You Make the Call!
Here’s the Scenario:
A coin is flipped at the beginning of the match to determine serve & side. At the end of the 1st game, serve & side is appropriately switched. Is the coin flipped again for the 3rd game to determine serve & side if the teams split games? What’s the call?
Initial Service & Side
One of the first duties a pickleball referee will perform in a tournament match is meet with players courtside and flip a coin (or perhaps write the number 1 or 2 on the back of the scorecard for one of the teams to guess) to determine initial service and side. In a 2-out-of-3 games match, at the end of the first game, initial service and side are to be switched. It’s rare that this is done incorrectly.
What if Games are Split?
What happens, however, if the games are split and the match goes to the decisive third game? Is initial service and side switched again? Or is the coin simply reflipped? I played in a non-sanctioned tournament recently where the referee incorrectly reflipped the coin to determine initial service and side for this decisive third game. Wrong! Initial service and side should have been switched so that the initial service and side for the third game exactly mirrored that of the first game. Please note, however, that in the third game, sides are switched when one team reaches six points. Shown below is the official ruling.
2019 International Federation of Pickleball — Official Tournament Rulebook
Change of Sides.
Sides and initial service will be switched upon the completion of each game.
In a match with two out of three games to 11 points, in game three, sides will be switched when the first team reaches a score of 6…
Need More Pickleball Rules Clarifications & Interpretations?
Please reference our pickleball rules page and make sure to subscribe to our newsletter so that you receive additional pickleball rules clarifications and interpretations for many of the common — and not-so-common — scenarios that happen on the pickleball courts. By subscribing to the newsletter you will also receive pickleball tips, strategies, tournament recaps, and more.