2021 USA Pickleball Rule Changes

Updated:  12/20/2020 | December 20, 2020

The dawn of a new year will always bring change. In the pickleball world, this change comes in the form of new and updated rules. The 2021 USA Pickleball rule changes are significant. Yes, lots of edits – 125 changes to be exact! Thats what I was thinking, holy drop shot!  I can’t but wonder what my friend, and co-founder of the game, Barney McCallum would say to upon hearing this. As I shared in my book – Barney’s first question each time we met was “are they messing with the rules?” Well Barney, I guess that depends on your definition of “messing”.

One of the big changes is the Service Let. Below is the explanation of the removal of the service let, what that exactly means and the reasoning. Included in their response is an explanation of the Rules Committees’ considerations and their priorities in order: 1. Preserving the integrity of the game; 2. What is best for the players; and 3. What is best for officiating.

Lastly, I’m including all 125 rule changes from the USA Pickleball’s 2021 Change Document (12/13/20 document from their google drive). Below is the  link to complete explanation of changes and then the list of the actual rule numbers changing. Once the PDF of the completed (posted) 2021 Rule Book is public I will update this post and include that link here. (If you would like to be emailed the 2021 official rule book when it’s hot off the press, make sure you are subscribed to my blog. See subscribe in the web page footer.)

All the following information was authored by Mark Peifer, USA Pickleball, Director of Officiating.

Take it away Mark:

Service Lets (2020 Section 4.0 & 3.A.18) Removed

Rules 4.O, 4.O.1, 4.O.2, & 4.O.3 and 3.A.18

Removed: The definition (3.A.18) and section 4 (Service Lets) have been removed. Starting in 2021, there will be no rule(s) governing service lets. Service Lets have been removed. It is noted that out of habit, both referees and players may sometimes habitually call a service let. If any player stops play because of a service let being called, that player/team will have committed a fault per rule 7.I.

Reasons: Each year there is probably one rule change that is more controversial than the others. This year, we expect the change to the ‘let’ serve rule to fall in that category.

Many have questioned, “Why?” It’s a normal and expected question that deserves an answer. The reason behind this change was only considered after careful thought. It was not a capricious or arbitrary decision. What follows is an attempt to provide an explanation.

Those opposed to the change may not have their opinion changed, but at least one will know what was behind the decision.

What follows are two perspectives; that of the Rules Committee first and then the governing body for Pickleball, USA Pickleball. The latter perspective, however, had no bearing on the change and was not part of the consideration. But, it’s worthy of a short mention. First is the perspective of the Rules Committee.

The Rules Committee Considerations

The Rules Committee is committed to the following priorities when they approve rules:

  1. The first priority is preserving the integrity of the game. Nothing is more important to the committee than that.
  2. Second priority is what is best for the players; are there rule changes the committee can make to improve their experience, make it easier for players to learn, to play, etc.
  3. Third priority is what’s best for officiating; what can the committee do in rules space to make it less likely that players will argue with or get into conflicts with referees.

Those are the priorities applied to rule making – in that exact order.

Now, let’s examine this rule change under the microscope of those three priorities.

#1 Priority.  Preserve the Integrity of the Game

If there is a rule in the game that can invite active or passive cheating at worst or prevent inaccurate calls at best, shouldn’t every player expect the Rules Committee to address it – for the good of the game? Can you think of anything that would damage the integrity of the game more than active or passive cheating? The Rules Committee cannot and will not let the game everyone enjoys be damaged by even a very small number of players who might usurp a rule to their advantage now or in the future. The future is, admittedly, more important in this change than the present case. That is perhaps why many may have a hard time initially understanding why this change has been enacted. The ‘let’ serve rule opens up a loophole for inaccurate, (intentional or otherwise) calls. The Rules Committee is closing it.

Consider this scenario:

You are in the winner’s bracket, three wins away from the MXD gold medal match where a Golden Ticket to Nationals awaits the winning team. This match does not yet qualify for a referee. This is an MMP National Qualifier event at the 3.5 level. You are serving for match point, up 10-9 in game three. You serve wide and catch the receiver leaning the wrong way. He hits his return of your serve wide and erroneously and immediately yells, “Let!”. You know there was no ‘let’ serve but there’s nothing you can do about it. In the 2020 Rulebook, you MUST play a replay. It does no good to appeal to the Head Referee or Tournament Director because it’s a judgment call. You have just lost your match-point serve to someone who has made a horrible call and you know it. Is there any doubt where your mind will be at that instant and how long it will take you to reset after that obvious, blatant call? As the stakes get higher and higher for pros and amateur players who play in qualifying tournaments, whether for money or Golden Tickets, this loophole is a potential threat to the game.

Pickleball Hall of Fame member Steve Paranto perhaps said it best, “This type of call on ‘let’ serves has already happened. This rule change eliminates any chance of inaccurate calls entirely.” The Rules committee is getting out in front of this potential before it becomes a bigger issue. Money in the pro and senior pro level and higher stakes for amateur players will change our game in ways most haven’t even thought about. But, the Rules Committee has. One can argue the extent to which this exists in our sport today, but no one can deny that money and high stakes can change player behavior, intentionally or not. That is a key point in this discussion; how behavior can change when the stakes of a game increase. So, we can argue whether this is an overreaction for what exists now, but that’s not the full picture. The higher the stakes, the more inaccurate are player judgment calls. It’s an aspect of human behavior that is difficult to refute. (Note: for those who think the bigger threat here are line calls, the Rules Committee also made a subtle and small, but important, wording change in the line call rules as well, for much the same reason.)

#2 Priority.  What is Best for the Players

If there is a rule that can eliminate conflict between or among players in a match, shouldn’t the Rules Committee consider it? Conflict on the court does NOT enhance the player experience. This rule completely eliminates player conflict over whether or not a served ball hits the net. Completely. No more arguments, no more conflict.

In recreational play, this rarely results in conflict because most just accept the replay. Not an issue. But in tournament play? Yes, it has caused conflict because one team calls a ‘let’ the other team doesn’t agree with. A lot? No, but as said above, this change is to get out in front of a stronger potential in the future. Next up? Referees.

#3 Priority.  What is Best for Officiating

If there is a rule that will eliminate conflicts between players and referees, shouldn’t the Rules Committee consider it? Service ‘lets’ have caused several player and referee conflicts. In matches with a referee, players have called service ‘lets’ that have not been confirmed by the referee. By rule, those are faults on the player for calling a ‘let’ that the referee did not also detect.

Furthermore, many referees had adopted a practice of touching the net during the serve to ‘detect’ service ‘lets’ and then moving back into their normal position. Because not all referees use it, that practice introduced an undesired inconsistency among referees.

Additionally, some players complained because the movement of the referee back into position, however slight, can be distracting, which is itself another potential source of referee/player conflict. Players have written complaints to USA Pickleball asking that the practice be stopped. This rule change completely eliminates that type of conflict as well. (A final note about the referee aspect of this. Notice where it falls on the priority list. Last. Just where it belongs. So, it would be incorrect to place more importance on this reason for the change than it deserves.)

The National Governing Body Considerations

Those above are the considerations of the Rules Committee and the USA Pickleball Board in approving the change. What follows was not a consideration of approving the change, but is another realistic look to the future of our sport. If our wonderful sport has any aspirations of becoming an Olympic sport, these kinds of rule issues may eventually need modification. At some point in the future, the National Governing Body for Pickleball (USA Pickleball) may find itself before an IOC team reviewing the rules of the sport. If challenged to explain why a service ‘let’ rule exists, one in which active or passive cheating can take place, it would be very difficult to defend.

Scenario A: The referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. The referee immediately yells “Let”. The referee after realizing her mistake, says “Referee error” and calls for a replay. She then reminds everyone that “service lets” do not exist.

Scenario B: The referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. The receiver yells “Let” and catches the ball. The referee shall call a fault on the receiver per rule 7.I. (stopping a live ball before it becomes dead) and remind all players that “service lets” do not exist.

Scenario C: The referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. The receiver yells “Let” but also happens to return the ball to the serving team. A serving team player catches the ball because they heard the word “let” and thought a replay would occur. The referee shall call a fault on the serving team per rule 7.I. (stopping a live ball before it becomes dead) and remind all players that “service lets” do not exist. This is NOT a case for a distraction fault on the receiving team because the receiving team yelled “let” well before the ball had crossed back to the serving team’s side, and, well before the serving team was about to play the ball.

Scenario D: The referee calls the correct score and the server serves. The served ball hits the net and lands in the proper receiving court. The receiver returns the ball. After the ball has crossed back to the serving team’s court and just as the server is about to make a play on the ball, the receiver’s partner loudly yells “Let” just as the original server was about to hit the ball. Upon hearing the opponent yell “Let”, the referee calls a distraction fault because the receiver’s partner committed a distraction fault as the server was about to play the ball.


LINK TO 2021 Change Document (81 pages of explanations)


Here is the listing of the 125 Rule Changes and what rule number they relate to. Happy Reading.

Section 2: Court and Equipment

#1: 2.A.4. Wheelchair Playing Surface Dimensions
#2: 2.E.2. Paddle Hitting Surface
#3: 2.E.5.c. Paddle Markings

Section 3: Definitions

#4:  3.A.2. Coaching
#5:  3.A.9. Ejection
#6:  3.A.10. Expel
#7:  3.A.13. Forfeit
#8:  3.A.15. Hinder
Scenario A: Server drops ball; rolls under bleachers
Scenario B: Players stops to avoid collision with adjacent team
Scenario C: Player stops to avoid a collision, referee claims no hinder
Scenario D: No official, players agree cracked ball impacted rally

#9:  3.A.16. Imaginary Extension
#10: 3.A.19. Live Ball/In Play
#11: 3.A.20. Momentum
#12: 3.A.21. Non-Volley Zone (NVZ)
Scenario: Player steps in opponent NVZ after ball is dead

#13: 3.A.25. Plane of the Net

#14: 3.A.20. Retirement
#15: 3.A.40. Technical Foul
#16: 3.A.44. Profanity
#17: 3.A.45. Verbal Warning
#18: 3.A.46. Third Shot
#19: 3.A.47. Wheelchair Player

Section 4: Serve, Service Sequence, and Scoring Rules

#20: 4.A.1. Entire Score Called
Scenario A: Serve occurs in middle of referee’s score call
Scenario B: Serve occurs before start of score call

#21: 4.A.2. Feet Placement at Serve
#22: 4.A.5. Serve Contact Not Above Waist
#23: 4.A.6. Serve Placement (No “Let” Serves)
#24: 4.A.8. Provisional Drop Serve
#25: 4.A.8.a. Drop Serve Release

Scenario A: Referee sees release; receiver does not see release
Scenario B: Server switches serve styles
Scenario C: Server lets ball bounce twice before serving

#26: 4.A.8.b. Drop Serve cannot be propelled downward
#27: 4.A.10.c. Drop Serve forehand or backhand; no restrictions
#28: 4.B.9. Serving team can ask position questions
Scenario A: Server asks question; ref calls time; server serves; no fault
Scenario B: Server’s partner asks question after service motion started

#29: 4.B.10. Receiving team can ask position questions
Scenario: Receiver’s partner asks question just before serve occurs

#30: 4.B.11. Incorrect Player or Position faults
Scenario A: Wrong server serves from wrong position; ref notes both faults
Scenario B: Wrong server/receiver; ref faults server; no mention of receiver
Scenario C: Wrong server/receiver; faults server only after return of serve

#31: 4.B.12. Incorrect Player/Position corrected after rally, game, or match
Scenario A: Corrected error before game 2 starts
Scenario B: Corrected error after match has ended

#32: 4.D.2. Server’s partner calls score
Scenario: Server inadvertently calls score when partner has been otherwise

#33: 4.E.2. Serving team changes serving courts
Scenario: Server serves during court change repositioning; no fault

#34: 4.K. Wrong score called before Third Shot occurs
Scenario: Wrong score called, return goes into net, no fault

#35: 4.K.2. Challenging score call after serve and before Third Shot
Scenario A: Ref calls wrong score; receiver stops play after return
Scenario B: After serve, ref ignores question by receiver’s partner

#36: 4.K.3. Player stops play after Third Shot to challenge score call
Scenario A: Receiver challenges wrong score call after Third Shot
Scenario B: Player stops play after Third Shot

#37: 4.M.3. Served ball touches permanent object before hitting ground
#38: 4.M.5. Served ball lands on NVZ
#39: 4.M.10. Serving team calls time-out after serve occurs
#40: 4.M.11. Server fault for serving during score call
Scenario A: Server faults for serving during score call
Scenario B: Server serves before score call starts; no fault

#41: 4.N.3. Receiving team calls time-out after serve occurs

Section 5: Service and End Selection

#42: 5.A.1. Choosing serve, receive, side or defer
#43: 5.A.2. Changing starting servers
Scenario A: Team changes servers and band; game starts; no fault
Scenario B: Team notifies about change; forgets and “no-band” serves
Scenario C: Referee notices change, inquires and notates accordingly

#44: 5.B.6. Mid-game end change with coaching allowed
#45: 5.B.7. Technical Foul no impact on end change
Scenario A: 6th point end change; T.F. committed; end change remains
Scenario B: T.F. committed, no server position change, ref calls fault

Section 6: Line Call Rules

#46: 6.D.1. Player makes initial line call; asks opponent’s opinion
Scenario A: Player makes call, asks opponent then ref; player’s call stands
Scenario B: Player makes call; asks opponent’s opinion; opponent call stands Scenario C: Player makes call, asks opponent then ref; opponent call stands
Scenario D: Player makes call, asks opponent then ref, ref’s call stands

#47: 6.D.3. No initial player call then appeal to the referee
Scenario: No call; appeal to referee, then opponent; no clear call; ball is in

#48: 6.D.5. Appeal of line calls before next serve occurs
#49: 6.D.6. Player asks opponent’s opinion on a line call
Scenario A: Opponent’s opinion call is “in”; ref did not see; ball is “in”
Scenario B: Opponent’s opinion call is “in”; ref calls “out”; ball is “out”

#50: 6.D.7. Calling balls “in” or “out”
Scenario A: Team sees a space between ball/line
Scenario B: Team not certain of ball being “out”; plays ball

#51: 6.D.8. Calling balls out promptly (“let” wording removed)
#52: 6.D.10. “Out” calls signaled by voice and/or hand signals
#53: 6.D.13. Player overrule of opponent, partner, or officiating team
Scenario: Player overrules referee’s “in” call as “out”

Section 7: Fault Rules

#54: 7.B. Hitting ball into net on player’s side of net; dead ball when hits ground  Scenario A: Ball spins on top of net; opponent crosses plane; fault called
Scenario B: Ball spins on top of net; opponent touches net; fault called

#55: 7.G. Touching the net/net system/opponent’s court while ball is live
#56: 7.H. Ball contacting player other than paddle hand(s)
Scenario: Player’s hands are loosely touching paddle when hit

#57: 7.N. Illegal carry after serve (allowing “sling” serve)
#58: 7.O. Hinder called by player (“let” wording removed)

Section 8: Dead Ball Rules

#59: 8.B. Faults called and committed
Scenario: Ball hits player; hitter touches net; ref calls fault

#60: 8.D. Ball hitting permanent object after bouncing in opponent’s court
#61: 8.E. Faults can only be committed during live ball (NVZ exception)
Scenario A: Player serves during re-positioning; no fault called
Scenario B: Server serves before start of score call; no fault called

Section 9: Non-Volley Zone Rules

#62: 9.C. Volleying player contacts anything touching the NVZ

Section 10: Time-Out Rules

#63: 10.A.3. Calling time-outs before the serve occurs
Scenario: Referee hears the “T” sound of time-out before the serve

#64: 10.A.4. No penalty for calling time-outs when none remain
Scenario A: Team calls time-out with none remaining
Scenario B: Incorrect receiver calls T.O; changes receiver; no fault

#65: 10.B.3.c. One player-requested medical time-out per match
Scenario: Referee generated M.T.O. not charged to player

#66: 10.C. Continuous play and breaks in-between rallies
Scenario A: Referee allows quick drinks; gets players back quickly
Scenario B: Ref allows break; players delay; ref calls score

#67: 10.E.1. Players take time-outs in-between games
Scenario A: Team uses 1 of 2 T.O.’s between games
Scenario B: Rec. team does not return; T.O’s expire, ref starts game
Scenario C: Srv. team does not return; T.O.’s expire, ref starts game

#68: 10.H.1. No time-outs (medical or regular) taken before match start
Scenario: Player calls T.O. immediately after match starts

Section 11: Other Rules

#69: 11.A. Double hits allowed before serve
#70: 11.E. Broken/cracked ball impacting rally
Scenario A: Ref calls score; team checks ball; 10-sec expires; fault called
Scenario B: Ref calls score; team asks ref to check ball; no fault called

#71: 11.I. Plane of the net fault while ball is in play
Scenario A: Player crosses plane, hits next shot before getting back over
Scenario B: Player crosses plane, takes time to get back across

#72: 11.I.1. Ball must travel back over plane of net before crossing
Scenario: Player legally crossing plane contacts opponent; fault called

#73: 11.K. Player contacting net post/system commits fault
#74: 11.L.4. Ball bouncing back over net must bounce twice to become dead
#75: 11.L.5.a. Fault for ball hitting horizontal bar/base before going over net
#76: 11.L.5.b. Replay for ball bouncing on court and hitting horizontal bar/base
#77: 11.N. Fault for player using more than one paddle
#78: 11.O. Fault for player not having possession of paddle when ball is hit

Section 13: Tournament Management and Officiating

#79: 13.A.1. Players may appeal any referee ruling/decision to T.D
#80: 13.B. Tournament briefing from TD to players
#81: 13.B.1. Rule exemptions request
#82: 13.C. Referee duties and player appeals
#83: 13.C.2. Player overrule of officiating team
#84: 13.C.4.b. Referee noting non-standard court conditions
#85: 13.C.5.h. Allowance for the new game forfeit
#86: 13.D.1.c. Players calling actual faults on themselves
Scenario A: Player informs ref of fault before next serve occurs
Scenario B: Player calling “ghost” fault; ref calls no fault

#87: 13.D.3.b. Players can overrule referee call
#88: 13.D.3.c. Replay if officiating team cannot render line call
#89: 13.E.1. TD determines if line judges are used
#90: 13.E.2. Line judges call service foot faults and line faults
#91: 13.E.3. Referee can immediately canvass all LJ’s for blocked signal
#92: 13.E.4. Replay for referee overrule of LJ “out” call
Scenario: Referee overrules LJ “out” call; calls for replay; no exceptions

#93: 13.E.5. Player overrule LJ “out” call as “in”, replay occurs
#94: 13.F.1. No LJ’s; ref cannot rule; initial call stands; no call is “in”
#95: 13.G.1. Verbal warning for profanity
Scenario: Referee issues verbal warning for profanity

#96: 13.G.1.a. Removal of “demeaning” from original rule
#97: 13.G.1.b. Visible gestures technical warning
#98: 13.G.1.c. Excessive arguing expanded
#99: 13.G.1.d. Ball abuse technical warning expanded
#100: 13.G.1.e. Delay of game simplified
#101: 13.G.1.f. Unnecessary appeals simplified
#102: 13.G.1.i. Technical warnings for paddle issues allowed
Scenario: Player tosses paddle; gets technical warning

#103: 13.G.1.j. Coaching when not allowed
#104: 13.G.2. Technical Foul point deduction
Scenario: T.F. after end change; end change remains in place

#105: 13.G.2.a. Paddle throwing expanded
#106: 13.G.2.b. Extremely objectionable language expanded
#107: 13.G.2.c. Threats or challenges expanded
#108: 13.G.2.g. Throwing/hitting ball expanded
#109: 13.G.3.c. Technical Foul point deducted
#110: 13.H.1. Insertion of a game forfeit for “3 Strikes”
Scenario A: Team gets forfeit or 1 TW and 1 TF
Scenario B: Team wins game 1/forfeits game 2; scoring guidelines

#111: 13.H.1.c. Games to 15 or 21 forfeit, same as match forfeit
#112: 13.H.2. Game forfeit 10-minutes; match forfeit 15-minutes
#113: 13.I.1.a. 2 TW’s plus a TF equals match forfeit (“4 Strikes”)
Scenario: Team gets 2 TW’s and 1 TF during match; match if forfeited

#114: 13.I.1.b. 2 Technical fouls equals match forfeit
#115: 13.I.2. Behavior resulting in match forfeits section
#116: 13.I.2.a. Making physical contact with opponent or official
#117: 13.I.2.b. Throwing paddle match forfeit guidelines
#118: 13.J. Rules interpretations and player allowed challenges
#119: 13.K. Line judge removal guidelines
#120: 13.K.1. Referee removal guidelines
#121: 13.M. TD player ejection guidelines
#122: 13.M.1. Slurs related to ejections
#123: 13.M.2. Injury to player, official, spectator due to paddle abuse
#124: 13.M.3. Spitting or coughing ejections
#125: 13.M.4. Players not exhibiting “best effort”

If you are reading this, then good job – you made it all the way through the 125 2021 pickleball rule changes, phew! These edits are definitely a long way away from Barney McCallum’s 1972 one-page pickleball rules.

Here’s some trivia for you… Can you guess how many rule changes there were in 2020?  Here’s the link

Answer: 94!



71 comments on “2021 USA Pickleball Rule Changes”

  1. Hi Jennifer & all Rec players, For 2024–This is to all that may oppose the “No let rule” on serves. Many rec players are distracted and / or unable to return a serve that hits the net and lands in the court of play. I and others have submitted a request to rules committee to allow a replay on this. To all that agree, please go to usapa.org–click on Get Involved–scroll to Officiating & Rules–click on Rules Change Process–Then submit this Let Serve request if you will. May 15, 2023 is the final date for requests. Thanks all and ‘Get to the Kitchen ASAP” “Go Play” 🙂

  2. When playing a match sides should be changed every six points combined by both teams or opponents, for example, when playing to 11, team one has 3 points and team two has 3 points, or team one has 4 points and team two has 2 points, etc. The reason not to give an unfair advantage to one team or opponent when playing outdoors where sun and wind are a factor. Again, playing to 11 and points are tied 10-10, play until win by two, for example 12-10 or 13-11, etc. If not able to win by two and score are 16-16, players switch one more time and who ever is serving should serve to the even side, next point is won by either the server or receiver, 17-16 based on a tiebreaker.

  3. Hi Jennifer and players, This is a P.S. reply to my own original post. Many good rec players are probably employing this spin serve technique and many lesser opponents will either miss hit or miss period. 11-0-2. Not much fun, no rally. I have heard interviews from some Pros as you have I’m sure. Several are opposed due to the fan support of rally play. Thanks. 🙂

  4. Hi Jennifer and players, Years ago in table tennis, the rules committee did away with ‘surprise serves’. Ball is held in the palm and tossed straight up 5-6 inches. This rule has stood the test of time. Spinning a Pickleball off the fingers left, right, forward and backwards cannot be known to the receiver. Fans want to see points and rallies won on strategic play, especially in doubles. I would much rather watch a 30 or more hit rally than a winning serve. A serve can be hit with an arc left or right without spinning off the fingers and the receiver knows what is coming. Respectfully asking USAPA / IFP to do away with this serve technique. Thanks.

  5. Juan, how do you come to that conclusion? Please quote the rule that you believe says that a served ball hitting the net and landing in is a fault. You will find it hard. Instead look at rule 4.6
    “ Placement. The server must serve to the correct service court (the court diagonally opposite the server). The serve may clear or touch the net and must clear the NVZ and the NVZ lines. The serve may land on any other service court line.” – or touch the net.

  6. After playing for about 5 months, I find that the new rules are working. Most people don’t use the drop serve and the “let serve” happens so infrequently that it’s a non issue. However, when people use the drop serve I notice that there are times when the server pushes the ball down and then drops it. Sometimes it is not clear if the ball was actually dropped or it had some momentum as it was being released.. I propose that the server must “pause” just before the drop and a “pause” is defined as one second. I’ve had to use this process in another sport I umpire softball. and the pitcher must “pause” with the ball in front/side of their body just before they go into their windup. And the rule book defines a pause as one or more seconds. This is to prevent quick pitches. I think this is the only tweak I would do to the drop serve rule.

    1. Since many players come from tennis where a let serve is replayed, it should continue to be replayed in pickleball. If the intention was to eliminate an opportunity to cheat, a cheater will find another way such as calling an “in” ball out. This could also be an impediment to becoming an Olympic sport. No one in my pickleball community of over 1000 players has ever encountered a let call that was not a let.

  7. Since pickleball is also played outdoors, should changing sides more often be considered? The reason for this is to consider the sun and wind factor. In tennis, particularly playing the tiebreaker, sides are changed every six points so that one player will not be in a disadvantage playing on the sunny or windy side.

  8. Discussion in our group. One of my players says even with a drop serve you can’t hit an overhand (above shoulders like tennis). I say I see no way you could bounce the ball high enough BUT there are no restrictions on the type of swing or contact using the drop serve. $$ riding on the answer.

    1. Timothy Greenwood

      What a fun question. The rule book is explicit. “4.A.8.c. If the drop serve is used, the ball may be struck with either a forehand or backhand motion without any other restriction; i.e., the location restrictions of the ball and paddle in Rules 4.A.3, 4.A.4 and 4.A.5 do not apply.” Of course the ball has to be dropped and not thrown and “from any natural (unaided) height” so doing an overhead serve would require immediately dropping to your knees, and even then I doubt it would be high enough. However it does mean that with the drop serve rule “4.A.4. The highest point of the paddle head must not be above the highest part of the wrist (where the wrist joint bends) when it strikes the ball.” does not apply so the ball can be hit with part of the paddle above the wrist.

    2. You are both right! Your player is right–with a drop serve, you can’t hit an overhead tennis-style serve…and YOU are right because the ball would NEVER bounce high enough to be able to hit a tennis overhead serve.

      And yes, there are NO restrictions on how you swing at the ball with the drop serve. This seems to benefit the “forehand” serve style where part of the paddle is ABOVE the wrist.

      Other than that, the ball doesn’t bounce as high so I don’t see it bouncing above someone’s belly button and most will have to do a low to high swing, although I like to do a serve where I come from HIGH and “side slice” downward on the ball to impart a sidespin going from left to right. That would be illegal in the 2020 rules. 😉

    3. Hi Joe, Agree there are no restrictions on the ‘drop serve’. Have seen all videos on such. Just wondered what your $$ comment on the answer meant. I have started using the drop serve myself and working well.

    4. Joe, There are no rules saying you can’t hit an overhand or above you shoulders serve.. However, you better be pretty agile and flexible in order to do this. If you drop it from a high point and then immediately crouch down when you hit the ball, you can hit an overhand serve.. Here is a YouTube video of how to do it at about 5::45 into it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPYTI6Iy08k&t=207s. …. John

  9. What is the rule on in and out balls.
    If you see the color difference it is out or the middle of the bottom of the ball is still the indicator of in and out

  10. Ernie Medina, Jr.

    LOVE the drop serve!!!! We’ve been using it regularly since Dec. Especially from the “Ad” (left) side (I’m a righty). It definitely adds a new and FUN dimension to the game, and isn’t that what pball is all about? FUN?!?!

    As for playing let serves, we’ve been doing that during Dec. as well. And I feel people on social media have been making too much of a big deal about it. It will NOT radically change the way the game is played, increase injuries, or make it less fun. In any given 2-3 hr session, I can count on ONE HAND how many let serves that happen. BIG DEAL!!! People just need to chill and accept it, and in a year, we will all be saying, “Why did we make a big deal about it?”

    Finally, we all CELEBRATE when someone is able to pull off the “double-new rule” serve: a drop serve that is a let serve, especially if it’s an ace!!! I’ve seen it happen 2 times since Jan. 1 so we all whoop and holler when someone hits that.

    Stay safe and just have fun!!!

    Ernie Medina, Jr.

    1. Respectfully to all. I am a purist of most sports when it comes to some rule changes as a former PE teacher.
      I will say.. why have the net if we are ok to use it as assist?
      Some rules should be kept and enforced and a let serve should not be allowed. Its a skill that should remain. Lets not cheapen the skill factor of the game to “have fun”.
      As far as the drop serve? I can go either way but i can see players switching Between the serves during their service attempts and then when they do the traditional serve, they will side arm swing and not be called on it.
      Change and evolution in all sports happens but with that where are the stats and who is this benefitting?
      I’ll still play with Integrity and hope that my opponents do the same…
      My 2 cents.

    1. I have carefully studied the new pickleball 2021 legislation. And people’s reactions to it. Section 4M3 clearly has been recorded. BUT NOT CHANGED!
      the word LET has been dropped. But a serve that touches anything before it lands in correct area is still bad. It’s now called a fault followed by a replay. (Same thing if a false score is called. Or if a time out was called. You now say fault and replay rather than a LET.

  11. Goodness. I thought playing Pickleball was supposed to be fun? I haven’t played since January because of Covid restrictions. This certainly isn’t giving me much incentive to go back to it.

  12. Letting the ball bounce before contact seems innocuous. It obviously could assist new players in learning, and can be beneficial to the handicapped players. It seems likely the ball strick height will not be significantly influenced, since your max ball bounce from a player dropping from full reach overhead will not likely be much above “waist high.”

    My big complaint is eliminating the “upward swing” at contact, and the paddle below wrist at contact rules when a bounce serve is used. This allows an extended array of serve motions that can impart extreme backspin and/or sidespin on the ball that are not possible when these rules are enforced. While this “no limits” may be OK for pro-level players, in recreational play with players of mixed skill combined, an abuser of this rule may make it virtually impossible for a lower-skill player to return a serve. I think new 4.8 is OK in general, but eliminating the stroke motion restriction and paddle-to-wrist relationship, in my opinion, is a mistake.

    1. I totally agree. I understand the drop ball for serve rule for handicapped players and for beginners with lesser eye/hand coordination. But to change the upward motion so that better players can make the serve advantageous for them is a disservice to the original rules, allowing the receivers to be the offensive team for the most part, the servers the defensive team. This drop ball serve changes the game, and not for the better.

    2. In my limited experience, a fair number of rec players do not follow the rules of the underhand, upward only swing above the belly button. There are way too many side swipes and what have you that beginners are at a disadvantage since they aren’t spinning. The new drop gets begineers in the “serve” quickly and levels the playing field with virtually all folks spinning on the serves a lot of the time.The drop serve gives the begineers an immediate “spin” serve which the seasoned rec players don’t like. It will be an interesting year particularly if the goal is to have the drop serve as the only serve in 2022.

      1. Hi Suzan, Have just noticed your Blog comment. Thanks for doing so and any replies you have. I felt this Blog Site would be fun and controversial. You spoke about the matter of ‘spin’, especially for beginners. Many Pball beginners, unless they have good tennis or paddle sports background skills would not be hitting ‘spins’ off of a bounced serve. If a beginner is able to hit a spin serve, most ‘seasoned’ rec players know how to compensate when the ball hits in their court. Many Pros hit their serve with a legal and mild ‘cut serve’. Senior Scott Moore is one of the best and serves ‘backhanded’ with a good ‘cut serve’ and is very legal. Same can be done legally with a forehand ‘cut serve’. Is important to watch the servers motion when striking the ball and you will know how to react when it comes to you. As Jen and Alex say, “Go Play”!

      2. What happens if a player drop serves but doesn’t hit the ball. Here in the wind the ball moves so much that the server can’t hit the ball. Is this a fault?

        1. Hi Peter, Good question and sure others have same. Just watched recent video on this situation and went to 2021 revisions to verify. Page 26 of the Revisions and Rule 4.A.8.b. If server drops ball and not satisfied with the bounce (wind etc.) they may start again assuming the ball is served within the 10 second Rule. Thanks for your question-keeps me up to date also. I ref at a YMCA. “Go Play”.

        2. Officially, the server or the referee announces the score. The server then has ten seconds to serve. What he or she does in that ten seconds is immaterial. In recreational play you may or may not enforce the ten second rule, but swinging at and missing the ball is not a fault.

    3. You are correct in saying with the drop serve you can put some good spin or movement on the ball. I just started playing pickleball this summer and love the drop serve. Being a lefty I can catch many people off guard with it. We have around 25 players in our rec play ranging from extreme beginners to 3.5/4.0 players. I personally adjust my play according to who is across the net. I do not drop serve, spin and drive the ball with people who are learning the game. That is just rude in my opinion. Bad sportsmanship. I will be playing in my first tournament soon and hope to pull out the drop serve if I think it is the right move.

  13. Hi Jennifer and all players. I’m sure there will multitudes of ‘hits’ on this Blog. Might be fun (maybe). The ‘no let’ serve call makes good sense (saves time). I’ve been an uncertified ref for 3 years and spent time learning all up until now. Only concerned right now for the serve and bounce ones. 81 pages? Yuk!

  14. I have hired a shrink to accompany me when I play so that my ‘rule anxiety’ will be lessoned. And do you have an explanation for the meaning of “ball abuse”?

    1. Hi Art, Apparently not. They have just put a couple of videos out with situations. Hard to believe, but you can bounce the ball, crouch down and hit the serve chest high with no upward arc. Disappointing. Glad this rule is ‘provisional’ only after Jan 25. Hope usapa reconsiders this one. Would not want to see the Pros play like that for sure! Hoping they all agree.

      1. William MacKinnon

        Too many rules in the game of pickleball and in this country in general. Has taken me out of ever wanting to be a ref. Ready to give up tournaments and just play rec play.

    1. Rule 4.A.8.a includes “after the ball bounces on the playing surface” where playing surface is defined as “The court and the area surrounding the court designated for playing.” So the ball can bounce inside, outside or on the line. Your feet placement is the same as for a regular serve. This has not changed in the 2021 rules, but has been clarified.

      “The moment the ball is served:
      • at least one foot must be on the playing surface behind the baseline
      • neither of the server’s feet may touch the court on or inside the baseline
      • neither of the server’s feet may touch outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.”

    1. Marcel, I actually did nothing 🙂 I am guessing upon your first comment that you checked the box to receive notice if there was another comment on this post – which as of now there’s 25 comments. The email notification happens automatically. I will see if I can figure out how to turn your notifications off tomorrow 🙂

  15. “The Rules Committee cannot and will not let the game everyone enjoys be damaged by even a very small number of players who might usurp a rule to their advantage now or in the future.”

    …and then that’s exactly what they did – let those (very) few cheaters impact the integrity of the game. Cheaters are gonna cheat. It would be just as well if they were to have instituted a new rule…No Cheating!

    The let rule makes the game more fair. Removing it makes it less fair, especially for older rec level players but also for competitive play. This change makes the game more gimmicky, and does very, very little to affect cheating.

    And finally…”can not” is two words;) Or maybe that’s been changed too!?!?

  16. Jennifer, these are very interesting. I took a referees class from Mark and know how much care and consideration goes into these rule changes. From the summary, and items that I have heard they will also allow the ball to be bounced before a serve, that seems like a big change also. I would like to hear the rationale for that change.

    How are you able to publish this before it appears on the USAPA website?

    1. Hello Tim, great questions. USA Pickleball Ambassadors were given the info a day ahead to give us a chance to read and understand before these Rules Changes went public on December 15. We were asked (and authorized) to share the information beginning December 15 with our clubs, members and such.

      The USAPA website will have the actual 2021 Rule Book once it is ready, and its home will be on the website just like the 2020 Rule Book is. If you read to the bottom of my post you will find the link to 2020.

  17. Leaders only lead so long as followers follow. If this post isn’t trolling, some of the proposed changes may simply be ignored by officials and players. Pickleball is what we all make it. USAPickleball may be reminded that New Coke and Samsung Galaxy 7 batteries flamed out, rejected by the market. Players, sponsors and officials will decide which rules and which governing body to follow.

    1. First rule in our book is have fun and the last rule is the same and nothing between except laughing. Great game if you follow our rules. It is amazing if everyone agree to it how the other rules / guidance are very flexible and fare to all. Life is too short to squabble about a point. Really you don’t call the score and make a mistake is a penalty, we would never end a game and who remember a score or who was even serving. Ha Ha love pickle ball and my mates i play with.

  18. I agree with a few of the afroementioned rules regarding the ‘Let” rule change. There are far more difficult calls to make regarding ‘in’ or ‘out’ than there are with the ball hitting the net before the opponent’s receiving box. Before this change, the “let” situation was the same in tennis. Trying to address balls that hit the net and are in some way deflected but still having to be played during the coures of the game is understandable and, in my opinion, more playable since players are able to move their physical positioning to address these types of situations. In receiving serves; however, there are very few ‘adjustments’ that a serve receiving player can make in order to return a “clean” serve let alone now one that is deflected by first hitting the net. Funny how rule changes are often times made to address those situations whereby someone in an advanced player status or in a tournament situation tries to pull a fast one (i.e. cheats) as opposed to those who are playing in every day game situations.

  19. I’d like to know who is making these decisions? The rule change regarding let’s doesn’t make sense. Anyone who plays, knows a ball skipping off the net cord can do crazy things to the ball flight. Players will now have to return balls that skid, spin and do crazy bounces off the net cord, rather than simply having a re-serve. I think this falls under, “ we arguably have the most popular and fastest growing sport in the world, so hey, let’s make significant changes to the rules and see if we can’t diminish the sport so fewer people will want to play.” Who thinks like this? I can think of many adages about this, but the one that seems to fit the best, “ If it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!”

    1. It is broke. I’ll bet you 3-1 odds that the “let” will be out and not in. Therefore not an issue.
      “Missed calls” on “let” much more of an issue. Causing issues. Maybe one lucky serve off net all season. 🙂

  20. What a mess. Too many rules The game was fun, now for rec play its so complicated. If in a tourn, on edge all the time

  21. Leave the rules way they were
    One rule I question is if the server hits a player before it bounces even if it outside court it’s servers point.

    1. Hi Beverly, This rule (4.M.3) has been in force all along. But in our recreational play, when serve hits ball in wrong court and wrong receiver either catches or gets struck by the ball that is obviously going into the wrong court, we just have servers go to 2nd server or side out. Some players insist that server is awarded a point. Personally, I always move out of the way if I am incorrect receiver and let the ball land. Then serve is a fault. In tournament play this would definitely be server point. Thanks.

  22. I would like to receive your publication in the future, right now, it is a friend sending it to me. I would like to receive all the official changes for 2021. Thank you,

    1. Hello Marcel, yes to receive further posts subscribe to my blog. Find that at the bottom (footer) of my website, then you will not miss anything 🙂 Check back to this post for an update of the 2021 Rules Changes official book’s website link. Take care!

      1. Let me get this straight. If the server’s ball hits the net on the serve, lands in the correct service area on the receiving side of the court…that ball is played as if no “let” occurred at all? I’m wanting you to spell this out in it’s most simplistic way possible. Why? Because after allowing an unlimited number of “let” calls in our sport we’re now going to allow “none?” This is going to be a very hard pill to swallow.

        And let’s not even get into bounce serves. Lord, have mercy.

        1. Hi Michael, I see your frustration, but all we have to do is simply ignore a serve that hits the net and lands in the court of play. Then just continue play. I realize it may take a month or so for some to get it. Just inform all players before start of game, then ask-any questions? This rule saves time as their was no limit to the # of let serves prior to this rule. Thanks.

  23. The let serve rule change doesn’t make sense. It is way easier to just call a ball out or short and that type of call happens in almost every game. 99% of Pickleball play is informal not in tournaments. In our community most disputes happen on line calls. We accept each other’s calls. The team receiving the ball makes the call unless they ask. At every level of tennis and even ping pong let serves take place all the time. What makes Pickleball so different? A ball hitting the net is not a clean serve no more than a foot fault or side arm serve. What’s next, bounce serves, overhead serves or no serving rules at all?

    1. in college tennis the let serve is in play, maybe any shot that clips the net then falls in is unfair also then the clipped net serve into play will just become part of the game Plus pretty sure with the group you play with you can set your own rules, we do in golf we don’t follow all of the rules just the basic ones, For the bounce serve that seems like a fun thing to see something different then the basic weak serve. wouldn’t change pickleball rule 1 get your serve in rule 2 get your return in rule 3 drop third shot into kitchen. what really changes

    2. The only real change concerning the serve that touches the net but lands correctly is in the change in wording.
      Before: it was called a LET.

      It just change of words that created all the confusion.

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