This post has been updated in 2024 according to the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024).
Here’s the Scenario. You Make the Call.
You serve the ball and the served ball hits the receiver’s partner. Fault? Replay? What’s the call? This scenario is affectionately (or not so affectionately) referred to as a “Nasty Nelson.”
Don’t Interfere with the Flight of the Ball When Returning Serve — Neither Intentionally Nor Unintentionally!
You tend to see this occur from time-to-time on the pickleball courts, particularly in rec play. And, unfortunately, most of the time — without proper knowledge of the appropriate pickleball rules — a fault is incorrectly called.
The scenario is this: The ball is served — and hits (or is sometimes caught by) the receiver or partner of the receiver. They may have been inadvertently hit — or they may have consciously caught the served ball because it was “clearly going to land outside of the service box.”
As the following excerpt from the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook clearly states, however, interfering with the flight of the ball on the serve results in a point for the serving team.
What if the Receiver or Receiver’s Partner was Standing Out-of-Bounds?
As a follow-up, I’m often asked, “what if the receiver — or receiver’s partner — was standing out-of-bounds when they were hit?” Plain-and-simple, it doesn’t matter where the receiver — or receiver’s partner — was standing. They could have been standing 10 feet out-of-bounds when they were hit. They could have been standing on another court when they were hit. 🙂 It is still a point for the serving team.
USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024)
Receiver Faults. It is a fault against the receiving team resulting in a point for the server if:
Rule #4.N.1: The receiver or their partner is touched by or interferes with the flight of the ball before it bounces.
[A Fault will be declared for the following]… A ball in play that is stopped by a player before it becomes dead (e.g., catching or stopping a ball in flight before it makes contact with the playing surface). The fault is on the player who stopped the ball.
Would Love to Hear your Story!
I would love to hear your story. Please comment below if this scenario has ever happened to you. Did you replay the point because you weren’t sure what to do? Did you call a fault on the serve? Or did you correctly award the point to the serving team?
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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.