Pickleball is a relatively easy sport to learn, but the scoring system is rather complex. The pickleball scoring system is different from other types of racket sports and often causes a bit of confusion for new players. From calling the score to losing track of the correct score, it can all take a bit of getting used to. Fortunately, scoring in pickleball becomes second nature once you get the hang of it.
Let’s demystify the process of scoring in a pickleball match by breaking it down step by step and rule by rule.
Basics of Pickleball Scoring
What sets the rules of scoring in pickleball apart from other types of racket sports is that only the serving team can earn points, and they’re made only one at a time. In a typical game of pickleball, the match is played to 11 points, but there’s also a stipulation to this winning point threshold. Even when a team has earned 11 points, they must be at least 2 points ahead of the other team in order to call it a win.
To give an example of how this works, let’s say that the score of a pickleball game is tied 10-10. The serving team then earns a point, which technically puts them at the 11 point mark for winning the match. The issue here is that the serving team is only ahead by one point. This means that the game continues until one of the teams is ahead by two points, regardless of what the winning score ends up being.
- Basics of Pickleball Scoring
- What It Means When We Say Points Are Only Won On the Serve
- Serving Basics & Positions for Doubles and Singles Pickleball
- Calling the Score in Pickleball
- What Happens If the Wrong Score Is Called In Pickleball?
The serving team scores when they either hit a shot that the receiving team is unable to return or the receiving team commits a fault. If the serving team commits a fault, the serve is then passed onto the next player in the serving rotation.
Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s get more into the specifics about pickleball scoring.
What It Means When We Say Points Are Only Won On the Serve
This rule is really important when you’re keeping score in a game of pickleball. In some other racket sports, a point is won by either side when their opponents either miss the shot or commit a fault. With pickleball, the rules are different.
The only player (or team) that can score a point in pickleball is the person serving. Technically speaking, an entire game can be played and won with the ball never leaving the first server ever losing the ball. It is possible for the first server to win all 11 points consecutively, but it’s also a pretty rare occurrence.
Let’s say the ball is served, and the receiving team misses the ball or commits a fault. This would result in a point scored for the serving team, and the ball would then be served again by the same player that did it last.
But, if the serving team loses the ball via a misses shote or fault, the receiving team’s score is not affected. Instead, the serve moves onto the next player in the serving sequence. In this manner, it’s never possible for the receiving team to score a point.
Serving Basics & Positions for Doubles and Singles Pickleball
Pickleball is a game that can be played either as singles or doubles. The number of players doesn’t impact the basic rules, like how only the serving team can score points or that the game is played to 11 points. However, there are some differences between a singles and doubles match that does affect how the game is played and the scoring process.
Doubles Pickleball Scoring Rules
When playing doubles, positioning has a lot to do with keeping score in pickleball. The game begins when a serving team/player is decided upon. There aren’t any rules that govern who serves first. It’s just one of those things that the players decide among themselves.
When playing doubles, the first server should be standing at the baseline of the right service court. The server’s partner should be standing in the zone to their left. The first serve for either team is always played from the right-hand side of the service courts.
The ball is served, and after it bounces once on each team’s side of the court (following the double bounce rule), it can then be volleyed or rallied back and forth until a shot is missed or a fault is committed. If the end of the ball being in play is the result of the receiving team, then the initial serving player serves the ball again. This continues until the serving team loses the ball.
Now, when playing doubles pickleball, the serve doesn’t automatically pass across the net to the other team. Instead, the serve passes to the second player of the serving team. That player will continue serving as long as the serving team wins points. Once the second server loses the ball, it’s then that the serve is passed across the net to the other team.
Serving position with pickleball doubles is important because it plays into how the score is called. Each time the ball is served, the player who is serving will switch positions with their partner and serve from the opposite service court.
For example, the serve starts in the right service court. When the serving team scores and they serve again, they’ll do so from the left side service court. The serving player continues to alternate sides with their doubles partner until they lose the serve. Players on the other team do not need to switch sides with each other until it’s their turn to serve.
When the second server loses the serve, it then goes to the opposing team. All the same rules apply for the opposing team, including that the serve starts in the right service court and that the serve alternates sides. At this point, it’s now only the opposing team that can score.
First Server Exception
There is a first server exception to the above serving and scoring sequence is with the very first serve of a new pickleball game. When the first person to serve the ball loses the serve, instead of handing the serve off to their partner, the serve will switch sides and belong to the other team. This point, at the start of a new game, is the only time that a serving side only gets the one shot at scoring.
The first server exception rule is used to help eliminate the first server advantage and avoid the scenario where the first serving team goes on a streak and wins the necessary 11 points without the serve moving to the other team’s side of the court.
Singles Pickleball Scoring Rules
Many of the same rules of serving and how to score in pickleball for doubles also apply to a singles game. The main difference, of course, is that there isn’t a second server to pass the serve to.
Just like in pickleball doubles scoring, only the serving player/team can score a point. Also, the game is typically played to 11 points, just the same as with a doubles match. Some players find that with singles scoring, it’s a little easier to lose track of the score. There’s a simple way to help keep track of the score in pickleball.
In a singles game, you’re going to also alternate sides of the court as you serve. This continues until the serving player loses the serve. Since you score points with each time you have to switch courts, comparing your score to the side of the court you’re on can help you not lose track in singles scoring.
When your score is even, you should serve from the right service court. When your score is odd, you should serve from the left side court. For example, if the score is called and it’s 0,2,4,6, etc., the following serve should be from the right court. If the server’s score is 1,3,5,7, etc., when it’s called, the serve should be made from the left. Since there isn’t a second server on the team, it’s easy to keep track of the server score this way.
Calling the Score in Pickleball
Whether you’re playing singles or doubles, the score in pickleball is called each time you or the other team score a point. There’s a very specific way that the score is called in pickleball. With singles, it’s pretty straightforward. The serving player or team’s score is always called first, with the receiving team’s score called second. With doubles, the score is called using three numbers instead of two.
The Three-Number System
The three-number system for doubles scoring in pickleball includes the serving team’s score and the score of the receiving team, just like with singles pickleball. Then there’s a third number that’s tacked onto the end when you keep score in pickleball doubles. This number is used to identify the server, or rather the server’s position in the game.
When a serve is passed to a team, regardless of what the serving team’s score is, the player on the right will always serve first. This player will be referred to as player 1 for the duration that their team has the serve. The partner, who will be on the right side during the first serve, will be referred to as player two until the other team gets the serve. Then it all resets.
Keep in mind that this number refers only to the server position when the serve is passed to them and not a number that’s attached to the server themselves for the duration of the game. Each time the serve is passed to the other team, whichever player that’s on the right will be player 1. In most cases, both partners are both 1 and 2 at different points of the game.
Many new players mistakenly assume that you keep the same server number throughout the entire game, regardless of whether you’re serving on the right or left side. This isn’t true. Your server number will change as you alternate between the right and left side of the court.
For example, if you’re team’s score is called as 5-2-1, it means that you have 5 points, the other team’s score is 2 points, and the point was served by server number one – who would be the first server on the team for this round. Now let’s say that the serve is lost, and server number two is up, but they commit a fault. The score remains unchanged but is called as 5-2-2, indicating that it was player two who served the ball.
Now, since the serving team commits a fault, the serve is passed to the other side of the court. If the score is unchanged and is called after the first server commits a fault, the score would be 2-5-1. This means that their score is two, the other team’s score is still five, and the server was position one.
One important rule is that the server must always call the score before servings,
Confused yet? Don’t worry. You won’t be for long. Learning how to keep score in pickleball is a lot easier once you get out there and do it, rather than just reading about the pickleball scoring rules. Once you do it a couple of times, you’ll find that you’re keeping score perfectly and not even thinking about it.
What Happens If the Wrong Score Is Called In Pickleball?
Keeping score in pickleball can be challenging, especially for new players. It’s not uncommon that a score gets called incorrectly in both singles and doubles pickleball. It’s easy to lose track of who served first and what each team’s score is.
There is an official rule in place for if a score is called incorrectly, but it doesn’t include any penalties for the serving team. The rule simply states that if the server calls the score incorrectly, that any player in the game has the opportunity to stop play before the serve is returned and ask for the score to be corrected. If the score were called incorrectly, the correct score would be called, and the ball will then be re-served without any type of associated penalty.
One thing to note is that no player can stop the game after the third shot off of a serve to question the serve. If the game is stopped to ask the score after the third shot, it’s considered a fault by whichever player stopped the game.
What are the 3 numbers included in a pickleball score?
The three numbers apply to playing pickleball doubles. The first number is the server’s score, the second number is the receiver’s score, and the final number identifies which player is serving the ball.
How many points does it take to win a pickleball game?
For a standard game of pickleball, it takes 11 points to win the game. There is one caveat. The winning team can’t declare victory until they’re ahead by at least two points, even if they’ve reached the 11 point threshold. Some pickleball tournament games are played to a higher point value, such as 15 or 21.
Mastering the Art of Pickleball Scoring
For new players, learning how to keep score is often one of the most challenging aspects of pickleball. With all of the action happening at the pickleball net and on the court, it’s easy to lose track of the score, especially with the way you switch positions throughout the game. Trust that with a little practice, pickleball scoring will seem like second nature, and you’ll be able to focus your attention more on playing the game itself.