How to Play Pickleball

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How to Play Pickleball

Refer to the USAPA/IFP official tournament rulebook for a complete listing of rules.



The Pickleball Serve

The server starts the game by standing with both feet behind the baseline. With an underhand upward stroke, contact to the ball is made below the server’s waistline.  The serve must drop in the diagonal opponent’s half of the court beyond the kitchen.  One serve attempt is allowed, and points are only awarded to the team serving.  Let serves (when the ball hits the net) are replayed.

At the start of each new doubles game, only one player is permitted to serve. When their side faults, both players on the opposite team serve.  From then on, both team members serve and fault before the opponents receive the ball. A team’s serve always starts with the player on the right-hand side.

Serve rotation and scoring is correct when the player on the right-hand side, who started the play of the game, has a total score with an even number.  When that player is on the left side, the score should be an odd number.


Return of Serve

The serve must drop in the diagonal opponent’s half of the court beyond the kitchen.  The return of serve is hit to either side of the court and must bounce before the serving team can hit it. This is called the double bounce rule (one on each side).


The Volley

A volley is when the ball is hit in the air without bouncing.  This can be done after the first two bounces of the game, behind the kitchen line (2.13m from the net).  A player may reach into the kitchen to volley, but may not step into or on the line of the kitchen to volley. Stepping on the outer sides of the kitchen to volley is permitted.


Kitchen/ Non-volley Zone

The Kitchen is the area between the net and 2.13 meter line on the court.  A player may step into the kitchen to hit the ball if the ball bounces but must step back out again before hitting the next ball.  Players may lean into the kitchen to volley the ball but may not touch any area in the non-volley zone. It is permissible to step on the side of the kitchen to hit the ball.



Play ends when one side commits a fault.  The rules of faults include:

Failure to serve into the opponent’s diagonal service zone, behind the kitchen and in front of the base line

Failure to hit the ball over the net or hitting the ball out of bounds, either beyond the sides or base line

Volleying the ball on the service return or before it bounces on the serving side

Stepping into the kitchen while volleying

Ball striking a player anywhere beside the paddle hand, below the wrist

Serving the ball by bouncing the ball before hitting it


The Score

The game is played to eleven points, and players must win by two points. Tournament play may be to 15 or 21 points with players rotating sides at 8 or 11 total points respectively. The score is announced before each serve, and the serving player continues serving until a fault is made by the serving player/team. When playing doubles, the server’s score is announced first, the opponent’s score said second, and the first or second server said third. A match is won when two out of three games are won.


0-0-2 to start the game (0. Score of serving side- 0. Score of receiving side- 2. Second server serving)

If the server wins the first point, the score is 1-0-2.  (1. Score of serving side- 0. Score of receiving side- 2. Second server serving)

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