2022 USA Pickleball Official Rules

Steve Dumas

From Jeff Smith, Chairman, Communications Committee: There has been a lot of chatter lately on the courts about rule changes. One in particular (when is the ball in/out?) has not changed for several years and remains the same for 2022. Basically, if the ball touches the line, the ball is in. The ball is out of bounds if its point of contact with the playing surface is outside the edge of the line. The following report was submitted by guest writer and SaddleBrooke Ranch Pickleball Club member, Steve Dumas. Steve is a credentialed referee with the USA Pickleball Association. He shares information on rule changes for 2022.

On Jan. 1, 2022, the USA Pickleball Association issued a revised rulebook. Unlike the previous three years, where there were a significant number of rule revisions, in 2022 there are only four rule changes that affect recreational, nonofficiated play. Going forward, I anticipate that there will not be that many rule changes, and future changes will be primarily rule clarifications.

The Rules Committee has renamed the conventional serve, where the player releases the ball and hits it before it bounces on the court, the Volley Serve.

Rule 4.A.5: Volley Serve. The server shall use only one hand to release the ball to perform the serve. If the ball is visibly spun by the server during release, the part(s) of the hand contacting the ball must be bare. The server’s release of the ball must be visible to the referee and the receiver. In matches without a referee, the server’s release of the ball must be visible to the receiver. A replay shall be called before the return of serve if the release of the ball is not visible or if the referee (or receiver in nonofficiated matches) cannot discern whether an item on the hand contacted a visibly spun ball. Exception: A player who has the use of only one hand may use their hand or paddle to release the ball to perform the serve.

This rule outlaws the “chainsaw serve” or any serve where players use the paddle to impart added spin on the ball. If players wear a glove, they must not induce any spin on the ball at release. If they intend to spin the ball, they can use a fingerless glove as long as no part of the glove contacts the ball. There can be no band-aids in contact with a spun ball.

Another key part of this rule is the release of the ball must be visible to the receiver.

For 2022, the drop serve is no longer provisional. The server now has the option of doing a Volley Serve or a drop serve. And similar to the volley serve, the release of the ball must be visible to the receiver.

Rule 4.K: Wrong Score Called. If the server or the referee calls the wrong score, once the serve is made, play shall continue to the end of the rally and the correction made before the next serve. After the serve is made, a player who stops play based solely on an incorrect score call will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally.

Any player may ask for a score correction up to the time the ball is served. Once the ball is served, it becomes a fault to stop play because of an incorrect score called. Just a reminder that it is a fault to serve without calling the score. Calling of the score is the start of a rally and the ball becomes live when the server calls the score.

A new rule for 2022:

7.N: In nonofficiated matches, players may carry additional pickleball(s) as long as the ball(s) are carried in a way that the ball(s) are not visible to their opponent(s) during play. If an additional ball that a player was carrying falls on the playing surface during play, a fault shall be declared.

For SaddleBrooke Ranch tournament players, there are several rule changes that you should be aware of. Verbal warnings have been expanded to include all behavioral issues. End change rules have been modified when a technical foul is issued during end change. Time-in and medical time-out rules have been modified. Game retirement and game withdrawal scoring rules have been clarified. Wearing of electronic devices during play has been outlawed. All tournament players should read the rulebook before competing.

And a warning to tournament players: Referees are being instructed to penalize players who throw their paddles and slam return the ball to the server during rallies. There is no place for that kind of behavior in the game.