• Save

Initial Service & Side for Decisive Third Game — Switch Again or Reflip the Coin?

This post has been updated in 2024 according to the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024).

Here’s the Scenario. You Make the Call.

A coin is flipped at the beginning of the match to determine serve & end. At the end of the 1st game, serve & end is appropriately switched. Is the coin flipped again for the 3rd game to determine serve & end 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.

  • Save

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.

USA Pickeball Official Rulebook (2024)

Rule #5.B:

Change of Ends.

Rule #5.B.1:

Teams switch ends and initial service upon the completion of each game.

Rule #5.B.3:

In a match with two out of three games to 11 points, in game three, the teams will switch ends 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.

  • Save
Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

Pickleball Doubles Strategy Blueprint
  • Flowcharts & Decision-trees
  • Technique Checklists
  • Serve, Return, 3rd Shot & 4th Shot Strategies
  • 10-page downloadable PDF that outlines a systematic, practical and easy-to-follow approach that will help any level pickleball player WIN MORE GAMES!
pickleball doubles strategy blueprint
Fromuth Pickleball – Use Code “10MAX” for 10% Off!
Fromuth Pickleball
Jigsaw Health – Discount Code!
Use Code “PickleballMAX10” at Checkout for $10 off your Jigsaw Order.
Jigsaw Health
RIA Performance Eyewear
  • 100% UVA/UVB protection
  • Impact-resistant & shatterproof lenses
  • Lightweight, anti-fogging, and vision-enhancing (contrast of the ball to the court)
pickleball glasses


  1. What if it’s a double elimination tournament and the team from the winner’s bracket loses in the finals and there is a game to 15 to determine the winner. Is that last game considered a continuation of match or would it be treated as a new match with a choice of serve or side?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *