Pickleball Points: What is the score? 10-10-2 is 22. Right?

In clinics, kids seem to understand the scoring of pickleball in five minutes or less, but many otherwise bright adults seem to get confused. I think their brains might be like my garage, which is filled with a lifetime of wonderful memories. Every time my wife asks me to add something new, I have to unpack and repack it, and by the time I get it unpacked, I forget what it was I was going to pack.

Scoring: In conventional pickleball, points for your team can only be accrued while serving. With one exception, the serving team will get two serves, one for Server 1 and one for Server 2. The first server always starts serving from the right side of the court. So, each time, when it is your team’s time to serve, the player on the righthand side of the court becomes Server 1, and that distinction only lasts during your team’s period of serving.

Each server continues to serve, rotating back and forth from right to left, until their team makes an error. When the error occurs while Server 1 is serving, Server 2 then follows from wherever they are on the court, right or left. When the team makes an error while Server 2 is serving, it is a “side out” and the serve goes over to the competition. A ‘Side-Out’ is when one team has exhausted both serving opportunities, Server 1 and Server 2, and the ball goes to the other team.

The server always announces the score, and they always say their own score first. If my team has six points and your team four points, it is 6-4. The third number is always (1) for Server 1 and (2) for Server 2, or 6-4-(1) or (2). Since this creates so much confusion during those first sessions, you might say, “The score is 6 (Me) - 4 (You), and I am the first server” or “... 6 (Me) - 4 (You), I am the second server.” Once you get winded and tired, you will soon find it easier to say it in shorthand 6-4-1 or 6-4-2.

The one serving exception: At the beginning of the match, the first team to serve only gets one serve, not two, so the opening score announcement should be 0-0-2. You are confirming by saying 2 that, after this server loses a point, the serve goes to the other team.

Test question: You are playing pickleball doubles in your state championships, traditional best-two-out-of-three 11-point games. You are in the second round, having won your first round easily, and you are now in a hard-fought match that has gone on for 40 minutes. After a very long rally that your team lost, the serve goes over to the opposing team. After all four of you suck down large volumes of air, your opponent steps up behind the line on the right side of their court and announces the score. 9-10-1. Is this correct?

Answer: If the score was 0-0 when they started the match from the right, and after every point earned, they rotated from right to left, back to right, then the serving team’s score from that side of the court would necessarily be even 0, 2, 4, 6… When your opponent says 9-10-1, you hold your paddle up and say, “Wait.” It should be 8-10-1, or 10-10-1. Someone should have immediately noticed that your score cannot be an odd number from the right side by the first server.

Conversely, it would have been 1, 3, 5, 7... from the left side. Both teams need to agree on the proper score before they go forward. And while you are trying to figure out the score, you better make sure if the tournament rules require you to win by one or the normal two-point margin when you hit 11 points.

Next time I am going to explain rally scoring in pickleball, which has been adopted for some pro tournaments.


By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point

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.