Serving in pickleball game
To begin the game, the ball is served diagonally over the net. The server will stand behind the service line of the right-hand service square and hit the ball underhand and below the waist. Furthermore, the server cannot bounce the ball off the ground before hitting it. In order for the serve to be considered in play, it must clear the seven-foot no volley area and land in the service court left of where the server is standing.
The server will alternate from right to left service areas after each service point, but unlike tennis where the server gets two attempts, only one serve is allowed in pickleball. However, if the ball hits the net and lands in play, the server gets another attempt.
1.1. The serve
1.1.1. The entire score must be called before the server begins his or her service motion.
1.1.2. The service motion begins with the server’s arm movement initiating the swing, backward or forward, to contact the ball.
1.1.3. At the beginning of the service motion, both feet must be behind the baseline and the imaginary extensions of the baseline. At the time the ball is struck, the server’s feet may not touch the court or outside the imaginary extension of the sideline or the center line and at least one foot must be on the playing surface or ground behind the baseline.
1.1.4. The ball must be struck without bouncing it. A person with a physical disability, such as having the use of only one arm, may bounce the ball before making the service motion.
1.1.5. 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.
1.1.6. 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.
1.1.7. Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level (Waist is defined as the navel level).
1.1.8. Placement. The server must serve to the correct service court (the court diagonally opposite the server). The serve must clear the net and the NVZ. The serve may land on any other service court line.
1.1.9. If the serve clears the net or hits the net and then touches the receiver or the receiver’s partner, it is a point for the serving team.
1.2. Player positions
1.2.1. Server and Receiver. The correct server and receiver and their positions are determined by the score and the players’ starting positions in the game.
1.2.2. At the start of each game, the starting server begins the serve from the side of the court dictated by the score.
1.2.3. Each player will serve until a rally is lost or a fault is declared against the player or team.
1.2.4. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- After the server loses the rally or faults, a side out occurs and service is awarded to the opponent.
- 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 fault is committed by the team and service is awarded to the opposing team.
- At the start of each side out, service begins in the right/even serving area.
- 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.
- 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 his or her partner is “Server 2.”
- Server 1 will serve, alternating service sides after each point is won, until a rally is lost or fault is called on the server’s team.
- 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.
- 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 receiver must return back to the correct position, which corresponds to the team’s score and the players’ starting positions.
1.2.7. Partner Positions. In doubles, there is no restriction on the position of the partners of the 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.
1.2.8. 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.
1.2.9. Prior to the start of the service motion, to determine the correct receiver and correct position, the receiving team may ask the referee to confirm the score.
1.2.10. The referee will not correct players’ positions and will not confirm players questions about their position but may respond to questions about positioning with “You have X points” or “Your score is X”. 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.
1.2.11. Incorrect Server or Player Position. 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.
1.3.1. Any player may indicate “not ready” prior to the start of the score being called.
1.3.2. Not-Ready Signals. 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.
1.3.3. 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.
1.4. Calling the score
1.4.1. 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.
1.4.2. If it appears the server or receiver is delaying the game, the referee will call the score to start the 10-Second rule. See 1.5.
1.4.3. Any player may call a time-out before the service motion has begun. See 1.1.2.
1.5. The 10-second rule
1.5.1. Once the score has been called, the server is allowed 10 seconds to serve the ball.
1.5.2. The service motion must not start until the score has been called in its entirety.
1.5.3. If the server exceeds 10 seconds to serve, a fault will be declared.
1.5.4. 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 re-start the 10-second count. In a non officiated match, the server will allow for the same repositioning.
- If no attempt was made, the referee will determine if the receiver had a valid reason.
- A valid reason will result in a service replay. Some valid reasons are court safety issues or hinders that occur as the ball is served.
1.6. Service foot faults
During the serve, when the ball is struck, the server’s feet shall:
1.6.1. Not touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the sideline.
1.6.2. Not touch the area on the wrong side of the imaginary extension of the centerline.
1.6.3. Not touch the court, including the baseline.
1.7. Service Faults
During the service, it is a fault against the server resulting in loss of serve if:
1.7.1. The server serves from the incorrect serving area.
1.7.2. In doubles, the incorrect player serves the ball.
1.7.3. The served ball touches any permanent object other than the net, the receiver, or the receiver’s partner before it hits the ground.
1.7.4. The served ball touches the server or server’s partner, or anything the server or server’s partner is wearing or holding.
1.7.5. The served ball lands in the non-volley zone.
1.7.6. The served ball lands outside the service court.
1.7.7. The served ball hits the net and lands inside the non-volley zone.
1.7.8. The served ball hits the net and lands outside the service court.
1.7.9. The server begins the service motion before the entire score is called.
1.7.10. The server uses an illegal service motion.
1.7.11. The server or his/her partner calls a time-out after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.
1.7.12. The serving team asks the referee to confirm the correct server and/or the team’s score after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.
1.8. Receiver faults
It is a fault against the receiving team resulting in a point for the server if:
1.8.1. The incorrect player returns the serve.
1.8.2. The receiver or the receiver’s partner is touched by or interferes with the flight of the ball before it bounces.
1.8.3. The receiver or the receivers partner calls a time-out after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.
1.8.4. The receiver signals “not ready” after the score has been called.
1.8.5. The receiving team asks the referee to confirm the score after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.
1.9. 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:
1.9.1. The serve touches the net, strap, or band and is otherwise good and lands in the service court.
1.9.2. The referee calls a service let.
1.9.3. Any player calls a service let. If the referee determines that a service let called by a player did not occur, a fault will be declared against the offending player.
1.10. Selection of End, Serve, Receive, or Defer
1.10.1. 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).
1.10.2. Once a selection has been made, it cannot be changed.
1.10.3. 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.
1.10.4. In doubles, the starting servers must visibly wear the form of identification determined by the Tournament Director.
1.11. Change of Ends
1.11.1. Teams switch ends and initial service upon the completion of each game.
1.11.2. A maximum of 2 minutes is allowed between games. The referee will announce a 15-second warning. When the full 2 minutes have elapsed, the referee will state the game number, call “Time in”, 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. If both teams agree, play may resume early.
1.11.3. In a match with two out of three games to 11 points, in game three, the teams will switch ends when the first team reaches a score of 6. Serve remains with the player holding serve.
1.11.4. In a game to 15 points, the teams will switch ends when the first team reaches a score of 8. Serve remains with the player holding serve.
1.11.5. In a game to 21 points, the teams will switch ends when the first team reaches a score of 11. Serve remains with the player holding serve.
1.11.6. 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. If both teams agree, play may resume early.