What Would You Do? Missed Serve

What would you do in your pickleball game with a missed serve?

Here is a great question that I thought I’d have my super duper, great doubles partner Alex Hamner help me out and share her thoughts. As you know by now, when we play together we are attached at the hip (move well together). The similarities continue off the court, go figure….. What would you do – missed serve.

Question from Candyce of South Carolina:

“I was the first server on my side. We missed the point and erroneously gave the serve to the other side before my partner served. They served and got the point. Then I remembered that we hadn’t taken our second serve. The other side said “too bad” and continued serving. What should we have done when I realized that we hadn’t served the second time?”


Alex Hamner replies:

Hi Candyce, interesting scenario!

I’ve got to admit, my first reaction was along the line of “what jerks!”  Then I started to think more about it and could come up with a situation when I might have done the same thing as your opponent, such as ~ I’m in a game where I’m losing badly for the 4th or 5th game in a row to the same team and I could really use a break. So I think I would take the opportunity to keep that free point.  Of course, if I won the game we’d all know it was not a true win, and certainly some good trash talking would ensue. And if I lost there would certainly be some trash talking about cheating and still losing. From my standpoint, neither is a true winning finish.

Therefore, I think that leaves us with my first reaction! I hope your issue arose during a fun rec game with friends and resolved without your having to leave the court to get in line behind 20+ other paddles. But I’m afraid that, while in my opinion you did the right thing in bringing up the error, there was no way to force the opponents to give you your serve back. So your choices seem to be for you to finish the game with the mistake uncorrected, or simply walk off the court (default) and attempt to not play with those “jerks” again.

Bottom line – put this incident behind you and keep having your pickleball FUN!

20 comments on “What Would You Do? Missed Serve”

  1. In response to Jeff’s scenario: if I am returning a serve and the server’s partner is camped illogically at the kitchen line, I float a soft, medium high ball to the kitchen sitter. Usually, said person gleefully volleys a smash for a “winner.”

    Our point, and the volleyer has learned a painful, but invaluable and necessary lesson. By the way, the server’s partner can position him or self anywhere he or she darn pleases, sensible or not.

  2. Hi All, please correct me if I am wrong or missed it, but according to what Candyce of SC said, she was the first server. I do not know if she was the first server of the game or the first server after a few rallies had taken place. If she was the first server of the game and lost her serve, the server goes to the other team, because the the first team only gets one serve. If she was the first server after after a few sideouts and inadvertently gave the serve to the next team, after losing her serve, she can ask for the serve from the other team if the other had not served yet. Once the other team has served several times, the first team has just got to live with the fact it was too late to get back the serve. If it had occurred after maybe one round, the other team could have been “nice” and given the serve to the first team. It is a matter of how nice one wants to be or if one wants to be a stickler of the rules.

  3. To follow on what Betsy said, the closest official rule is 5.B.6: “A point made from an incorrect service position or an incorrect server will not be retained unless play has continued and another point has been scored or the opposing team has served”. I have run many tournaments (and still do) and if this came up for a ruling that is what I would go with. In regular play there have been a couple times when I realized we missed our 2nd server, but if the other team had already served I also just let it go because as Bev said: “Just have Fun!”

  4. In the true spirit of sportsmanship, I would hope that the point(s) would be replayed. My assumption is that this was not tournament, but casual play. I have been in situations when the serving team was a bit confused and the non serving partner was standing at the net ready for play to begin. I stop play and ask them if that is where they want to be standing and of course they then move back toward the baseline.

    What fun is winning the point if players are not given an opportunity to do their best? I want to win against the best and I want to lose against them as well.

  5. How can I overcome negative thoughts when me and my partner get ahead in a game, we are still going to loose the game?

  6. One resolution is to speculate what might have happened in an officiated tournament game. My guess is that the referee would have stopped play, negated the unearned point, and then reset the game with the proper score and correct second server. What is good for tournmepament play is good for recreational play.

    Finally, any victory that is gained at the expense of one’s ethics and repuation is no victory at all.

  7. Deborah Barksdale

    It happens more than you would think in rec games for beginners and low 3.0 games. After a long point every one can lose track of the score and who served….. senior moments. If no one is sure, we take the score and server of the player with the best recollection . From there we just play on.

  8. I would reply to this question (for whatever my opinion is worth!) that even though it might be in recreational/fun play, if it’s not caught prior to the other team’s serve, then play continues and you lose your serve…just like you would in a tournament game. At least with the people I play with, most of them would not “steal” your serve intentionally, but if it happened, play would continue from there without going back. If your opponent really said “too bad,” and meant it like that sounds, I would probably be annoyed with the reply, but ultimately it was my fault for not realizing we should have been on 2nd serve.

  9. I like your style, Alex! But, isn’t it the servers responsibility to keep track of who is serving? If they give the ball over to the other side and they serve, I don’t think you can then demand to have the ball back to finish their serve. It would be very disruptive to the game and not worth it. I bet Candyce won’t let that happen again! Susan

    1. Hi Susan. Theoretically I agree (although not about the disruptive part ?) – it is the server’s responsibility to keep track of the score. But in reality, it’s everyone’s – and sometimes people get confused or just plain forget. Particularly in rec play, although it has definitely happened in tournament play (personal experience on this one). And good sportsmanship should always be involved IMO. Thanks for following Jennifer’s blog, gives her something to do besides hit balls at me! ??

  10. I think, in a fun/rec game, I might negotiate a compromise. In that , I’d say that you can go back and take your second serve turn, but when it’s side out, we’ll come back to our side in the correct positions AND including the point we scored before you realized the error of not getting your second serve.

  11. Such a great question! I believe that if you “gave them the serve” then unfortunately YOU made the error and you would just have to move on and hope to never make that error again. Now if they exhibited true sportsmanship they would give you your second serve but not everyone plays that way.
    I once made an error and said I was server 2 when really I was 1. When I lost my serve the opposing team refused to give my partner her serve. Oh well….

  12. I’ve witnessed similar scenarios. The team that originally served and forgot their second serve is somewhat at fault too. I think if it’s a Rec game, you just move on realizing the mistake and learning from it. I woukd just try harder in the future. If it’s a tournament game, everything should stop until the ref sorts it out.

    1. If the game was being officiated, the referee made the error. It is the referee’s responsibility to maintain service order.

  13. Beverly Youngren

    Thanks for your honest opinion that keeps the spirit of the game alive……good response! Just have fun!!!!

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