Pickleball Doubles Rules
A double feature in the movie theater is watching two movies back to back for the price of one. A double feature in pickleball could be the title for two players facing off against another team of two players using pickleball doubles rules. And it is just as entertaining and certainly better exercise!
Doubles is the most popular way to play pickleball. Since pickleball is a highly fun and social game, playing doubles has exploded in popularity and is largely responsible for the growth of the game. Knowing the rules for playing doubles is not difficult and we tell you what you need to know here.
The United States of America Pickleball Association is the official rules maker for the game. They have a very active program that constantly reviews the rules for purposes of improving the game and encouraging participation.
Doubles Pickleball Court
A surprise to some racquet sports players is to find that the doubles court in pickleball is the same court as the one used for singles (see diagram below.) This has no impact on the rules other than as noted below but it has major implications for strategy.
In singles pickleball the strategy here is closer to tennis than it is in doubles in that players have much more room to hit shots with pace including passing shots. Doubles pickleball, while including plenty of exciting rallies is typically won and lost at the kitchen line (non-volley zone line) sometimes with drives and smashes but also with drops and dinks.
Key Pickleball Terms
The serving team consists of the two players that are putting the ball into play by hitting the ball with the server's paddle pointing downward toward the court. The ball may be hit either out of the air or after a single bounce.
The receiving team is the opposing team facing the servers. They may return a serve that is in after it bounces in the correct service court diagonally from the server. (See diagram.)
The Non-Volley Zone (also known as the kitchen) is a seven-foot area on both sides of the net that is highly unique in racquet sports. In pickleball, this zone is important in both doubles pickleball and singles pickleball.
The non-volley zone includes the lines enclosing that area and may not be touched by a player hitting the ball in the air. Some people think it is completely off limits but that is not true.
Any player can be in the kitchen as long as they are not hitting the ball in the air (a volley.) In addition, a player hitting a volley cannot allow their momentum to carry them into the kitchen.
If a player violates this rule, the point is lost by their side automatically. The point is over at the instant the violation occurs.
Two Bounce Rule
This rule applies to both a singles and doubles pickleball game. This rule states that the ball must be allowed to bounce after both the serving team and the receiving team each successfully hit the ball.
The first ball bounce does not include if the server bounces the ball before they strike it. Therefore, a legal sequence would have the server hit the ball into the correct server court, the ball bounces, the receiver then hits the ball over the net after which the ball bounces and the serving team then hits it.
If either side violates the two bounce rule, they lose the point.
Basic Rules for Serving
Each team determines who will be the first server and who will be the second server. The first server starts the game on the right side of the court and the second server on the left side.
The first server puts the ball in play by hitting the ball over the net, and past the non-volley zone line and into the service court (or box) opposite the side they hit the serve from. Therefore, the first server hits the first serve from right of the center line into the left service court diagonal from where they hit the serve.
Failure to execute this means he or she commits a fault.
If the receiving team is successful returning the serve, the point continues until one team or the other fails to get the ball over the pickleball net and into the opponent's court. Note that the sidelines and baseline (but not the kitchen line for serves) are considered "in."
Serving Team Wins the Point
If the serving team is successful, the first server switches to the left side and puts the ball in play into the right hand court as they face the court. The point continues as described above.
The first server continues serving alternating sides of the court, until they lose a point. Also note the first server only gets one chance to have a successful serve.
Serving Team Loses the Point
If the serving team loses the first point (commits a fault), the serve passes to the receiving team. As this only happens at the very beginning of the game, this is called the "first server exception." Normally, after the first server loses a point, the serve passes to the second server on that same team.
Serving Team Starting Positioning
Other than the first or second server alternating sides of the court, the server must serve from behind the baseline. The other player on the serving team can position themself anywhere.
However, it is worth noting that they must adhere to the two bounce rule awaiting the receiving team getting their shot in play. So, there is no reason for the non-server to start anywhere but behind the baseline just like the person serving.
The receiving team stays as the receivers until the serving team commits a fault. The receivers receive from the same side of the court while the first team is serving. This means the receiver who starts on the right side of the court continues there while the first team is serving serves. The left side receiver stays there likewise during that serving sequence.
Receivers Become Serving Team
Called a "side out" the first server exception does not apply now and their server number one continues to serve until they, as the serving team make a fault or loses the point. Then their second server serves until that player loses the point or their team commits a fault.
Pickleball Doubles Scoring
Doubles scoring is sometimes seen as the most complicated aspect of playing doubles. The score in pickleball scoring rules has three parts in this exact order: serving team's score, followed by the receiving team's score followed by the server number.
According to official pickleball scoring rules, the server announces the complete score of that pickleball game before every serve. If the ball is served but the receiving team questions the score, play continues until the point is scored.
The server's score and receiver's score and the server number should all be clearly announced before the ball is put in play.
Side Out Scoring
Pickleball scoring rules require the use of side out scoring. This means that only the serving team scores a point. After both the first server and the second server fail to win a point, it is a side out at which time the opponents can score points.
Rally scoring is not currently used in any sanctioned pickleball game. In this singles or doubles scoring, keeping score is the same with the serving team's score announced first, the receiving team's score announced second and the server number is the third number although in some versions, the number of the server is not necessary.
The big difference with rally scoring is it doesn't matter which team loses a rally. To score a point, you must win the point no matter if you are the server or receiver.
The traditionalists like side out scoring because it is how the founders established pickleball rules. And this view holds that side out scoring evens the scales between the first serve team and the second serving team.
This method favors longer games and makes pickleball scoring consistent with the philosophy of doubles pickleball being an especially social game. It also makes a winning point especially rewarding as it is so hard earned.
Pickleball Scoring Change Advocates
The rally scoring advocates argue that sometimes a pickleball match simply can run too long because of these pickleball rules. These extra-long matches mean a pickleball court is tied up and in areas where a pickleball court is hard to come by, this hurts participation in the game.
In addition, with pro tournaments now getting deals from television networks and streaming services, rally scoring would make for shorter, more exciting games that is "TV friendly." There are some other nuances in rally scoring about how a point is scored and the impact on serving. This discussion of how you score a point will continue.
Doubles pickleball has all the same rules as singles pickleball with respect to stopping play. It is expected that only short gaps occur between when a fault occurs, and the server's partner takes over the serving.
The serving side should be respectful in allowing the opposing team to get situated on their side of the court. Gamesmanship as to when the server serves, or the receivers are ready to receive is not welcome in pickleball and timing rules governing receiving and serving teams readiness exist and can be enforced in tournaments.
Play can be halted from either side of the court under three basic circumstances:
1) A hinder: This occurs when something or someone comes on the court hindering any player. This includes balls or players from some other pickleball court coming on the court. If this happens in the middle of a point, the point is replayed with the same receiver score and server score and player positions.
2) Injury: If a player is injured and especially if they are bleeding, play stops at the end of a rally. Rules exist on timing required for continuation of a match under these circumstances.
3) Time out: Either team can call a time out after the end of a point. In sanctioned tournaments, there are strict rules as to the length of a time out and the number of time outs that a team can call.
During a timeout paddles and balls are placed on the pickleball court where each player is stationed, and the server's score and receiver's score are agreed on as is who has the next serve.
In all three situations, announcing each team's score in pickleball scoring rules is considered good form. It will also avoid any confusion about either team's score in pickleball matches that are especially competitive. Keeping an accurate score in pickleball is viewed as good sportsmanship on the pickleball court whether it is a friendly game or the finals of a tournament.
Other Pickleball Rules
Behavior on the Pickleball Court
Pickleball takes great pride in separating itself from other sports when it comes to player behavior. Particularly in sanctioned tournaments with officials, there are a series of penalties that can be assessed whether the score is odd or the score is even in the event of player misbehavior.
The overriding principle of sportsmanship applies to line calls too. In matches without officials, players are expected to call the lines on their own side of the court only.
When in doubt on a call, the call should go to the other team. In doubles pickleball, if the two teammates disagree on the call, then it automatically goes to the other team.
The rules in pickleball are different than in tennis when a serve hits the top of the net and goes over. The service rule in pickleball is simple: if the ball hits the net and lands in the correct service courts, the serve is in play. If the ball touches the top of the net, goes over but does not land in the correct box, it is "out", and the serving team commits a fault. There is no "let" as there is in tennis.
Here, the rule is the same as in tennis. The server may not step on or over the baseline during the serve or a foot fault occurs.
Sometimes forgotten is stepping across the center line. For example, if the player on the right steps across the center and into the left side court, it is also a foot fault.
One of the many great things about pickleball is that it requires very little in the way of equipment. Playing doubles requires the same equipment as singles.
Made in two different categories, outside and inside, good quality balls are low cost and durable. Pitch them if they get cracked or out of round.
You might find that your community does not have pickleball nets but they do have pickleball lines on tennis courts or gym floors. If you expect to play a great deal, a net is a worthwhile purchase to make.
Stay away from running or basketball shoes. Any good court shoe with a non-marking sole will help with traction and side to side moves so common and important in pickleball.
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