Doubles Scoring Basics:
- Not all rallies result in points. Points can only be scored by the serving team. The receiving team cannot score a point even if they win the rally.
- The player on the right side always serves first. This is true at the beginning of the game or after a sideout occurs.
- Serves must be diagonal and land in bounds on the opposite side of the court. Serves that hit the net are legal/playable but they must clear the non-volley zone (NVZ) and NVZ line.
- If a point is scored, the server moves to the left side (odd court) and serves to the diagonally opposite court.
- Players on the serving side continue to switch sides (right and left) with the same player serving until they lose the rally.
- You and your partner only switch sides when a point is scored.
- If a fault occurs, the second server takes their turn serving (regardless of which side they are on) and continues serving until the team loses a rally.
- When the second server loses the serve, the serve goes to the other team and the player on the right serves first. That pattern continues throughout the game.
- To minimize the advantage of being the first team to serve in the game, only one player (the one on the right side) gets to serve on the first service turn of the game. Therefore, at the start of the game, the score should be called, “0-0-2.” The “2” indicates “second server” and means that the serve goes to the other team when the serve is lost.
- The server number (1 or 2) applies for that service turn only. Whoever is on the right side (depending on the score) when the team gets the serve back is the first server for that service turn. The next time that the team gets the serve back, it might be the other player that is on the right and is therefore the first server for that service turn.
Calling the Score:
- Always call the score before serving.
- The score should be called as three numbers: serving team score, receiving team score, then server number (1 or 2).
- The starting score for every game is as follows: 0-0-2 (see above explanation).
NOTE: When a team’s score is even, the player who served first in that game must be on the right (even) side of the court and on the left (odd) side when the score is odd. Or, expressed alternately, when the first server of that game is on the right side of the court, that team’s score should be even. If this is not the case, then either the players are positioned on the wrong side of the court or the called score is inaccurate.
Singles Scoring Basics:
- Singles scoring is very similar to doubles except that there is no second server. Therefore, the score is called simply as: server score, receiver score.
- The serve is always done from the right side when the server’s score is even and from the left side when the server’s score is odd.
- The server’s score determines serving position, not the score of the receiver. The receiver lines up on the right or left side according to the server’s score.
Rally Scoring for Singles:
- Rally scoring is very easy to understand in singles because everything is the same except every rally results in a point, including missed serves. You do not have to be the server to score a point.
- As always the server’s score dictates which side of the court they will be serving from.
- For example, when starting the game at 0-0, if the server misses their serve into the net or out of bounds, this results in a point for the opponent. Therefore, the opponent will call the score as 1-0 and serve diagonally from the left side.
Rally Scoring for Doubles:
Doubles rally scoring is quite complex and always drives me bonkers because most people do not know how to do it correctly.
- Each rally in a game is worth a point. Therefore, you do not have to be the serving team to score.
- There is no second serve. Each side will only have one server but that server will continue to serve until the team loses a rally, but both players on the team will have the opportunity to serve throughout the game.
- It is crucial to remember that the right side is always the even side and the left side is always the odd side. When a team gets the serve, if the serving team’s score is even, then the player on the right side will serve. If the score is odd, then the player on the left side will serve.
- If the team scores a point, then the two players switch sides. The same player continues to serve until they lose the rally.
- For example, when a game starts at 0-0, the player on the right serves diagonally.
- If the serving team wins the rally and scores a point, the players on the serving team trade places. The server calls a score of 1-0 and serves diagonally from the left side.
- If the receiving team (red team) wins the rally, then they score a point but the players on the receiving team do not trade sides. (You only switch sides with your partner when you score a point on your serve.)
- The player on the left (odd) side will call the score 1-0 and serve diagonally from the left side.
- If the pink team wins the rally, then they score a point. Now that the score is 2-1, the pink player on the right (even) side will serve.
- The score of the serving team always determines from which side the ball will be served.
- Since every rally results in a point, games are sometimes played to 15 or 21 (instead of 11).
Major League Pickleball Rally Scoring:
To complicate things first, MLP has introduced its own brand of rally scoring which is actually intended to simplify the process. One of the downsides of pickleball doubles rally scoring is that people get very confused about when they should and shouldn’t switch sides. With MLP rally scoring, everyone stays on their designated sides throughout the game.
- As always, the game starts at 0-0 and the player on the right (even) side serves first.
- Neither team’s players switch sides regardless of which team wins the point. Everyone stays on their same sides for the duration of the game.
- If the serving team wins the rally, their score is now 1-0. Rather than having the server trade places with their partner and serve from the left (odd) side. The partner on the left serves. If they win the rally again, the serve goes back to the partner on the right. They continue alternating serves until they lose a rally and the serve goes to the other team.
- If they score 2 more times before the other team wins a rally, then the score is now 3-1. The other team will call the score 1-3 and serve; however, since their score is odd, the player on the left (odd) side is the correct server. They will continue alternating serves between the player on the right (on even scores) and left (on odd scores) until they lose a rally.
- As with singles and regular rally scoring, the serving team’s score dictates the side that the serve will be coming from — right if the score is even and left if the score is odd.
- MLP games are played to 21, win by 2, with an end change that occurs when one team reaches 11 points.
- In order to make things more competitive, MLP has the added twist of “freezing” – meaning points can only be scored on your serve. First team to reach 20 “freezes” or goes back to regular side-out scoring and can only score points on their serve. The trailing team also “freezes” when they reach 18. If the score is tied at 19-19, then both teams “freeze” at 20-19. This makes for closer, super exciting matches.
I hope this article helps to explain pickleball scoring basics. If you have questions, please leave us a note in the comments.