The Court

The Basics

  • Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles, most commonly as doubles.
  • Each point begins with an underarm serve
  • The serve is performed diagonally beginning at the right-hand service square.
  • The serve must clear the non-volley-zone
  • The serve must bounce before being hit by the receiver
  • The return of serve must also bounce before being hit.
  • The serving position alternates with each serve when a point is won.
  • Volleys can only be performed outside of the Non-volley zone – The Pickleball Non-Volley Zone Rules Video
  • Volleys can only be made after the 2 Bounce Rule has been followed.

The Serving Process

At the start of each new game, only one player in the 1st serving team has the opportunity to serve and score points until a fault occurs..

Thereafter both members of each team will serve and fault before the ball is turned over to the opposing team. When a team wins the serve, the player in the right-hand court will always start play.

  • Server 1 serves until a point is lost
  • Server 2 then repeats this process.

The first server is the person standing at the right hand service square.

  • One attempt per service.
  • The server alternates their position after every serve when a point is won.
  • The server continues to serve until they lose a point while serving.
  • The second server then serves, alternating position until they lose a point on their serve.
  • The serve then goes to the opposition.

Faults

A fault is any action that stops play due to a rule violation. 

A fault by the receiving team results in the servers earning a point.

A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of service and/ or side out.

A fault is committed when the ball:

  • touches any part of the non-volley zone (including the line) or is hit out of bounds during the serve
  • does not clear the net
  • is volleyed from the non-volley zone
  • is volleyed before a bounce has occurred on each side
  • is hit out of bounds
  • strikes a player or a permanent object before bouncing on the court

OR when:

  • the player, their clothing or paddle make contact with the net during play
  • the player, their clothing or paddle make contact with the NVZ during a volley.

Scoring

  • A team shall score a point only when serving.
  • The server calls the score.
  • A player who is serving shall continue to do so until a fault is made by his/her team.
  • The game is played to 11 points, however a team must win by 2 points.
  • When playing doubles:
    • Each player on a team shall keep serving until their team makes a fault, then the serve moves to the opposing team – this is called a Side Out.
    • At the start of each new game, the 1st serving team is allowed only one fault (one person serves).

Calling the Score

This is often the most confusing part of the game but not difficult and you will master it quite quickly once you have played a few games.

The guidelines for scoring are:

  • The server calls the score.
  • When calling the score the server’s score is called first.
  • When playing doubles:
    • The score is called followed by either number 1 or 2 indicating whether Server 1 or Server 2 is serving.
    • E.G.  6 – 4, 1
      • This indicates that the serving team has won 6 points
      • The receiving team has won 4 points
      • 1 indicates the first server is calling – if they lose the point (the team commits a fault)
    • The score becomes 6 – 4 , 2 
      • 2 indicates the second server is serving
      • The number 2 being called indicates that when a point is lost (a fault occurs) the ball goes to the other team to begin serving.

The Double Scoring Confusion

At the beginning of a doubles game only one team member is given the opportunity to serve.

So when calling their serve it begins as 0 – 0 Start  OR 0 – 0, 2

This number 2 being called indicates that after losing their serve the ball goes to the opposition.

Find a  complete guide to the rules of Pickleball at: IFP Official Rules – USAPA Pickleball

The Strategies

This is a very simple summary of the basic strategies behind an effective game of pickleball.  It focuses solely on doubles strategy as this is the most common form of play and differs greatly from singles strategy.  A good start is to watch the following video of a single point with a simple analysis of the strategies used to play effective doubles.

VIDEO

Single Point Strategy Analysis

OPENING SEQUENCE

The opening sequence strategy for most pickleball points can be seen in the diagram.

  1. A deep serve to keep the receiver back as long as possible
  2. A deep return which allows the receiving team the advantage of getting to the NVZ line first.
  3. The long dink which minimises the opponents attacking opportunities and allows the serving team to also get to the NVZ line.

FURTHER STRATEGIES AND TIPS

Other strategies to get your doubles game improving are:

  • Consistent and accurate serving and returning of the ball are crucial if you are to get to the NVZ line and have an impact on the game.
  • Allow the forehand player to have primary responsibility for shots coming down the middle
  • Anticipation of return shots to cover potential angles
  • Use angles, placement and control with your shots over power and speed to achieve success
  • Continue to include soft hands and dinks to reset points – See video to understand this fully
  • Always face the ball on the other side of the net
  • Work to push your opponents back in the court, off the NVZ line
  • Play shots down the middle of the court to create confusion between the opponents.

FURTHER VIDEOS

Have a look at The Pickleball Channel 411 for a wide range of videos to help you with the development of your game.