Pickleball Points

The new drop-serve in pickleball seemingly has many in our region paying more attention to the rules, which is a good thing, because rules basically are intended to give everyone an even playing field.

I found the new drop-serve a very good addition, because many players with tennis backgrounds continue to hit questionable side-motion serves. I discovered that the drop-serve allowed me to do more things with the ball, such as top spin or undercut, and when I serve, it is somewhat disguised from my opponent because I take the ball low off the bounce.

I asked Darryl Noble of Ocean Pines, Md., about his thoughts on this new service rule. Not only has Darryl taken his game to the highest skill level in pickleball, he has a tennis background. He served as an officer in the ruling body in pickleball and is a certified USA pickleball referee. Recently, Darryl has also become an officially accredited pickleball instructor.

Darryl said the “drop-serve was inserted into the 2021 rulebook for two reasons: (1) it makes calling illegal serves much easier. With a drop-serve, there is no concern about hitting the ball above your navel or the paddle head being above the wrist; (2) there are people who get the ‘yips’ with their serve and struggle with hitting the ball on the serve out of their hand. The drop-serve is easier for these people.

“The drop serve is a one-year provisional rule, meaning that the rule may not continue next year. It will be evaluated by the USA Pickleball rules committee and either be made permanent, be given another one-year provisional term or eliminated,” he said.

Back to the mechanics.

There are a couple things you need to know about the drop.

You need to just let it fall out of your hand and cannot propel it down. It doesn’t matter where it lands before you hit it, but you are not allowed to step on the line or into the court, in accordance with the rules governing service foot faults.

During the serve, when the ball is struck, the server’s feet shall:

1.6.1. Not touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the sideline.

1.6.2. Not touch the area on the wrong side of the imaginary extension of the centerline.

1.6.3. Not touch the court, including the baseline.

Mr. Noble — I call him Mr. Noble because I might be playing him over the next few months and, hopefully, he will show some mercy to me because of my wisecracks — told me about a player in Florida who could just not serve under the previous rules and got so nervous about it that she would get the “yips.” But this player quickly adapted to the new bounce rule and hasn’t missed a serve yet.

“For her, the game is now much more fun.”

In my own community, I’ve suggested the bounce serve to five new players, and it definitely has helped.

I also want to point out rules governing service faults this week.

During the service, it is a fault against the server resulting in loss of serve if:

1.7.1. The server serves from the incorrect serving area.

1.7.2. In doubles, the incorrect player serves the ball.

1.7.3. The served ball touches any permanent object other than the net, the receiver, or the receiver’s partner before it hits the ground.

1.7.4. The served ball touches the server or server’s partner, or anything the server or server’s partner is wearing or holding.

1.7.5. The served ball lands in the non-volley zone (a.k.a. kitchen).

1.7.6. The served ball lands outside the service court.

1.7.7. The served ball hits the net and lands inside the non-volley zone. (a.k.a. kitchen)

1.7.8. The served ball hits the net and lands outside the service court.

1.7.9. The server begins the service motion before the entire score is called.

1.7.10. The server uses an illegal service motion.

1.7.11. The server or his/her partner calls a time-out after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.

1.7.12. The serving team asks the referee to confirm the correct server and/or the team’s score after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.

Receivers can create faults as well:

1.8.1. The incorrect player returns the serve.

1.8.2. The receiver or the receiver’s partner is touched by or interferes with the flight of the ball before it bounces.

1.8.3. The receiver or the receivers partner calls a time-out after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.

1.8.4. The receiver signals “not ready” after the score has been called.

1.8.5. The receiving team asks the referee to confirm the score after the score has been called and the server has started the service motion.

Sometimes rules are not added, but eliminated. The rules defining “service lets” have been removed as of 2021, other than “If any player stops play because of a service let being called, that player/team will have committed a fault per rule 7.I.” In other words, not knowing the rule changes can lead to a fault against your team.

My final rule this week is about “Going to the bar” before you finish pickleball. Coach used to say, “If you keep hitting the bar, that’s the end of your scholarship.” For those of us relegated to playing on temporary nets on courts shared with tennis, there is normally a structural bar extending across the bottom of the net.

If the ball hits the bar before going over the net, it is a fault against the player who hit it.

If the ball goes over the net but then hits any part of the bar or center base, or gets wedged between the net and bar, it is a let, because your opponents did not get a fair chance to play it.

Except on the serve. If the ball hits the horizontal bar or center base, or gets caught between the bar and net, it is a fault.

Finally, I want to express my deep respect for all those who gave the ultimate in another kind of service — the military. Please think about them and their families on this Memorial Day.

I have traveled extensively and lived abroad. I have had my life threatened abroad, had to hire bodyguards, and had loaded pistols held to my head. Just like you would not allow someone who could not count to invest your money, do not let people who have never had any of these experiences abroad tell you what a terrible place America is. By doing so, you trivialize the sacrifices of all veterans. Instead, do the rational thing which I think those who have fallen would want, and work together to make things even better for all.

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.