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Pickleball Rules Explained: Singles & Doubles (2022)

Pickleball players in covered court.

Pickleball has become one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and Canada, as in many other countries. It is a racket sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis.

Although pickleball is a very active sport, it requires less mobility than other sports (such as tennis) because it is played on smaller courts (badminton courts). Thus, this sport is very suitable for older people, and the match strategies ensure that older players can be very competitive even when facing younger players, especially in doubles.

Birth of Pickleball in the United States

Closeup of pickleball paddle and ball.

Pickleball was created in the United States near Seattle in 1965. Three fathers then had the idea of playing on a badminton court with table tennis rackets, a plastic ball and a net at the height of that of a badminton game, to amuse parents and children and thus make the whole family play.

Pickleball was born! Very quickly, they made some changes, including lowering the net to the level of a tennis court. Then, they correct some basic rules to arrive at those practiced today on all continents.

Why this name of “pickleball”?

“Pickle” is simply the name of the family dog, which was always chasing after the ball he used to play. The inventors then decided to baptize this sport with the name of the dog!

The Inspiration

The sports that inspired Pickleball are:

  • Tennis for movement
  • Badminton for court dimensions
  • The Ping-Pong for the rigidity of the racket
  • Racquetball for racquet dimensions

And the ball is plastic and has a hole in it…The inventor of this sport really had a great imagination!

Cross Generational Game

A man playing pickleball.

Not to mention that pickleball is often played as a sport focused on control rather than power (doubles); players who execute precision throws (rather than power throws) can be serious opponents, which makes the sport all the more interesting and popular.

These unique characteristics of pickleball have made it very attractive to players of all ages, and it is often played by people of different age groups (it is actually a very fun cross-generational game).

Pickleball Master Course by Steve Dawson ($199)

Is it a social game?

It is played in many clubs as an open or recreational game (often a spontaneous sport) where people get together and play with different players almost every game. It is the social aspect of the game, among other things, that has made the sport so popular. Pickleball can also be played to enhance other racquet sports.

In fact, it has been shown that skills learned in one racquet sport can easily be transferred to other racquet sports. Therefore, many excellent pickleball players first played tennis. Because this has encouraged young, energetic players to play tennis (and other racquet sports), it makes them good at pickleball, and so there’s always a good chance they’ll play pickleball too.

Its Popularity

Pickleball is a fun game that is growing in popularity. In fact, it has been popular for a long time. Nothing has diminished his popularity. It is a unique game because it is very similar to tennis, but with some differences.

If you are not a professional and want to learn the basics, you are in the right place. Learning all the rules of pickleball will allow you to compete at a higher level and learn the ins and outs of the game much faster. Like any racket sport, the game of pickleball is won by sending the ball into the opponent’s playing area without the latter succeeding in returning it to your playing area.

What are the general rules of the Pickleball game?

A man serving the ball in a pickleball game.

Rule 1: The ball must not go out of bounds.

Rule 2: You have to respect the rules of service.

Rule 3: One rebound per side is required, commonly known as the “two rebound rule.”

Rule 4: During the serve, the ball must not touch the no-return zone.

Rule 5: Pickleball ends at 11, 15 or 21 points.

Double Bounce Rule

Following the service, each team must let the ball bounce once on its own court before then being able to volley it again when it is deemed possible during the game.

Non-Volley Zone

Located on either side of the net, over a width of 2.13m, it prohibits the player from hitting a ball without a bounce if it is placed inside this area. On the other hand, if the ball bounces in this zone, the player can be there and hit it.

Technical Characteristics

As mentioned before, pickleball is a clever mix of elements from tennis, badminton and table tennis. It is played on the badminton doubles court. More precisely, only the interior lines are modified.

The corridor lines are removed to be replaced by two service areas and a so-called “non-flying” area or even called “kitchen” by the inventors of this sport. In addition, the court is the same for the singles game and the doubles game.

Understand the Basics

Point cards on a pickleball court.

A match is played in two sets of 11 points with a two-point difference of 10/10. However, in tournaments, it is possible to play two sets of 15 points, always with a difference of two points by decision of the organizing committee.

Let’s examine the scoring of points: a point is scored only by the serving team. Likewise, each player on the doubles team has the opportunity to serve and earn points until the team commits a foul.

Note: the first service of each team must be made from the square on the right of the field. But, at each point scored, the server changes the service square to always serve diagonally across the opposing service area.

Important Rule

At the start of each set, the first team to serve is only allowed one server. If the team commits a fault, there is no possibility for the second player to serve, the ball is returned to the opposing team.

When do we make a mistake? When serving, the ball that touches the non-volley zone line or bounces out of the service zone is a fault.

  • During play, any ball that ends up in the net or bounces off the line of the court is a foul.
  • During the service, if each team does not let the ball bounce once in its court, it is a fault.
  • Any ball that bounces twice in the court is a foul.
  • A player, the player’s clothing or his racket touching the net or the posts are considered a fault.

Different Plays and Positions

Mixed doubles playing pickleball.

Doubles game (doubles play): A game played by 4 players, 2 on each side (men’s doubles, women’s doubles or mixed doubles).

Singles play: When two players play against each other, each on their side of the net.

Recreational play: When a player plays for fun; this is the same as open play (as opposed to a tournament match).

Open play (open play): When a player plays for fun; it is the same as recreational play (as opposed to tournament play).

Let: When the ball hits the net during service and lands, in play, in the appropriate area of the opponent’s court. Also, when play is stopped for any reason (another ball in court, for example) and the serving team has to serve again.

Baselines: The lines that define the boundaries of the field.

Non-volley zone line: Line that defines the non-volley zone, 7 feet (2.13m) from the net.

Sidelines (sidelines): Lines defining the right end and the left end of the field.

Centerline: This is the line that separates the service area into two service areas.

Mimicry (Siamese twins tactic) (shadowing): When players move together (about the same distance from the net) as if they were connected.

Loss of service (side out): When the service passes from the team to the service to its opponents, after exhaustion of its two possibilities of service.

Grip: The type of grip used by players to hold their racquet, for example, the continental grip.

Ready position: The best position to receive the next ball, where both feet are approximately shoulder width apart.

Punch: A volley executed in a downward motion (with a forehand or, more often, 10

Calling Out Points and Match Points

A man about to serve in a pickleball game.

It is generally considered good practice to call out the points (aloud) before serving, so that the opposing team hears/accepts this score. This forces both teams to state the score before each serve. The first serve of a new match is called or 0 0 start (meaning only one fault by the serving team is allowed before losing the serve).

Then, the score is called as follows: Assuming the game is currently 3 points for your team and 7 points for the opposing team, and your team serves their first serve, the score will be called (which means your team has 3 points, the opposing team has 7 points, and your team makes its first serve).

If your team scores a point, you must then call. If your team commits a mistake, the service goes to your partner (2nd server), and before serving, he will call the score (meaning that it is the 2nd serve of your team). If a fault is committed, the service goes to the opposing team.

Summary of Game Rules

The rules are very similar to those of tennis. The game is played in singles and doubles. The serve ball is sent diagonally across the net and must not bounce off the server’s side.

Points are scored on the serving side and are made when the opponent commits a fault. Small differences compared to tennis: the net is low and almost touches the ground. In addition, with each service, the player must change the service area. The first team to score 11 points and lead by at least 2 points difference wins.