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Pickleball Service Foot Faults & Imaginary Extensions

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

Here’s the Scenario. You Make the Call.

During the serve, the server’s feet are positioned outside of the imaginary extension of the sideline. The opponents miss the return. What’s the call?

I see pickleball service foot faults seemingly all the time when observing rec play. Okay. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit. Nevertheless, I see service foot faults with a fair degree of regularity — particularly with beginning pickleball players. Perhaps they weren’t properly taught and don’t know the rules. Perhaps they just aren’t paying attention to the position of their feet on the serve.

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Nevertheless, as rule #4.L.1 and #4.L.2 from the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook clearly state, during the serve, when the ball is struck, the server’s feet shall neither touch the area outside of the imaginary extension of the sideline nor touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the centerline. If either happens — or if the server’s feet touched the court or baseline on contact — the server has committed a fault and would not be entitled to the point.

Instead, the serve would revert to the server’s partner, or — if the service fault was committed by the second server — a side out would be called and the serve would go to the opposing team.  Shown below is the official ruling. Happy serving!

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USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024)

Rule #4.L:

Service Foot Fault. During the serve, when the ball is struck, the server’s feet shall:

4.L.1. Not touch the area outside the imaginary extension of the sideline.
4.L.2. Not touch the area on the wrong side of the imaginary extension of the centerline.
4.L.3. Not touch the court, including the baseline.

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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.

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  1. After calling the score but before initiating a backswing(or during it) can the server move side to side or start with feet outside the court extentions? It is very distracting and difficult to tell where the ball is coming from. To make matters worse the server does it when backhand serving.

  2. Can the server’s paddle contact with the ball be over the line extensions? Example serving from the left court a right-hander stands at the center line but their hands are in the right court when the ball is struck.

    1. Hi Margaret, Great question. Yes, the server’s body can be “hovering” over the imaginary line extensions — as long as the feet are correctly positioned.

      4.A.3. At the beginning of the serve, both feet must be behind the baseline and the imaginary extensions of the baseline. At the time the ball is struck, at least one foot must be on the playing surface or ground behind the baseline, and the server’s feet may not touch the playing surface in an area outside the confines of the serving area.

  3. Is it a foot fault if the server steps over the baseline with one foot after the paddle has struck the ball?

    1. Great question!

      When there’s a referee, Rule #13.C.1 applies:

      13.C.1. The referee calls non-volley-zone infractions, short serves, and service foot faults.

      During non-officiated sanctioned play, Rules #13.D.1.a and #13.D.1.b apply:

      13.D.1.a. Players call all lines on their side of the court, including NVZ and service foot faults.
      13.D.1.b. Players may call the NVZ faults and service foot faults on the opponent’s side of the court.

        1. Hi Charles, In my opinion the opponent should, indeed, be able to call a service foot fault in a match that doesn’t have a referee — as long as the service foot fault is quite obvious. Who else would call it? The server or server’s partner isn’t going to call it. In a match with a referee, the referee calls it.

  4. I didn’t see an answer to the question. Posting the rule still leaves questions in my mind. How long can you wait before you make the call is an issue. If the return was missed completely, whiff, I would think the call could be made anytime before the ball was put in play again. But the call should be made quickly. If the ball was returned and then hit by the serving team, it would be too late to make the fault call.

    1. Good question, Doug. Your question doesn’t seem to necessarily relate specifically to this scenario — but more generally to any fault, out or let call. The best I can do is reference Rule # 6.D.7.

      All “let” or “out” calls must be made “instantly”; otherwise the ball is presumed good and still in play. Instantly” is defined as calling “let” or “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before it has gone out of play.

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