Recently, many people have been introduced to pickleball, and more will soon follow. You invariably will hear that pickleball scoring is very difficult, and a gentleman at a pickleball clinic recently suggested to me that pickleball should have made scoring more simple, like tennis.
I looked at him and said, “Excuse me? Deuce, 40-love, advantage out...?”
I want to dash those thoughts. Believe me, it is more difficult to get the pickleball past two 4.5 players at net on a postage stamp-size court. So grab a cup of your favorite coffee, take a seat, and give me the opportunity to explain scoring.
Games are traditionally the best of 11 points decided by at least two points — such as 11-0, 11-7, or 15-13, because you have to win by two points unless otherwise stated. You might mutually decide in advance that it will be a 15-point game, or a 9- or 7-point game if players are waiting.
I told you it was simple.
Since we almost always play doubles, here is how to score a game.
In pickleball, the serving team must call the serve loudly in advance, or forfeit the point. When you call out the score, you announce the serving team’s score first. Assuming my team is serving and has four points and your team has two points, I would say, “4-2”when I serve, and your team would say, “2-4” when they serve. But some people get confused, because in doubles the score has three components: my serve, your serve and that weird third number!
So let’s discuss that weird third 1 or 2 number. Using the above 4-2 example, when it is my team’s serve, the server would announce the score as follows: 4-2-1 (the 1 represents the first server). Get it? My score, your score, with the third number representing the first or second server on the serving team. There never would be a 4-2-3 or 4-2-4, for example.
You always begin serving from behind the baseline on the right side of the court, or deuce side for tennis players. If my team won the first point that I served, my partner and I would switch positions. I would move to the left side (ad or odd side) of the court and serve from behind the base line, to the other opponent diagonal across the net.
Before my next serve, I would loudly announce “5-2-1.” (It was 4-2-1, and we scored a point, so it is now 5-2-1). If my team now won this additional point, my partner and I would switch positions again, and I would announce “6-2-1.” Our score is six, your score is 2, and 1 because I am still the first server because we won the previous point.
Relax and take another sip of coffee.
Now, let’s say I serve the ball into the net and lose my serve. (Note, I didn’t lose the point, but only my serving opportunity.) Now my partner takes the ball, stands behind the baseline, and prepares to serve our team’s second serve diagonally across court from the left, or ad, side of the court. Before my partner serves, he or she announces, in this example, “6-2-2” (six for our score, two for our opponent’s score, and two because my partner is the second server for our team).
If my partner also serves into the net, or hits the serve too deep or wide, then the serving sides switch and the opponents will begin to serve. This is typically known as side-out. The ball will go over to our opponents, and the player on their right (deuce) side will prepare to serve and call 2-6-1 (the two for their score, the six for our serve, and the one, because their first server is about to serve.)
There is at least one exception to every pickle. On the very first serve of each game, the serving team only gets one serve, so the server will announce 0-0-2 (our score, your score, but the server is two, because the starting team only gets one serve on the very first point). When the server says that he/she is server No. “2,” it is an informal warning to all four players that the service sides will change when the serving team next misses a point.
To summarize, on the very first serve, the serving team only gets one serve, then both teams get two serves afterwards. Remember, the serve is especially important because you can only score points when serving.
When the ball hits any part of a line in pickleball, it is good. Of course there is an exception to that pickle as well, to keep you on your toes. This exception occurs when serving. The ball is not good if it hits any part of the “kitchen line,” which is also known as the line 7 feet from the net that defines the no-volley zone (NVZ).
After the first game, roughly equivalent to the first set in tennis, the teams will switch sides. A game might take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. After the first game, my team moves to the north side of the court, and my opponents to the south side, and the team that received first on the first game will serve the second game.
At the very beginning, decide which team serves first by flipping a coin, or drawing the shortest pickle from the bottle. A coin flip is easier. The person winning the flip can decide to serve or receive. The serve is underhand from behind the baseline between the center and sideline. Remember, the first serve is always served from the right side of the court.
Conclusion of a point: Pay attention, because many people do not seemingly understand that the point is not over until the ball hits the floor. If it hits you in play, or you catch it 20 feet outside of the court, you have not allowed the ball to naturally descend, and the point is awarded to your opponent.
One last point about manners. To retain good standing in our pickle-hood, we always shake hands or touch paddles at the beginning and end of every game!
Do you need a refill? Remember, coffee is dehydrating.
As I write this in such detail with more than a thousand words to explain pickleball scoring, I ask myself how did man ever get to the moon?
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point