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Pickleball Rules

Pickleball player hitting the ball

Pickleball is played as either singles or doubles with a badminton-sized court and a shorter tennis net. The game follows specific pickleball rules designed to ensure fair play and enjoyable competition.

The court is divided into two service boxes and then a non-volley zone close to the net called 'the kitchen’.

To start a point the ball is served underarm into the opposite service box, clearing the kitchen. The ball must bounce once on both sides of the court before the player or doubles team can start to volley, in accordance with the pickleball rules.

The rally continues until either a player/team make a mistake (e.g. hit a shot out of bounds or in the net) or someone hits a winner (ball bounces twice).

The kitchen is also known as the non-volley zone, meaning that if you play a shot inside the kitchen, you must let the ball bounce first, otherwise it’s a point to the other player/team.

How to score in pickleball

Scoring is simple – the winner is the first player or team to reach 11 points. Like in a tie-break in tennis or padel however, you have to win by two clear points. If the score is tied at 10-10, you keep going until one side goes two points clear.

The rules of pickleball state you can only win points on your serve and you continue serving until you lose a point. After winning a point on your serve, you swap sides to then serve to your other opponent/ into the other service box.

In doubles, players serve in turn. When you watch pickleball doubles, you’ll often hear players call out three numbers when announcing the score – the third number refers to which of the two players is serving.

For example, if the score is 3-3 and your team is about to start serving, you would call out 3-3-1 – indicating that player one is serving. If you then lose the point it would become 3-3-2 as the serve now goes to your partner rather than the opposition.

The only time this is different is at the start of the game, where only one player gets to serve. For this you would call 0-0-2.

Pickleball service rules

In pickleball, the ball is served diagonally to the opposite service box. The ball must travel beyond the kitchen and bounce in the service box before the player can return the ball (the ball has to bounce on either side of the net before players can start to volley).

Players can either serve underarm or the ball can be bounced on the ground and then hit underarm. When serving, players must stand within the sidelines and centreline and at least one foot must be behind the baseline.

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