Pickleball Points

In October of 2018, I wrote about a milestone: how this area below the Indian River in Delaware had quickly grown to offering a hundred pickleball courts. Now, two years later, it is a rarity to see tennis courts without pickleball lines. Dedicated courts are becoming more abundant.

The Peninsula has six dedicated courts with lighting. Millville will soon have three. We now have six in my community. Four public-access dedicated courts recently opened at Rehoboth Elementary School. (The day I drove up, all four courts were busy, and at least two teams per court waited. We had to break out the portable net in the car trunk and set up a court in the parking lot.)

With everyone thinking about even more courts next year, here are some important points you need to factor into your decision process.

• Courts — especially tournament courts — should be oriented north/south, so the sun passes across overhead, rather than the length of the court. But in the event you played in a tournament held on a facility with incorrectly oriented courts facing east/west, what could you do?

In this situation, you would agree in advance that you would switch ends at six points, and every six points afterwards. For example, if I am to begin serving at 6-5-1, it is my responsibility to remind everyone that we need to switch. Perhaps I had the sun at my advantage, but now it will be to my disadvantage. When we reach 12-11-1, we would switch again, thereby sharing the advantages and disadvantages.

• Build it and they will come. If you build the courts, the pickleballers will come. But if you build them without an adequate fence and gates, kids on bikes, skateboards, skates, with baseball spikes.... will all for certain come, as if led by the Pied Piper.

“My little Billy met no harm.”

No, he did not. He’s real special. But that beautiful surface on the pickleball court was applied by a squeegee over asphalt. It is a very thin water seal. One long skateboard scrape breaks the seal and allows water to leak into the asphalt, and over winter it will expand and begin to buckle the court. Two scrapes and a kickstand puncture by one or two kids, and your tennis or pickleball surface is well on the way to destruction.

• Test Question 1 for the good of the pickleball community: The score is 10-10-1. You hit a powerful serve. It was so good that your opponent hit a wild, uncontrolled return of serve that was head high as it flew between you and your partner. You caught it in the air to save yourself from having to walk 20 feet behind the court to retrieve it. In fact, your catch reminded you of the days you played shortstop in baseball and you caught what was sure to be a double. What is the score?

It is now 10-10-2. You did not allow the ball an opportunity to prove it was going out.

But what if your partner stepped forward and hit a beautiful volley down the middle between your opponents. What is the score? It again would have been 10-10-2, because your partner took the ball in the air without allowing it to strike the court on your side of the net. Remember — in pickleball the ball must hit the court at each end, on serve, and then return of serve.

• Test Question 2: The score is 10-9-1 in a regular 11-point game. You want this point. You hit a great serve. Using your tennis skills, you hit a forehand sidearm serve with a little topspin, and it hit the opponent’s forehand corner and jumped up into the spectator stands because of your topspin. You begin to walk to the net, maybe flexing your biceps with the muscle T-shirt someone gifted to you five decades ago, because you think the score is now 11-9; but the referee faulted you because of an illegal serve. Here are the official rules:

4.A.5. The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc at the time the ball is struck and may be made with either a forehand or backhand motion.

4.A.6. The highest point of the paddle head must not be above the highest part of the wrist (where the wrist joint bends) when it strikes the ball.

4.A.7. Contact with the ball is made below waist level (waist is defined as the navel level).

But assume you hit the serve properly when the score was 10-9-1, and the opponent hit a very weak floater back to your side and it hit in the very corner where the baseline and sideline meet. Because it is the corner where two lines meet, you see that it only hit 10 percent of the line, if that, of the line. What is the score?

It is 10-9-2 because, with the exception of the serve and the no-volley-zone line, every ball that hits a line, regardless of how much of the line, is good.

• Bonus question: The score is 10-9-1. Your opponents hit a great angle volley that hit on your side of the court and then went very wide toward the fence. But your partner, once a great soccer player, chased it down and she hit it just before it hit the fence. She tried to hit it back at your opponents but it actually went wide right, even right of the net post, only 4 inches above the ground, well below the height of the net, and it skidded on their sideline.

What is the score? You won! It is 11-9-1.

Rule: 11. M. Shots Around the Net Post. A player may return the ball around the outside of the net post.

11.M.1. The ball does not need to travel back over the net.

11.M.2. There is no restriction on the height of the return, so a player may return the ball around the net post below the height of the net.

Remember the old expression, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

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.