Pickleball is essentially a mix of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Two to four different players use a wooden paddle to hit a polymer ball over a net, like in table tennis. Although some pickleball rules are the same as tennis, badminton, and table tennis, some rules may differ. So, who serves first in pickleball?
The player who serves first in pickleball gets decided by flipping a paddle, a coin, or anything that gives each team a 50/50 chance. When playing in a tournament, the ref will do the flipping/choosing, but this choice can be made between the players in casual play.
Pickleball rules are plenty, and many of them are pretty strict if you wish to follow them correctly. Serving, scoring, and other rules like penalties or fouls are relatively complex to follow. If someone wishes to play a game of pickleball with their friends casually or participate in a tournament, it is important to learn what the rules are and how the game should ideally work.
How Does Serving Work In Pickleball?
A player or team of two can score only when their team is serving in pickleball. Therefore, if you are returning the other teams serve, you have to try your best not to lose points as it is impossible to score when you receive.
When a team or player is serving, the server stands on the right side of the court (this is called even court). As the player serves, they have to serve to the opposite team’s right-hand block. This means the serving team is hitting the ball diagonally across the court and not straight (perpendicular to the net).
The server will keep serving from the right-hand side until the serving side scores a point. When the serving side scores a point, the server then moves to the block on the left (this is called odd court). When on the left side, the server continues to serve from the left-hand side of the court to the diagonal block (the left block for the receiving team).
While the serving team is swapping sides, the receiving team never changes sides until it is their turn to serve. The original server will keep switching sides every time a point gets scored. The only time the other member of the serving team gets to serve is when the serving team loses a rally due to a fault. Therefore, the receiving team will become the serving team once both servers on the original serving team commit faults.
Serves must be hit underhand. This rule states the entire paddle must be below the server’s naval, and the ball should be hit upwards. The highest point of the paddle is also not allowed to be higher than the server’s wrist. The point of serving is simply to put the ball in play. Unlike tennis, serving is not used offensively to score a point directly.
What Is A Fault In Pickleball?
A fault in pickleball is any action resulting in the pickleball rally being paused due to a rule violation. A fault caused by the receiving team earns a point for the serving team. As said before, a fault by the serving team’s first server switches the serving team’s server. If both servers in the serving team cause a fault, the receiving side becomes the servers.
Faults in pickleball happen when:
- They serve from the serving team does not land within the applicable confines of the receiver’s side of the court.
- The ball collides with the net on either a serve or a return.
- One of the players returning a shot hits the ball before it has bounced on the court floor first.
- A return gets hit outside of the court’s lines.
- A ball gets volleyed by a player, not in the ‘volley zone.’
- A ball bounces twice (like in tennis) before it gets returned.
- Any part of the player (clothing, body, or paddle) touches the net while a rally is in action.
- There is contact between the ball and any part of the player or the player’s clothes.
- The ball comes into contact with a ‘permanent object’ while a rally is in action.
A fault does not occur when:
- The ball hits a line during a rally, except in the non-volley zone during a player serving the ball, which is considered ‘in.’
Any fault that occurs results in a change of server.
How Does The Scoring System Work In Pickleball?
As said above, the only team that can score points is the serving team. Servers alternate once a fault occurs from the serving side until both servers cause a fault, resulting in the other team becoming the serving team.
The scoring system in pickleball gets counted in a set of three. This order goes as follows: the server’s score, the receiver’s score, and the server number (only valid for a doubles match). The start of a game (before any points have been scored) will get called: Zero – Zero – Two.
The ‘two’ at the end of the scoring got created to prevent the advantage of being the first server to serve in the game. When the first server serves, and the serving team causes a fault in the rally, the serve will not go to the left side (unlike what the rules say).
This rule means that the ‘first’ server only serves until one fault gets called. After that, the original server effectively becomes the ‘second’ server. This rule means that the original server’s teammate will not get a turn to serve, and the serving team becomes the team receiving at the beginning of the game.
Beginners in pickleball often make the mistake of thinking that the first server of the game is server one on the scoring sheet. However, when each team’s score is an even number, the server who served first for that team in the game should be on the right side of the court.
A coin toss or any game that will result in a 50/50 decision is made at the beginning of the game to determine who serves first. The first actual server in the game becomes server two in their team to reduce the advantage of being the first serving team in the game.
Whenever a server causes a fault in the serving team, that player loses their right to serve, and that right gets passed on. If server one causes a fault, server two will serve. After both servers cause faults, the serving duties get passed to the receiving team.