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Hello, Pickleball Players,
Greetings! It has been an interesting year, challenging, depressing, hopeful. With any luck and a lot of skill, pickleball will be able to return to its normal, social, fun activity sometime in the next few months.
As many of you know, USAPA - the United States of America Pickleball Association - renamed itself to USA Pickleball in order to be more in alignment with other pro-am sports. They also changed the name of the rules document to “OFFICIAL RULEBOOK.” Whereas it used to read “Tournament Rulebook,” that was a bit of a misnomer that some players took as meaning the rules for recreational play were different from tournament play. Although there are some additional stipulations for sanctioned play, the RULES in general are for the game of pickleball, whether played in a social setting or in a tournament setting.
In 2021, USA Pickleball produced the 2021 Change Document, modifying and explaining the rulebook from January 2020. I have gone through the new changes and made notes about those that seem most crucial to pickleball play for us. These are listed below.
1. There are no longer “SERVICE LETS.” If a ball hits the net and lands in the correct court, it is a ball in play. No do-overs.
2. The entire score must be called (all three numbers) before the ball is served.
3. The striking of the ball constitutes the beginning of the service motion. At that time, at least one foot must be on the playing service behind the baseline. Neither foot may touch the court on or inside the baseline. Neither foot may touch outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline.
4. A DROP SERVE may now be used, meaning the ball may be dropped by the server, with the service taking place when the paddle hits the ball AFTER it has bounced. Serves are still to be underhand, with the paddle contacting the ball below the wrist and below the navel. (Note: the Drop Serve is a provisional rule which will be evaluated over the course of the year. For now, 2021, it is in place.)
5. Before the serve occurs, the serving team may ask the referee for the score, correct server, correct position, and may challenge/confirm the called score. The “correct position” request was disallowed in 2020, but is now reinstated.
6. In non-officiated play, a server’s partner may now call the score if the server is unable to do so with sufficient volume. If the person calling the score changes during the game, the new caller shall not change back during the game.
7. If a wrong score is called, ANY PLAYER may stop play BEFORE the THIRD SHOT, and ask for a correction. It used to be before the return of serve. If the correct score was called, a fault will be awarded to the side of the player stopping play.
8. A fault occurs when the server hits the ball WHILE THE SCORE IS BEING CALLED. Call the full score, then hit the ball.
9. Players may not claim a replay because a ball was not seen or there is uncertainty about whether the ball was in or out. The opponent gets the benefit of doubt on line calls, and any ball not called out is “IN.” A player who equivocates, or says “I think the ball was out,” has not made a clear call, and the ball is IN. An opposing player may be asked what she or he saw, and if that player had a clear view, then whatever s/he calls stands. An opposing player should not make a call without its being requested.
10. AFTER the completion of a rally, players may overrule a partner’s line call, an officiating team’s line call, or an opponent’s “in” call WHEN the call is to their own disadvantage.
11. During the act of volleying, it is a fault if the volleying partner’s momentum causes the player to contact ANYTHING that is touching the NVZ, INCLUDING THE PLAYER’S PARTNER.
The 2021 CHANGE DOCUMENT to USA Pickleball Rules is 81 pages long. It becomes effective January 25, 2021. If you plan to play tournaments, it is recommended that you purchase or download a copy of the changes along with their explanations for why the change was made, and examples of how the new rules would be applied.
Please go to the USA Pickleball website for more information (www.usapickleball.org).
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