tool. A VW is specific to Profanity which has not risen to the penalty level (TW or TF). When used, a referee’s VW is simultaneously administered to all players on the Court. Only one VW for Profanity is permitted during a match.

Reason: To give a written definition of a new term used in the technical warning section. This verbal warning is specifically associated with Profanity issues and does not pertain to any other technical warning or Technical Foul items. The advent of the verbal warning came about because of inconsistencies among referees; most have different thresholds for what they consider Profanity, which was unfair to players.

3.A.46     New 2021  Third Shot – After the Receiver hits the ball to return the serve, the point in time when the serving team hits the ball.

Reason: To give a written definition of a new term used when challenging a score call. The Third Shot occurs following the receiver’s return of serve, at the moment the serving team hits the ball to continue the rally.

3.A.47   New 2021  Wheelchair Player – Any person, with or without a disability, who plays the game in a wheelchair. The wheelchair is considered part of the player’s body. This can be a player with a disability or anyone that wants to play in a wheelchair.

Reason: This addition was based on a recommendation of a committee advising the Rules Committee on adaptive play.

 

Share with:



SECTION 4 – THE SERVE, SERVICE SEQUENCE, AND SCORING RULES

4.A.   The Serve.

4.A.1.   New 2021 The entire score must be called before the ball is served.

Reason: To remove the ambiguity between service motions and practice swings. This is part of the global goal to move all timing fault issues to a consistent point-in-time, the Serve of the ball. A player may move their serving arm in any manner as long as they don’t Serve the ball until the score has been completely called. Once the referee starts to call the score but before the score calling has ended, if a player serves the ball, a fault should be called per Rule 4.M.11.

Scenario A: the referee starts to call the score and the server serves the ball before the referee has finished calling the score. the referee should immediately call a fault per rule 4.M.11.

Scenario B: After a rally has ended, but before the referee starts to call the score, the server serves the ball. the referee should not call a fault since the ball is “dead”. the referee should remind the server to wait until the entire score has been called before serving the ball. This scenario is in accordance with new rule 8.E. which details that when we are in a dead ball situation, faults cannot be committed specifically because we are in a dead ball state of play.

4.A.2.   New 2021 The moment the ball is served:

4.A.2.a.  At least one foot must be on the playing surface behind the baseline.

4.A.2.b.  Neither of the server’s feet may touch the court on or inside the baseline.

4.A.2.c.   Neither of the server’s feet may touch outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.

4.A.2.d.  (Wheelchair) Both rear wheels must be on the playing surface behind the baseline and may not touch the court on or inside the baseline or outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.

Reason: This change removes the confusion about where a server’s feet must be at the start of the service motion as compared to the actual Serve. This rule simplifies the feet restrictions to the actual Serve of the ball. There is no longer a restriction on the server’s feet location when they start their service motion. The feet guidelines apply only to the moment the ball is served.

4.A.3.   The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc at the time the ball is struck and may be made with either a forehand or backhand motion. (See Figure 4-3.)

4.A.4.    The highest point of the paddle head must not be above the highest part of the wrist (where the wrist joint bends) when it strikes the ball. (See Fig 4-1 & 4-2)

Figure 4-1

4.A.5.  New 2021 Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist. (See Figures 4-1 and 4-3 above)

Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level (Waist is defined as the navel level). (See Figures 4-1 and 4-3 above)

Reason: Better clarity for referees on how to determine the applicable fault. It removes the ambiguity over waist vs navel.

4.A.6.  New 2021 Placement. The server must Serve to the correct service court (the court diagonally opposite the server). The Serve may clear or touch the net and must clear the NVZ and the NVZ lines. The Serve may land on any other service court line.

Placement. The server must Serve to the correct service court (the court diagonally opposite the server). The Serve may clear or touch the net and must clear the NVZ and the NVZ lines. The Serve may land on any other service court line.

Reason: The reason for this change is two-fold. First, it affirms that “let” Serve replays are no longer valid. Now, even if the Serve touches the net, as long as the Serve lands in the appropriate receiving court, the ball is live and no replay shall be called. This change is also part of the goal to reduce player and referee conflicts involved when a player calls a let and the referee does not agree. It also prevents receivers from calling phantom lets on ‘ace’ serves. In addition, it provides better clarity that the Serve must clear the NVZ lines as well as the area of the NVZ. Note: The NVZ is defined in the definition section, but several players have written to the USA Pickleball asking for better clarity of this rule.

4.A.7.  Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level (waist is defined as the navel level) (see Figure 4-1).

4.A.8.  New 2021 ***Provisional Rule*** Drop Serve. In addition to the standard Serve sequence described in Rules 4.A.1 to 4.A.7, players may opt to use an alternate “drop Serve” method.

Reasons:

      1. Provides a better Serve method for the physically impaired, such as the use of only one arm.
      2. Easier to enforce by players and referees. Referees only need to verify the ball is dropped correctly.
      3. Easier Serve to teach beginners.
      4. Provides an alternate Serve method for those who develop ‘server’s block’, otherwise known as the “yips.”
      5. Servers may use the normal Serve or provisional drop Serve at any time during the match. no notification is needed.

Note: Provisional means we will evaluate the rule for unintended or unexpected outcomes over the next year.

4.A.8.a. New 2021 Servers must release the ball from one of the server’s hands or dropped off the server’s paddle face from any natural (un- aided) height and hit the ball after the ball bounces on the playing surface. The server’s release of the ball must be visible to the referee and the receiver. In matches without a referee, the server’s release of the ball must be visible to the receiver. A replay shall be called before the return of Serve if the release of the ball is not visible. The rules for feet placement (4.A.2 and 4.L) still apply.

Reason: Same as 4.A.8. Note: The only downward acceleration imparted on the ball is that from gravity.

Scenario A: In a match with a referee, the server turns their back slightly before
performing a “drop Serve”. the referee sees the server release the ball, but the receiver cannot see the release. The server serves, but before the return of Serve, the receiver claims they could not see the release of the ball. the referee calls for a replay and informs the server that they need to make the release of the ball visible to both the referee and receiver.

Scenario B: A server has been using the drop Serve since the start of the game. the referee calls the score and the player drops the ball to perform a drop Serve. After the ball bounces, the server grabs the ball and then serves the ball in the “normal” fashion and does so within the 10-second count. After the rally has ended, the receiver claims that the server committed a fault by “switching serving styles” after the score had been called. the referee explains that there is no rule restricting the server from “switching serving styles” after the score has been called. the referee explains that as long as the ball is served within the 10-second count, either style, including attempting both styles, is allowed.

Scenario C: The server releases the ball and the ball bounces twice on the ground and then the server serves. Since there is no written fault for letting the ball bounce twice (or more) before serving, the referee should NOT call a fault.

4.A.8.b. New 2021 Before bouncing on the ground, the ball shall not be propelled (thrown) downward or tossed or hit upward with the paddle. Failure to drop the ball properly will result in a fault. There is no restriction on where the ball can land on the playing surface after it is dropped (providing 4.A.2 is satisfied) nor how many times within the 10 seconds after the score is called the server may drop the ball.

Scenario: The server (illegally) propels the ball downward. The server realizes what he did would result in a fault when he serves. After the bounce, the server grabs the ball, raises it in the air, and then releases the ball legally. After the bounce the server now serves the ball. the referee does NOT call a fault. Note: It is not a fault for simply propelling the ball downward if there is no Serve. The fault is applied if the illegal downward propelling of the ball results in a Serve occurring.

4.A.8.c.  New 2021 If the drop Serve is used, the ball may be struck with either a forehand or backhand motion without any other restriction; i.e., the location restrictions of the ball and paddle in Rules 4.A.3, 4.A.4 and 4.A.5 do not apply.

4.B. Player Positions.

4.B.1. server and receiver. The correct server and receiver and their positions are determined
by the score and the players’ starting positions in the game.

4.B.2. At the start of each game, the starting server begins the Serve from the side of the
court dictated by the score.

4.B.3. Each player will Serve until a rally is lost or a fault is declared against the player or
team.

4.B.4. As long as the server holds Serve, after each point the server will alternate serving
from the right/even
and left/odd sides of the court.

4.B.5. Singles.

4.B.5.a. If the player’s score is even (0, 2, 4 …), the Serve must be made from the right/even
serving area and be received in the right/even service court by the opponent.

4.B.5.b. If the player’s score is odd (1, 3, 5 …), the Serve must be made from the left/odd serving area and be received in the left/odd service court by the opponent.

4.B.5.c. After the server loses the rally or faults, a side out will occur and service is awarded
to the opponent.

4.B.6.     Doubles. Both players on a team will Serve before a side out is declared, except at the start of each game, when only the starting server will Serve. The starting server of each game is therefore designated as “server 2” for scoring purposes, since a side out will occur once a rally is lost or a fault is committed by the serving team and service is awarded to the opposing team.

4.B.6.a.  At the start of each side out, service begins in the right/even serving area.

4.B.6.b. When the team’s score is even (0, 2, 4 …), the team’s starting server’s correct position is at the right/even serving area. When the team’s score is odd (1, 3, 5…), the starting server’s correct position is at the left/odd court.

4.B.6.c.  After each side out, service begins with the player correctly positioned on the right/even side of the court according to the team’s score. This player is referred to as “server 1” and the partner is “server 2.”

4.B.6.d. server 1 will Serve, alternating service sides after each point is won, until a rally is lost or the server’s team commits a fault.

4.B.6.e.  After server 1’s team loses a rally or faults, server 2 will Serve from the correct position and will alternate serving positions as long as the serving team continues to win points.

4.B.6.f.  The receiving team does not alternate positions when a point is scored by the serving team. The receiving team may switch positions after the return of Serve, but after the rally is over, the receiving team must return back to their correct positions, which correspond to the team’s score and the players’ starting positions.

4.B.7.    Partner Positions. In doubles, there is no restriction on the position of the partners of the correct server and receiver as long as they are on their respective team’s side of the net. They can be positioned on or off the court.

4.B.8.     Before the Serve occurs, the serving team may ask the referee for the score, correct server, correct position, and may challenge/confirm the called score. Any player on the serving team may ask any one or more of these questions.

4.B.9.    New 2021 Before the Serve occurs, the receiving team may ask the referee for the score, correct receiver, correct position, and may challenge/confirm the called score. Any player on the receiving team may ask any one or more of these questions.

Prior to the start of the service motion, to determine the correct server and correct service court, the serving team may ask the referee for the score and correct server.

Reason: This change is part of multiple rule changes moving all timing issues to a consistent point-in-time; before the next Serve occurs. It also reinstates the allowance for players to ask for their correct position and/or challenge/confirm the called score. This change works in conjunction with the server who changes courts and the possible conflicts that arise. The goal is to reduce player and referee conflicts that occur before the ball is served. An additional intent for the change is to prevent the serving team from “quick serving” the receiving team when the serving team asks any of the allowed questions. See below Scenario B. This change is consistent with the guideline that anytime any player asks a score, correct player, or correct position question, the referee will pause play, (i.e., call “Time”, raise their hand/step into the court thereby creating a dead ball) answer the player(s) question(s) and then recall the score (no 15-second notification is necessary). Per Rule 8.E, no faults can be committed during this dead ball time.

Scenario A: the referee calls the correct score. The server asks if she is the correct server (or score, or correct position). the referee stops play (i.e., calls “Time” or steps in and raises hand), confirms that she is the correct server and states that he will recall the score. Before the referee starts to recall the score, the server serves the ball. the referee has the ball returned to the server. The opponents claim that the server committed a fault by serving before the entire score had been called. the referee reminded everyone that the ball was dead when he stopped play and that he had not started to call the score (creating a live ball). Since the ball was dead, the server did NOT commit a fault by serving.

Scenario B: the referee calls the correct score. As the server is starting their service routine, the server’s partner asks the referee to confirm their score. the referee calls, “Time”, confirms that the serving team’s score and then states that he will recall the score. Before the Serve, anytime a players asks a score/position/player question, the referee will stop play, answer the question(s) and recall the score.

Note: If, after the referee recalls the score, the serving team then changes service courts, rule 4.E.2. procedures will apply.

4.B.10. New 2021: Before the Serve occurs, the receiving team may ask the referee for the score,
correct receiver, correct position, and may challenge/confirm the called score. Any player on the
receiving team may ask any one or more of these questions.

Reason: This change is part of the multiple rule changes moving all timing issues to a consistent point in time; before the next Serve occurs. It also reinstates the allowance for players to ask for their correct position and/or challenge/confirm the called score. While it would be rare for a receiver to ask if they are in the correct position, the goal was to allow any player to be able to ask any question of the referee including any questions about the called score. This change is consistent with the guideline that anytime any player asks a score, correct player, or correct position question, the referee will pause play, (i.e., call “Tim e ”, raise their hand/step into the court thereby creating a dead ball) answer the player(s) question(s) and then recall the score (no 15-second notification is necessary). Per Rule 8.E, no faults can be committed during this dead ball time. An additional intent for the change is to prevent the serving team from “quick serving” the receiving team when the receiving team asks any of the allowed questions. See below:

Scenario: the referee calls the correct score. Before the Serve occurs, the receiver’s partner starts to ask if the receiver is the correct receiver. During the time when the receiver’s partner is asking the question, the Serve occurs. Since the referee’s attention is on the server, the referee immediately calls, “Time” in order to properly answer the receiver’s partner’s question. the referee confirms that the receiver is correct and states that they will recall the score. The serving team claims that the receiver’s partner committed a fault by asking a question when the Serve occurred. the referee states that the start of the question being asked occurred BEFORE the Serve occurred, which is allowed by rule. (This is the same as a time-out being called before the Serve occurs) The same as the serving team, the receiving team is allowed to ask any of the permitted questions; and they are allowed to have those questions answered without incurring a risk of being quick served. If the receiving team repeatedly asks similar questions of the referee, and the referee determines that the receiving team is trying to delay the game, or interrupt the momentum of the serving team, the referee may call a technical warning for delay of game on the receiving team. In summary, the receiving team is protected from being quick served, but not allowed to control the pace and flow of the match.

 

4.B.11.  New 2021 When an incorrect player serves or receives, or a player serves from an incorrect position, the referee will immediately stop play and identify the fault(s).

Reason: To reinforce that the possibility of more than one fault may be called on a player or team. This change also reflects the removal of questions a referee cannot answer. Since the changes to 4.B.9 and 4.B.10 allow for a player to ask any or all questions to the referee, the restriction on what the referee is allowed to answer has been removed.

Scenario A: The incorrect server is serving from the incorrect position. the referee calls the score and the server serves. the referee calls “fault” and explains BOTH faults that occurred (wrong server and wrong position) since both faults were committed at the same time.

Scenario B: The incorrect server is setup to Serve to the incorrect receiver. the referee calls the score and the incorrect server serves. the referee immediately calls “server fault, wrong server.” the referee does NOT mention that the incorrect receiver was setup to receive Serve as this would be coaching the receiving team. Since the incorrect receiver NEVER returned the Serve, no fault was committed by the receiving team.

Scenario C: The incorrect server is serving to the incorrect receiver with a score of 4-4-2. the referee does not “notice” that both server and receiver are incorrect. the referee calls the score; the incorrect server serves; the incorrect receiver returns the Serve. Then, the server’s partner catches the ball and tells the referee that the receiver was incorrect. After examination, the referee then realizes that both the server and receiver were incorrect. the referee admits his mistake and calls a fault on the incorrect server only! If the referee had done his job, he would have called the incorrect server fault the moment it occurred and the ball would be dead immediately and no other faults can be committed after the ball is dead (NVZ exception noted). (Commentary: You are the referee. Should you call a fault on both teams? If so, would you call “side-out” on the serving team, , , and then call a fault on the receiving team and award a point to the serving team, , , , , to whom you had just called for a side-out? (no) Also, if you call a fault on the incorrect server, and then call a fault on the incorrect receiver, should you not also call a fault on the server’s partner for stopping a live ball? (no) When we “rewind the tape”, in reality the ball would/should have been dead the instant after the incorrect server served the ball. A referee mistake should not open a pandora’s box of multiple faults being improperly assessed.)

4.B.12 New 2021: Incorrect Player or Position.  When an incorrect server or player position is discovered after a rally, game, or match has ended, the offending team can be faulted until the next Serve occurs or prior to the scoresheet being returned to the tournament operation’s desk. A point scored during the rally will not count. Any previous points scored by the incorrect server or with players in the incorrect positions will stand. After a match is completed, an incorrect player or position error may not be corrected after the scoresheet has been returned to tournament operations personnel.

Reason: This change is part of the goal to move all timing faults (start of score call, end of score call, start of service motion, Serve of ball, etc) to a consistent point-in-time, the Serve of the ball. It also provides clarity that after a game or match has completed, the error may be corrected before the scoresheet has been returned to tournament operations personnel. It further states that that an incorrect player/position error can be corrected after a rally; after a game; or after a match.

Scenario A: An incorrect server serves at 10-9-1 and wins the point and the first game with a score of 11-9. After the 2-minute break, the referee calls “Game 2, time-in, 0-0-2”. Before the Serve occurs, the receiver calls “time-out” and it is brought to the referee’s attention that there was an incorrect server fault that had occurred in game 1. the referee realizes their mistake and applies the incorrect server fault to game one, because the error was discovered before the next Serve of game 2 had occurred. the referee resets back to game one, removes the last point scored and calls a fault on the incorrect server. The team now serves at 10-9-2 to continue game 1.

Scenario B: In game 3, Team A serves with an incorrect server at 10-5-1 and wins the game. After the match is completed, the referee is walking back to the operations desk to return the scoresheet. A losing team player tells the referee they think an incorrect server served the ball on the last, winning point of game three. the referee agrees that he made a mistake. Since the scoresheet had not been returned to tournament operations personnel, the referee corrects his mistake and calls for all players to return to the court. After all players return, the referee informs everyone of his mistake and resets back to game 3, removes the last point scored and calls a fault on the incorrect server and states that Team A will be serving at 10-5-2.

When an incorrect server or player position is discovered after a rally, the offending team can be faulted until the next Serve occurs. A point scored during the rally will not count. Any previous points scored by the incorrect server or with players in the incorrect positions will stand.

4.C.        Readiness. Any player may indicate “not ready” prior to the start of the score being called.

4.C.1.     One of the following signals must be used to indicate “not ready”: 1) raising the paddle above the head, 2) raising the non-paddle hand above the head, 3) completely turning their back to the net.

4.C.2.     After the start of the score being called, “not ready” signals will be ignored, unless there is a hinder. A player or team out of position is not considered a hinder.

4.D.        Calling the Score. The score shall be called after the server and receiver are (or should be) in position and all players are (or should be) ready to play.

4.D.1.   If it appears the server or receiver is delaying the game, the referee will call the score to start the 10- Second Rule.

4.D.2.  New 2021 In non-officiated play, the server normally calls the score, but the server’s partner may call the score if the server is unable to call the score. The person calling the score shall not change during the game.+

Reason: The change allows for those rare circumstances where the server is unable to
call the score. The server and server’s partner should not alternate who calls the score for convenience sake or in an attempt to confuse the opponents. For that reason, once the serving team alters the normal convention of the actual server calling the score, it should remain in place until the end of the game.

Scenario: In a non-officiated match, the server’s partner has been calling the score for the entire game. After an opponent’s time-out, play resumes and the server inadvertently calls the score and serves. The receiving team reminds the serving team that the server’s partner had been calling the score and needs to remain as the score calling player. They replay the rally with no fault applied. The intent: This rule allows for a server who is having difficulty calling the score to give that responsibility to their partner. The partner needs to call the score for the entire game. If out of habit the server accidentally calls the score, no penalty will be assessed. The rally shall be replayed with the server’s partner calling the score.

4.E.         The 10-Second Rule. Once the score has been called, the server is allowed 10 seconds to Serve the ball.

4.E.1.      If the server exceeds 10 seconds to Serve, a fault will be declared.

4.E.2.   New 2021  After the score has been called, if the serving team changes serving courts, the referee shall call “Time”, allow all players to reposition, and then recall the score to re-start the 10-second count. In a non- officiated match, the server will allow for the same repositioning and will recall the score to re-start the 10 second count.

Reason: This change is part of the goal to reduce player and referee conflicts that
happen before the ball is served. It removes the confusion and debate that was caused concerning the receiving team needing time to reposition verses the serving team running out of the 10-second count because they could not decipher their correct service court. It also works in conjunction with players being allowed to ask score, correct player and position questions and thereby reducing the frequency that the serving court changes will occur. The instruction for the referee to call “Time” was added to ensure that if by chance the server does happen to Serve the ball, no fault will be applied because the ball was immediately dead when the referee called “Time” and is not live/in-play again until the restart of the score call. (Rule 8.E)

Scenario: The server is positioned in the incorrect service court and the receiving team is aligned accordingly. the referee calls the score and starts the 10-second count. The server starts the service motion and then stops and asks if she is in the correct position. the referee should call “Time” and reply that she is NOT in the correct position. The server switches service courts. the referee instructs that he will allow time for the receiving team to reposition and then recall the score. The serving team quickly repositions. While the receiving team is getting into the proper position, the server serves the ball to the receiving team’s side. (Note. This is not an actual Serve. A Serve can only happen when the ball is live.) the referee instructs the receiving team to return the ball and reminds the server that he (the referee) will recall the score to restart the rally. no fault was committed in this entire scenario. The server did not run out of the 10-seconds because play was halted when the correct position question was asked (causing the referee to call “time”). The server also did not commit a fault by hitting/serving the ball before the referee had recalled the score: When the referee called “Time”, the ball was dead and per Rule 8.E. no faults (except NVZ violations) can be committed during a dead ball.

After the score has been called, if the serving team changes serving courts, causing the receiving team to be incorrectly positioned, the referee shall allow the receiver time to reposition and the score shall be re-called to restart the 10-second count. In a non-officiated match, the server will allow for the same repositioning.

 

4.F.         Scoring. A singles player or doubles team scores points only when serving. Points may also be scored when technical fouls are called against the opposing side.

4.G.        Points. A point is scored by serving the ball and winning the rally.

4 H.        Winning the Game. The first side scoring the winning point wins.

4.I.          Calling the Score in Singles Matches. The proper sequence for calling the score is server score then receiver score as two numbers. (e.g., “one – zero.”)

4.J.         Calling the Score in Doubles Matches. The score is called as three numbers in doubles matches. The proper sequence for calling the score is: serving team’s score – receiving team’s score – the server number (one or two), (e.g., “zero – one – one”). To start each game, the score will be called as “zero – zero – two.”

4.K.       New 2021 Wrong Score Called. If the server or referee calls the wrong score, any player may stop play before the “third shot” occurs to ask for a correction.

Reason: This rule expands the window of time that players are allowed to challenge a possible incorrectly called score and extends it to the “third shot” point-in-time. Since the server is allowed to start their service motion during the calling of the score and potentially Serve the ball the “split second” after the score has been called, this gives all players an extended amount of time to process and decide if they want to challenge the called score. Note that this rule change specifically does not follow the goal of moving all timing or appeal issues to the Serve of the ball. The reason is that if a referee calls an incorrect score and then a 50-dink rally ensues, the option to have a replay and have a player “play the wrong score called card” to ensure a replay, should not be an option. This is why the window of time to challenge an incorrectly called score ends when the third shot occurs.

Scenario: the referee calls an incorrect score. The server serves and the receiver returns the ball into the net. The receiver then claims that the referee called the wrong score. the referee agrees that he did call the incorrect score and calls for a replay due to referee error. Even though the receiver returned the ball into the net, the claim of an incorrect score call did happen before the third shot had occurred. Even though in this scenario the third shot never occurred, there is the possibility that the incorrect score call impacted the receiver’s concentration to return the ball.

Wrong Score Called. If the server or referee calls the wrong score, any player may stop play before the return of Serve to ask for a correction.

4.K.1.     If the score called was incorrect, the player or referee will recall the correct score and the ball will be re-served with no penalty.

4.K.2.   New 2021  After the Serve has occurred , a player who stops play and challenges the called score when there is no error will have committed a fault

Reason: This change aligns with the global goal of moving all timing rules to the  moment of Serve contact. Since players are permitted to ask/challenge/confirm any score related concerns before the Serve occurs, once the Serve occurs, any player that stops play to challenge the called score will have committed a fault, providing the score had been called correctly. *Scenario B below illustrates how a referee should avoid the “pitfall” of getting into a conversation with a player after the Serve has occurred.

Scenario A: the referee calls the score “10-8-1” and the server serves the ball. The receiver
returns the ball and then yells, “Wait, wait, wait!” thereby stopping play. The receiver claims
that the referee had called the wrong score. the referee agrees that he called the wrong score and says “Referee error” and states he will recall the score.

Scenario B: the referee calls the score, “5-5-2” and the server serves the ball. As the ball is
crossing the net headed towards the receiver, the receiver’s partner looks at the referee (standing close by) and asks, “We have 6 don’t we?” the referee ignores the question and the receiver returns the ball and the rally ensues. Note: Once the ball has been served, to avoid the potential that the referee will interject themselves and stop play unnecessarily, the referee is not compelled to answer question(s) by a player. the referee effectively “ignoring” questions asked by any player will result in one of two results: 1) The rally will continue as normal, 2) The player(s) will escalate their concerns and eventually stop play (catching the ball, raising a hand halting play, etc). After the Serve, once a player(s) has stopped play and challenges the called score, either the referee has made an error in the score call and a replay will be called, or, if the referee has called the correct score, the player(s) who stopped play will have committed a fault. This guideline removes the potential for “player and referee discussions” that could arise after the ball has been served.

After the score has been called, a player who stops play to challenge the score when there is no error will have committed a fault.

4.K.3.   New 2021  A player who stops play after the “third shot” occurs will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally.

Reason: This change reflects the expansion of the window of time allowed for any player to challenge the called score. After the third shot has occurred, any player that stops play will be faulted.

Scenario A: After a third shot has occurred, the receiver stops play and says that the referee had called the wrong score. the referee confirms that he had called the wrong score, but that the challenge happened after the third shot had occurred. the referee calls a fault on the receiver per 4.K.3.

Scenario B: The starting server is serving from the right-hand court with a score of 6-4-2. the referee calls an incorrect score of “7-4-2”. The (correct) server serves; the receiver returns; and the server hits the “third shot”. Then the receiver’s partner stops play and claims that the referee had missed an incorrect server due to the called score of 7-4-2. After examination, the referee confirms that she had indeed called the wrong score, but the server was, in actuality, the correct server. She explains that the only error that had been committed was by herself (the referee) when she had called the incorrect score. Since the receiver’s partner stopped play after the third shot had occurred, this is a fault per rule 4.K.3. (Note: Although some might consider helpful to remind the receiving team to always “finish the rally” and then correct any wrong score called or incorrect server/position errors, this would be considered coaching and is not encouraged.)

A player who stops play after the return of Serve will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally.

4.L.         Service Foot Faults. During the Serve, when the ball is struck, the server’s feet shall:

4.L.1.     Not touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the sideline.

4.L.2.     Not touch the area on the wrong side of the imaginary extension of the centerline.

4.L.3.     Not touch the court, including the baseline.

4.M.     Service Faults. During the service, it is a fault against the server resulting in loss of Serve if:

4.M.1. The server serves from the incorrect serving area.

4.M.2. In doubles, the incorrect player serves the ball.

4.M.3. New 2021 The served ball touches any permanent object before it hits the ground.

Reason: The exceptions listed (net, receiver, receiver’s partner) are not permanent objects and should not have been listed in the rule.

The served ball touches any permanent object other than the net, the receiver, or the receiver’s partner before it hits the ground.

4.M.4. The served ball touches the server or their partner, or anything the server or their partner is wearing or holding.

4.M.5. New 2021 The served ball lands in the non-volley zone which includes the NVZ lines.

Reason: This addition helps clarify that the NVZ lines are part of the actual NVZ without having to look up the definition of NVZ.

The served ball lands in the non-volley zone.

4.M.6.  The served ball lands outside the service court.

4.M.7.  The served ball hits the net and lands inside the non-volley zone.

4.M.8.  The served ball hits the net and lands outside the service court.

4.M.9.     The server uses an illegal Serve (Rules 4.A.3, 4.A.4, 4.A.5) when not performing the Provisional Drop Serve. (Rule 4.A.8)

4.M.10. New 2021 The server or their partner calls a time-out after the Serve has occurred.

Reason: This change is part of the goal to move all timing faults to a consistent point-in-time which is the Serve of the ball.

The server or their partner calls a time-out after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.

4.M.11. New 2021 A fault occurs when the server hits the ball to make the Serve while the score is being called.

Reason: This new rule complements and assigns a fault penalty if rule 4.A.1 has been violated (serving before the entire score is called) The rule has a definite start point and end point on when a fault can be called for serving too early. After a rally has ended, the ball is dead until the score starts to be called. Per rule 8.E, when the ball is dead, no faults can be called; therefore, if a server serves before the start of the score call, there is no penalty.

Scenario A: the referee starts to call the score and the server serves the ball before the referee has finished calling the score. the referee should immediately call a fault.

Scenario B: After a rally has ended, but before the referee starts to call the score, the server serves the ball. the referee should not call a fault since the ball is “dead”. the referee should remind the server to wait until the entire score has been called before serving the ball. This scenario is in accordance with new rule 8.E. which details that when we are in a dead ball situation, faults cannot be committed specifically because we are in a dead ball state of play.

4.N.     receiver Faults. It is a fault against the receiving team resulting in a point for the server if:

4.N.1.    The incorrect player returns the Serve.

4.N.2.    The receiver or the receiver’s partner is touched by or interferes with the flight of the ball before it bounces.

4.N.3. New 2021 The receiver or their partner calls a time-out after the Serve has occurred.

Reason: This change is part of the goal to move all timing faults to a consistent point-in-time which is the Serve of the ball.

The receiver or the receiver’s partner calls a time-out after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.

4.O.     Service Lets. There is no limit to the number of lets a server may Serve. The Serve is a let and will be replayed if:

4.O.1.    The Serve touches the net, strap, or band and is otherwise good and lands in the service court.

4.O.2.    the referee calls a service let.

4.O.3.    Any player may call a service let. If the referee determines that a let called by a player did not occur, a fault will be declared against the offending player. 2021 RULE CHANGE

Removed: The definition (3.A.18) and section 4 (Service Lets) have been removed. Starting in 2021, there will be no rule(s) governing service lets. Service Lets have been removed. It is noted that out of habit, both referees and players may sometimes habitually call a service let. If any player stops play because of a service let being called, that player/team will have committed a fault per rule 7.I.

Reasons: Each year there is probably one rule change that is more controversial than the others. This year, we expect the change to the ‘let’ Serve rule to fall in that category.

Many have questioned, “Why?” It’s a normal and expected question that deserves an answer. The reason behind this change was only considered after careful thought. It was not a capricious or arbitrary decision. What follows is an attempt to provide an explanation.

Those opposed to the change may not have their opinion changed, but at least one will know what was behind the decision.

The Rules Committee Considerations

The Rules Committee is committed to the following priorities when they approve rules:

  1. The first priority is preserving the integrity of the game. Nothing is more important to the committee than that.
  2. Second priority is what is best for the players; are there rule changes the committee can make to improve their experience, make it easier for players to learn, to play, etc.
  3. Third priority is what’s best for officiating; what can the committee do in rules space to make it less likely that players will argue with or get into conflicts with referees.

Those are the priorities applied to rule making – in that exact order. Now, let’s examine this rule change under the microscope of those three priorities.

First Priority? Preserve the integrity of the game.

If there is a rule in the game that can invite active or passive cheating at worst or prevent inaccurate calls at best, shouldn’t every player expect the Rules Committee to address it – for the good of the game? Can you think of anything that would damage the integrity of the game more than active or passive cheating? The Rules Committee cannot and will not let the game everyone enjoys be damaged by even a very small number of players who might usurp a rule to their advantage now or in the future. The future is, admittedly, more important in this change than the present case. That is perhaps why many may have a hard time initially understanding why this change has been enacted. The ‘let’ Serve rule opens up a loophole for inaccurate, (intentional or otherwise) calls. The Rules Committee is closing it.

Consider this scenario: You are in the winner’s bracket, three wins away from the MXD gold medal match where a Golden Ticket to Nationals awaits the winning team. This match does not yet qualify for a referee. This is an MMP National Qualifier event at the 3.5 level. You are serving for match point, up 10-9 in game three. You Serve wide and catch the receiver leaning the wrong way. He hits his return of your Serve wide and erroneously and immediately yells, “Let!”. You know there was no ‘let’ Serve but there’s nothing you can do about it. In the 2020 Rulebook, you MUST play a replay. It does no good to appeal to the Head Referee or Tournament Director because it’s a judgment call. You have just lost your match-point Serve to someone who has made a horrible call and you know it. Is there any doubt where your mind will be at that instant and how long it will take you to reset after that obvious, blatant call? As the stakes get higher and higher for pros and amateur players who play in qualifying tournaments, whether for money or Golden Tickets, this loophole is a potential threat to the game. Pickleball Hall of Fame member Steve Paranto perhaps said it best, “This type of call on ‘let’ serves has already happened. This rule change eliminates any chance of inaccurate calls entirely.” The Rules committee is getting out in front of this potential before it becomes a bigger issue. Money in the pro and senior pro level and higher stakes for amateur players will change our game in ways most haven’t even thought about. But, the Rules Committee has. One can argue the extent to which this exists in our sport today, but no one can deny that money and high stakes can change player behavior, intentionally or not. That is a key point in this discussion; how behavior can change when the stakes of a game increase. So, we can argue whether this is an overreaction for what exists now, but that’s not the full picture. The higher the stakes, the more inaccurate are player judgment calls. It’s an aspect of human behavior that is difficult to refute.

Note: for those who think the bigger threat here are line calls, the Rules Committee also made a subtle and small, but important, wording change in the line call rules as well, for much the same reason.

Second Priority? What is best for the players

If there is a rule that can eliminate conflict between or among players in a match, shouldn’t the Rules Committee consider it? Conflict on the court does NOT enhance the player experience. This rule completely eliminates player conflict over whether or not a served ball hits the net. Completely. no more arguments, no more conflict. In recreational play, this rarely results in conflict because most just accept the replay. Not an issue. But in tournament play? Yes, it has caused conflict because one team calls a ‘let’ the other team doesn’t agree with. A lot? no, but as said above, this change is to get out in front of a stronger potential in the future. Next up? Referees.

Third Priority? What’s best for officiating.

If there is a rule that will eliminate conflicts between players and referees, shouldn’t the Rules Committee consider it? Service ‘lets’ have caused several player and referee conflicts. In matches with a referee, players have called service ‘lets’ that have not been confirmed by the referee. By rule, those are faults on the player for calling a ‘let’ that the referee did not also detect. Furthermore, many referees had adopted a practice of touching the net during the Serve to ‘detect’ service ‘lets’ and then moving back into their normal position. Because not all referees use it, that practice introduced an undesired inconsistency among referees. Additionally, some players complained because the movement of the referee back into position, however slight, can be distracting, which is itself another potential source of referee/player conflict. Players have written complaints to USA Pickleball asking that the practice be stopped. This rule change completely eliminates that type of conflict as well. A final note about the referee aspect of this. Notice where it falls on the priority list. Last. Just where it belongs. So, it would be incorrect to place more importance on this reason for the change than it deserves.

Scenario A: the referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. the referee immediately yells “Let”. the referee after realizing her mistake, says “Referee error” and calls for a replay. She then reminds everyone that “service lets” do not exist.

Scenario B: the referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. The receiver yells “Let” and catches the ball. the referee shall call a fault on the receiver per rule 7.I. (stopping a live ball before it becomes dead) and remind all players that “service lets” do not exist.

Scenario C: the referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. The receiver yells “Let” but also happens to return the ball to the serving team. A serving team player catches the ball because they heard the word “let” and thought a replay would occur. the referee shall call a fault on the serving team per rule 7.I. (stopping a live ball before it becomes dead) and remind all players that “service lets” do not exist. This is NOT a case for a distraction fault on the receiving team because the receiving team yelled “let” well before the ball had crossed back to the serving team’s side, and, well before the serving team was about to play the ball.

Scenario D: the referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. The receiver returns the ball. After the ball has crossed back to the serving team’s court and just as the server is about to make a play on the ball, the receiver’s partner loudly yells “Let” just as the original server was about to hit the ball. Upon hearing the opponent yell “Let”, the referee calls a distraction fault because the receiver’s partner committed a distraction fault as the server was about to play the ball.

Share with:



SECTION 5 – SELECTION OF END, SERVE, RECEIVE, OR DEFER RULES.

5.A. Selection of End, Serve, Receive, or Defer.

5.A.1. New 2021:  Any fair method shall be used to determine which player or team has first choice of end, Serve, receive, or defer (i.e., a 1 or 2 written on the back of the score sheet). If the winner chooses to Serve or receive first, the loser chooses the starting end. If the winner chooses the starting end, the loser chooses to Serve or receive. Once a selection has been made, it cannot be changed.

Reason: This change combines the two 2020 rules (5.A.1 and 5.A.2) for simplicity and clarity.

Any fair method shall be used to determine which player or team has first choice of end, Serve, or receive, (i.e., a 1 or 2 written on the back of the score sheet). If the winner chooses to Serve or receive first, the loser chooses the starting end. If the winner chooses the starting end, the loser chooses to Serve or receive. The winner can defer first choice to the opponent(s).

5.A.2.    In doubles, teams may change the starting server between games and should notify the referee. In non-officiated matches, the team should notify the opponents if there was a starting server change. There is no fault or penalty for failure to make the notifications. Once a game has started and, if any points have been scored, when the referee notices a starting server has changed, the referee will stop play and annotate the scoresheet accordingly and resume play.

Reason: This change, in conjunction with other rule changes, is for the elimination of possible “gotcha” fault that can occur before the first Serve happens. The Intent: Changing starting servers is an error of omission rather than commission. It is a clerical issue pertaining to the scoresheet and should not impact the game. To help avoid confusion or issues that may arise during the game, the referee should verify the starting servers before each game. Note: While this change does shift more of the responsibility to the referee, the “changing” team still bears some responsibility as noted in Scenario B below.

Scenario A: At the beginning of game 2, the serving team changes their starting server player along with the starting server band. They do NOT notify the referee or opponents. Before starting game 2, the referee notices the change in starting servers and confirms the same with the serving team and then notifies the opponents. After confirmation, the referee makes the corrections to the scoresheet and proceeds as normal. The changing team is not faulted simply because they did not give notification.

Scenario B: After game 1 has ended, Team A notifies the referee and opponents that they are changing the starting server (along with the starting server band). the referee makes the changes to the scoresheet accordingly. When game 2 begins with Team A serving, Team A “forgets” they had changed their starting server and the “no Band” player (the starting server in game 1) serves from the right-hand court after the referee starts the game and calls the score. the referee calls an incorrect server fault on Team A. All parties were made aware of the starting server change and the referee had adjusted accordingly on the score sheet. Although the referee should verify the starting server, it is not the referee’s responsibility to ensure the starting server is the player who serves: Team A simply “made a mistake” and should be faulted accordingly.

In doubles, teams may change the starting server between games by notifying the referee. In non-officiated matches, the team should notify the opponents. Failure to give notification will result in a fault when the offending server serves, or the offending receiver returns the Serve. After the fault has been applied, the offending team shall notify the referee which player will wear the starting server identification. In a non-officiated match, the opponents shall be notified of the starting server decision.

5.A.3.    In doubles, the starting servers must visibly wear the form of identification determined by the Tournament Director.

5.B.   Change of Ends.

5.B.1.    Sides and initial service will be switched upon the completion of each game.

5.B.2.    The maximum of 2 minutes is allowed between games. the referee will announce a 15-second warning and then call the score after the full 2 minutes has elapsed and apply the 10-Second Rule even if all players are not on the court and/or not ready to play. See Rule 4.E.

5.B.3.    In a match with two out of three games to 11 points, in game three, sides will be switched when the first team reaches a score of 6. Serve remains with the player holding Serve.

5.B.4.    In a game to 15 points, sides will be switched when the first team reaches a score of 8. Serve remains with the player holding Serve.

5.B.5.    In a game to 21 points, sides will be switched when the first team reaches a score of 11. Serve remains with the player holding Serve.

5.B.6.  New 2021: End Change Time-Out. A maximum of one minute is allowed to switch ends during a game. Rule 10.A.5 procedures will be followed to continue play.

Reason: Third-party coaching is now allowed during end changes because it was difficult to detect and enforce. The revised rule also treats the return to play similar to other time-outs with respect to the 15 second warning and potential for returning to play early.

A maximum of 1 minute is allowed to switch ends during a game. During this time, players may communicate with each other, but no third-party coaching is allowed. When time has expired, the referee will announce “Resume play”, call the score and start the 10 second count. the referee will call the score even if all players are not on the court and/or not ready to play. (See Rule 4.E.) If both teams agree, play may resume early.

5.B.7.   New 2021:  After the end change has occurred, a technical foul resulting in the loss of a point for the serving team shall have no impact on the completed end change.

Reason: To clarify that a point reduction assessed to a team as a result of a technical foul shall have no impact once the teams have performed the necessary end change.

Scenario A: In the third game of a match, Team A scores their 6th point and the end change procedures begin. Team A then commits a technical foul. the referee charges Team A with a technical foul and informs everyone that Team A now has 5 points. the referee continues on with the end change as normal. Team A realizes that with having a score of 5, they will need to Serve from the proper position. Note: Since Team A scored their 6th point BEFORE they committed the technical foul, the end change should happen as normal and not be “reversed” because Team A, now, only has 5 points.

Scenario B: In a game to 15, Player A (the starting server for Team A) is serving at 7-7-2 and Team A wins the rally. The score is now 8-7-2 and the referee calls for the end switch and the teams change ends. Player A is now set to Serve from the right-hand court at 8-7-2, but the partner commits a technical foul. the referee calls the technical foul and removes one point from Team A’s score. the referee informs both teams that they will continue to play on their current ends. the referee calls the score at 7-7-2 and Player A (the starting server) serves from the right-hand court. the referee calls an incorrect server position fault on Team A for serving from the wrong position and a side out occurs.

Share with:



SECTION 6 – LINE CALL RULES

6.A.     A served ball that clears the non-volley zone and lands in the correct service court or on any correct service court line is in.

6.B.     Except the serve, any ball in play that lands in the court or touches any court line is in.

6.C:     A ball contacting the playing surface completely outside of the court is “out”.

6.D.      Code of Ethics for Line Calling. Pickleball is played according to specific rules. It also requires a code of ethics for line-calling responsibilities when performed by players. The line-calling responsibilities of players are different from those assigned to referees or line judges. The officials make impartial judgment calls with all players’ interests in mind. The player, when assigned line-calling duties, must strive for accuracy and operate under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent.  The basic elements are:

6.D.1.    New 2021: Players are responsible for calling the lines on their end of the court (excluding short serves, service foot faults and all non-volley-zone faults, if being called by a referee). If a player makes an initial line call, and then asks for either the opponent(s) or the referee’s opinion, if the opponent or referee can make a clear “in” or “out” call, the clear call will stand. If no clear call can be made, the initial line call by the player will stand. A call made by the opponent can be appealed to the referee for a final “in” or “out” decision.

Reason: If a player makes a line call, and then out of sportsmanship asks for either the opponent’s or referee’s opinion, if the referee or opponent can’t make a clear in or out call, then the initial line call made by the player/team will stand. The opponent may still appeal to the referee even though they could not make a clear in or out call. A served ball that clears the non-volley zone and lands in the correct service court or on any correct service court line is in.

Scenario A: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks for the opponent’s opinion and then the referee’s opinion. The opponent and referee cannot make a clear call. The initial “out” call from the player stands.

Scenario B: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks the opponent’s opinion. The opponent says that they clearly saw the ball as in. The opponent’s “in” call will stand.

Scenario C: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks the opponent’s opinion. The opponent says that they clearly saw the ball as in. The opponent’s “in” call will stand. The receiving player then asks the referee if they can make a call. the referee says they cannot make a clear call, so the opponent’s “in” call will stand.

Scenario D: A singles player makes an initial “out” call, but then asks the opponent’s opinion. The opponent says that they clearly saw the ball as in. The opponent’s “in” call will stand. The player making the initial “out” call then appeals to the referee to make a call. the referee says they clearly saw the ball land out. The referee’s “out” call overrides the opponent’s “in” call. A player always has the right to appeal to the referee for a final decision.

6.D.2.   Players’ only line call is the centerline on the serve in matches that have line judges.

6.D.3.  New 2021: The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made. Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.” A player cannot claim a replay because the ball was not seen or there is uncertainty. A player who does not make a call may appeal to the referee to make the call if they did not clearly see the ball land. If the referee is unable to make the call, the ball is “in.” The moment the receiving player/team appeals to the referee, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally.

The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made. Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.” A player cannot claim a replay because the ball was not seen or there is uncertainty. A player who does not make a call may appeal to the referee to make the call if they did not clearly see the ball land. If the referee is unable to make the call, the ball is “in.” The moment the receiving player/team appeals to the referee, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally.

Reason: This clarifies that the player losing the right to make a subsequent call only pertains to the specific rally that had just ended. The Intent: A player may ALWAYS appeal to the referee. A player may appeal to a referee or opponents if no one has seen the ball land.

Scenario: Peter is playing against Paul in a singles match. The ball is hit close to Peter’s sideline and goes by Peter. Peter did not see the ball and cannot make a call. Peter appeals to the referee. the referee says she did not clearly see the ball land. At this point, the ball is considered “in” on Peter. Peter then asks for Paul’s opinion. If Paul can make a clear call, it must be accepted. If Paul cannot make a clear call, the ball in considered “in” on Peter. Note: This scenario is similar to Rule 6.D.6. Peter was not going “call shopping” but rather trying to find someone who actually saw the ball land. Peter gave up his right to make a call the instant he appealed to the referee. Since the referee did not see the ball land, it is acceptable to ask for the opponent’s opinion.

6.D.4.   Spectators should not be consulted on any line call.

6.D.5.  New 2021: A player should not question an opponent’s call, although any player may appeal a call to the referee before the next serve occurs.

A player should not question an opponent’s call, although any player may appeal a call to the referee before the complete score is called to start the next rally.

Reason: This change is part of the multiple rule changes moving all timing issues to a consistent point in time; before the next serve occurs.

6.D.6.  New 2021: A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make the line call on the player’s side of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is ruled as being “in” on the receiving team. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent’s opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally. The receiving team/player may also appeal to the referee to make a clear call. If the referee cannot make a clear call, the outcome of the opponent’s ruling will stand.

A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make a line call on the player’s end of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is considered “in”. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent’s opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call.

Reason: This rule adds that if the opponents make a clear “in” or “out’ call, or if the opponents can’t make a call and the ball is ruled as being “in” on the receiving team, the receiving team may still appeal to the referee for a final ruling. If the referee cannot make a clear call, then the outcome of the opponent’s decision or ruling must be upheld by the referee.

Scenario A: A receiving team does not make a line call on a ball that is on their side of the net. They ask for the opponent’s opinion and the opponent says they clearly saw the ball as “in”. The ball shall be considered “in” on the receiving team. A receiving team player then appeals to the referee for a final ruling. the referee cannot make a clear call, so the opponent’s “in” call will stand.

Scenario B: The receiving team does not make a line call on a ball that is on their side of the net. They ask for the opponent’s opinion and the opponent says they clearly saw the ball as “in”. The ball shall be considered “in” on the receiving team. A receiving team player then appeals to the referee for a ruling. the referee makes a clear “out” call and the receiving team wins the rally.

6.D.7.   New 2021:  Players shall not call a ball “out” unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits the ground.

Players should not call a ball “out” when looking across a line, unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits. The player’s depth-of-field judgment, based on the laws of parallax, prevents accurate judgment in these cases.

Reason: The discussion of parallax was removed from the rule because it is primarily an astronomical term used for judging the distance to distant stars and does not apply to pickleball calls. Furthermore, depth of field is an optical term about focus and has nothing to do with location.

Some will think the part of the rule that remains is a newly crafted rule when, in fact, it has always been the central part of Rule 6.D.7. But,it is now highlighted as the key determinant in making line calls. This removes the need for any discussion surrounding the size of the contact point and estimating where the ball contacts the court surface. This rule deserves a more thorough discussion why it is the key determinant in making line calls.

For some, what follows will be a change in thinking:

Players should consider all balls that land on their side of the net are in…..unless they can be certain that the ball landed out.

That statement is exactly what’s behind existing rules 6.D and 6.D.3.

Here is 6.D:

“The player, when assigned line-calling duties, must strive for accuracy and operate under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent.”

And here is 6.D.3:

“Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.”

So, the next logical question is: “How do you tell if a ball is in fact ‘out’ with certainty?

But, before that question gets answered, why the focus on certainty? That’s because if we aren’t certain, there’s doubt. If a player is estimating, guessing, approximating, or assuming the ball is ‘out’, there is, by definition, doubt. And, if there’s doubt, as players we must rule in favor of our opponents. Again, back to rule 6.D.3:

“The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made.”

Scenario A: You and your partner are playing together. You are returning serve. Your partner is up at the net. The server serves the ball to you and you are concentrating foremost on returning the serve, not on where the ball hits. Your partner, however, turns and watches where the ball lands. You return the ball, but your partner is able to call it out not because they are guessing or assuming it’s out, but because they are certain it is out. They are certain it is out because they can see space between the ball and the line (Rule 6.D.7). Seeing that space is the ONLY way to be certain the ball is out. Otherwise, guess what? It’s in.

Scenario B: Your partner is on the odd side of the court, you’re on the even. Your opponents hit the ball and the ball straddles the left sideline. Just like you returning serve, all your partner can see is that the ball hits close to the line. Your partner cannot call it out because some of the ball overlaps the line; they cannot see the contact point. Your partner may be pretty sure it’s out, but they are not certain because they cannot actually see where the ball and the court contact point is; it’s hidden. So, because they don’t see space between the ball and the line, your partner HAS to play it. You, however, may be able to see space and call it out because you have a better view than your partner does. But, if you don’t see space, you cannot call it out either. This means is that you and/or your partner may very well be playing actual ‘out’ balls from time to time. Neither of you see that space, so you must assume it is ‘in’ and have to play it. But, that is what giving the benefit of the doubt to your opponents is all about.

6.D.8.  New 2021: All “out” calls must be made “promptly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play. “Promptly” is defined as calling “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.

All “let” or “out” calls must be made “promptly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play. “Promptly” is defined as calling “let” or “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.

Reason: The word “let” was removed due to let server replays being omitted this year

6.D.9.   In doubles play, if one player calls the ball “out” and the partner calls it “in,” then doubt exists and the team’s call will be “in.” Any player may appeal a call to the referee. If the referee did not see the ball, the ball is considered in.

6.D.10.  New 2021: “out” line calls should be promptly signaled by voice and/or hand signal (as described in Rule 13.E.2).

out” line calls should be promptly signaled by voice and may include a hand signal (See Rule 13.E.2.), regardless of how obviously the ball is “out.” People who are Deaf or hard of hearing are allowed to use hand signals only.

Reason: This change reflects that “out” calls should be made by voice and/or hand signals. Hand signals are helpful to players with impaired hearing as well as players who cannot verbalize “out” calls. The accepted hand signals are: 1) arm extended parallel to the court with palm down for “in” balls, 2) outstretched arm pointing in the direction of the out-of-bounds ball path for “out” calls.

6.D.11.   While the ball is in the air, if a player yells “out,” “no,” “bounce it,” or any other words to communicate to their partner that the ball may be out, it shall be considered player communication only and not considered a line call.

6.D.12.   An “out” call made after the ball bounces is a line call. The ball is dead and play shall stop. If, upon appeal, the referee overrules any type of “out” call, it is a fault against the player or team that made the “out” call. Exception: If the match has line judges, the baseline and sideline judges are responsible for the call. (See Rule 13.E.)

6.D.13. New 2021: After the completion of a rally, players may overrule a partner’s line call, an officiating team’s line call, or an opponent’s “in” call to their own disadvantage.

Players may call faults on themselves or line calls to their disadvantage during or after the completion of a rally. This includes overriding a line judge’s call if it is to their disadvantage.

Reason: This change reflects the new rule 13.D.1.c (which states players should call faults on themselves). The section concerning fault calls was removed which is now covered by 13.D.1.c. It expands the 2020 rule and states that a team may overrule an opponent’s line call, an officiating team’s line call (including a referee’s line call who also is a member of the officiating team) and even their own partner’s line call if it is to their team’s disadvantage

Scenario: Player A hits a ball to Player B, and Player B does not see the ball land and does not make a call. Player B then appeals to the referee to make a call. the referee says that the ball landed “in”. Player A then says the ball actually landed “out”. Even though the referee made an “in” call ruling, Player A may still overrule the referee to their own disadvantage. Player B is awarded the rally. Note: Allowing a player to overrule a referee’s call does not imply that the referee made a wrong call. It adds that a player may overrule a referee’s call if it is to their own disadvantage.

Share with:



SECTION 7 – FAULT RULES

SECTION 7 – FAULT RULES

A fault (and resulting dead ball) will be declared for the following:

7.A.        If the serve or service return does not bounce before the ball is struck.

7.B.        New 2021: Hitting the ball into the player’s side of the net without the ball crossing over to
the opponent’s side. Note: The ball is dead and the fault occurs the moment the ball hits
the ground.

Hitting the ball into the player’s side of the net without the ball crossing over to the opponent’s side. Note: The play is dead and the fault occurs the moment the ball hits the ground.

Reason: This change notes the difference in the ball verses the play becoming dead. The scenarios below describe the reasons why the ball is not dead until it hits the ground as compared to the time when the ball hits the net.

Scenario A: Team A hits a hard shot and the ball hits the top of the net and spins on the top of the net for an abnormal amount of time. While the ball is spinning on the top of the net, a Team B player (who was attempting an Erne) crosses the plane of the net before the ball finally falls to the court on Team A’s side of the net. This is a fault on the Team B player because he had crossed the plane of the net before the ball became dead when it hit the ground.

Scenario B: Team A hits a hard shot and the ball hits the top of the net and spins on the top of the net for an abnormal amount of time. While the ball is spinning on the top of the net, a Team B player shakes the net and causes the ball to fall to the ground on the hitter’s side. This is a fault on the Team B player because he touched the net while the ball was still live. If the rule stated that the ball was dead when it hit the net (and subsequently does not cross over to the opponent’s side) then the moment the ball touched the net it would be considered dead thereby allowing the opponent to shake or grab the net, which cannot be allowed.

7.C.        Hitting the ball under the net or between the net and the net post.

7.D.        A player hitting a ball that first lands out of bounds or onto their own side of the court.

7.E.         Failure of a standing player to hit the ball before it bounces twice on the receiving player’s court and failure of a wheelchair player to return a ball before it bounces three times.

7.F.         Violation of any service rule. (Section 4)

7.G.        New 2021: A player, a player’s apparel, or a player’s paddle contacting the net system, the net posts, or the opponent’s court, when the ball is in play.

A player, a player’s apparel, or a player’s paddle contacting the net system or the net posts when the ball is in play.

Reason: This provides in writing the clarity that anything touching the opponent’s court when the ball is in play results in a fault.

7.H.      New 2021: After the serve, the ball contacts a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying, except the paddle or the player’s hand(s) in contact with the paddle and below the wrist. If the player is in the process of changing hands with both hands on the paddle or is attempting a two-handed stroke and either hand is hit below the wrist, as long as the player’s hands are in contact with the paddle, the ball is still in play.

The ball in play contacts a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying, except the paddle or the player’s hand(s) in contact with the paddle and below the wrist. If the player is in the process of changing hands with both hands on the paddle or is attempting a two-handed stroke and either hand is hit below the wrist, the ball is still in play.

Reason: This change removes the possibility of a fault if the server had dropped the ball and it contacted either the server’s body or the server’s partner’s body. This would have been a fault since the ball was live at the start of the score calling. It also reaffirms the concept of a player’s hands being in contact with the paddle and hit below the wrist as still being a live ball.

Scenario: Player A hits the ball to Player B. Player B has their right-hand on the paddle grip and their left-hand loosely in contact with the top edge of the paddle. The ball hits Player B’s left-hand on the fingers and goes back over the net. Player A then hits the ball into the net but claims that Player B had committed a fault by hitting the ball with their fingers. The referee rules that both of Player B’s hands were in contact with the paddle and that the ball hitting the fingers was a legal application of rule 7.H. Player B wins the rally.

7.I.        A live ball that is stopped by a player before it becomes dead. (e.g., catching or stopping a ball in flight before it makes contact with the playing surface.)

7.J.         A ball in play contacting any permanent object before bouncing on the court.

7.K.        Violation of the non-volley-zone rules. (Section 9)

7.L.         Violation of the other rules. (Section 11)

7.M.       Once the ball is in play, a player hitting the ball before it passes the plane of the net.

7.N.      New 2021: After the serve, a player deliberately carrying or catching the ball on the paddle while the ball is live/in-play.

A player deliberately carrying or catching the ball on the paddle while the ball is live/in-play.

Reason: This change allows the server to “sling” the ball upward on the face of the paddle to begin the serve, rather than tossing the ball upward with their non-serving hand. The Intent: To allow players to have as little physical contact with the ball as possible related to the spread of certain diseases.

7.O.        New 2021: A hinder called by a player that is determined by The referee to be invalid.

A hinder or let called by a player that is determined by The referee to be invalid.

Reason: This change removed the word “let” because let serve replays have been omitted. A serve hitting the net and landing in the proper receiving court area is still in play.

Share with:



SECTION 8 – DEAD BALL RULES

SECTION 8 – DEAD BALL RULES

DEAD BALL RULES

8. A. Any action that stops play will result in a dead ball.

8. B. New 2021: A fault called by a referee or player, or a fault committed by a player, will result in a dead ball.

A fault called by a referee or player will result in a dead ball.

Reason: This change defines the actual timing of when a fault has occurred. The moment in time when a referee/player calls the fault may be slightly different than when the actual fault was committed. The ball is instantly dead the moment the fault occurs, regardless of when the referee/player may choose to verbalize the fault call. It reinforces in other sections that when a player commits a fault, the ball is immediately dead.

Scenario: Matthew volleys an erne shot that hits Mark in the chest. As the ball is falling to the ground, Matthew touches the net. After the ball hits the ground, the referee calls a fault on Mark for being hit with the ball. Mark now claims that Matthew had committed a fault (by touching the net) before the ball became dead when the referee said “fault”. the referee explains that the ball was instantly dead when it hit Mark, and that the referee’s verbalization of the word “fault” is not the determining factor on exactly when the ball was dead. the referee rules a fault on Mark and awards the rally to Matthew.

8. C. A hinder called by the referee or player will result in a dead ball. the referee will determine if the hinder called by the player was valid. A valid hinder will result in a replay.

8. D. New 2021: A ball in play that contacts a permanent object after it has bounced on the opponent’s court will result in a dead ball. The player who hit the ball shall win the rally.

A ball in play that contacts a permanent object after it has bounced on the court will result in a dead ball. The player who hit the ball shall win the rally.

Reason: This change, and the addition of the word “opponent’s” is in conjunction with the modification of rule 11.K and further clarifies which court is referenced when applying this rule.

8. E. New 2021: Other than non-volley zone violations, faults may only be committed when the ball is live and in-play. The penalty for a fault may be enforced after a rally has ended (i.e., NVZ, incorrect player/position, etc) Note: Technical warnings or technical fouls may be called at any time during the match including when the ball is dead.

Reason: This addition puts in writing and clears up confusion about when faults occur compared to when they may be enforced. It specifically states that faults can only be committed (NVZ exceptions noted) when the ball is live. Once a fault occurs, the ball is immediately dead and no other faultable actions can be penalized (other than NVZ violations). An example is when a player goes for an Erne and hits the opponent with the ball, then steps onto the opponent’s court. The stepping onto the opponent’s court is not a fault because the ball was dead instantly when it hit the opponent; and the resulting stepping on the opponent’s court is of no consequence specifically because the ball was instantly dead when it came in contact with the opponent. It also reinforces that when a referee has stopped play or called “Time”, this constitutes a dead ball state of play and no faults (crossing the plane, touching the net, stepping onto opponent’s court, serving early) can be committed or penalized; NVZ exception noted.

Scenario A: the referee calls the correct score and starts the 10-second count. The server changes service courts and the referee calls “Time” and instructs that players will be allowed to re-position and the score will be recalled. After the server changes courts and while the receiving team is repositioning, the server “serves the ball”. The opponents claim that the server committed a fault by serving the ball before the referee had recalled the score. the referee informs that when “Time” was called, the ball was dead and a serving early fault cannot be committed when the ball is dead. the referee allows for everyone to get into position and recalls the score without assessing a penalty.

Scenario B: A team has been playing all day long without a referee. In the bronze medal match, they are assigned a referee. After a rally has ended, but before the referee starts to call the score, out of habit, the server serves the ball. the referee should not call a fault since the ball is “dead”. the referee should remind the server to wait until the entire score has been called before serving the ball.

Share with:



SECTION 9 – NON-VOLLEY-ZONE RULES

SECTION 9 – NON-VOLLEY-ZONE RULES

NON-VOLLEY-ZONE RULES

  1. A. All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone. For a wheelchair player, the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone during a volley9.B. It is a fault if the volleying player or anything that has contact with the volleying player while in the act of volleying, touches the non-volley zone. For a wheelchair player, the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone

9.B.1.     The act of volleying the ball includes the swing, the follow-through, and the momentum from the action.

9.B.2.    If the paddle touches the non-volley zone during the volley motion, before or after contacting the ball, it is a fault.

 

  1. C. New 2021: During the act of volleying, it is a fault if the volleying player’s momentum causes the player to contact anything that is touching the non-volley zone, including the player’s partner. For a wheelchair player, the front (smaller) wheels may touch the non-volley zone.

It is a fault if the player’s momentum causes the player to contact anything that is touching the non-volley zone, including the player’s partner.

Reason: This addition helps to clarify which player the rule is describing and also puts in writing that this rule applies only to volleys.

9.C.1.     It is a fault even if the ball becomes dead before the player contacts the non-volley zone.

  1. D. If a player has touched the non-volley zone for any reason, that player cannot volley a return until both feet have made contact with the playing surface completely outside the non-volley zone. A maneuver such as standing within the non-volley zone, jumping up to hit a volley, and then landing outside the non-volley zone is a fault. If the rear wheels of a wheelchair have touched the non-volley zone for any reason, the wheelchair player cannot volley a return until both rear wheels have made contact with the playing surface outside the non-volley zone.

    9. E. A player may enter the non-volley zone at any time except when that player is volleying the ball.

    9. F. A player may enter the non-volley zone before or after returning any ball that bounces.

    9. G. A player may stay inside the non-volley zone to return a ball that has bounced. There is no violation if a player does not exit the non-volley zone after hitting a ball that bounces.

    9. H. There is no violation if a player returns the ball while their partner is standing in the non-volley zone.

Share with:



SECTION 10 – TIME-OUT RULES

SECTION 10 – TIME-OUT RULES

 

  1. A. Standard Time-Out. A player or team is entitled to two time-outs for 11- or 15-point games and three time-outs for a 21-point game.

10.A.1. Each time-out period may last up to 1 minute.

10.A.2. Play must be resumed at 1 minute or when all players are ready to resume play, whichever occurs first, unless another time-out is called by either side. Rule 10.A.5 procedures will be followed to resume play during a standard time-out.

10.A.3.  New 2021  If a team has any remaining time-outs, any player on that team may call a time-out before the next serve occurs.

Time-outs may not be called once the referee has called the score and the server has begun the service motion.

Reason: To maintain the goal of making all timing issues having a consistent point-in-time with the serve of the ball. This gives 2 audible signals for the referee to make a determination; the verbal “time-out” call and the “pop” of the ball on the paddle. Also, this change is part of the multiple rule changes moving all timing issues to a consistent point in time; before the next serve occurs.

Scenario: the referee calls the score and is waiting for the server to serve. Just before the server hits the ball, the referee hears the initial “T” sound of the words “Time-out” called by the receiver. The server claims that the receiver had committed a fault by calling a time-out after the serve. the referee informs the server that she heard the “start” of the time-out call (the “T” sound) before she saw and heard the ball hit the paddle on the serve. the referee allows the time-out called by the receiver and follows procedures accordingly.

10.A.4.  New 2021: Before the serve occurs, if a team calls a time-out while having no time-outs remaining, no penalty shall be called.

There is no penalty for calling a time-out when none is available if all other time-out rules are complied with.

Reason: To maintain the goal of making all timing issues having a consistent point-in-time with the serve of the ball.

Scenario A: The receiving team is out of time-outs. After the score is called but before the serve