2022 Changes to Pickleball Rules Announced

Raymond H. Goettsch

The changes to the USA Pickleball rules have been announced. Probably the most important rule changes relate to the serve.

The “chainsaw” serve

The rules now prohibit the so-called “chainsaw” serve. Under this change, a player may only use his/her non-paddle hand to toss the pickleball for the serve. In other words, the player must not use the paddle or the paddle handle to toss the pickleball to be served. The only exception to this rule is if the serving player only has the use of one hand. That said, the rule allows a player to use his/her non-paddle hand to add spin to the serve.

The “drop” serve

The so-called “drop” serve was provisionally permitted by the 2021 rule changes. The 2022 rule changes have now adopted the drop serve as a permanent option. For the drop serve, the serving player may drop the ball from his/her hand or paddle face and hit the ball after it bounces. However, the ball must be dropped only and must not be thrown down or up. The ball can land on any part of the playing surface. In other words, the ball can bounce in front of the service line or behind the service line, but the server must remain behind the service line.

However, the release of the ball must be visible to the opponent and any referee, or a replay is required. The ball can be struck by either a forehand motion or a backhand motion. In addition, the ball can be dropped more than once before it is struck for the serve, as long as it is struck within 10 seconds of the server’s call of the serve.

Now that the drop serve is a permanent serve option, the question arises as to whether a player should adopt this serve. Some commentators have recommended that new players adopt the drop serve rather than the volley serve, particularly if the player is not experienced in racket sports. Commentators have also suggested that a player should switch to the drop serve if the player has been having problems with the volley serve.

Some commentators have argued that the drop serve is more consistent with the rest of the game, which is mainly ground strokes. They have also maintained that the drop serve provides better timing than a volley serve by reducing rushing a serve, which can lead to a fault. Some have also noted that the drop serve results in deeper shots. Finally, some commentators have suggested that the drop serve eliminates arguments that a volley serve is “illegal” by not being hit below the waist, not hit in an upward motion and/or the paddle being under the wrist. As they note, these service requirements do not apply to the drop serve.