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Pickleball Swing-and-a-Miss on the Serve — Try Again? Fault?

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

Here’s the Scenario. You Make the Call.

You attempt the serve, but swing and miss. Try again? Fault? What’s the call?

In both tennis and ping-pong, if you swing at the serve and completely miss the ball, it’s a point for the receiving player or team. In ping-pong, even the act of tossing the ball and letting it harmlessly fall to the table without swinging at it results in a point for the receiving player or team.

But what about in pickleball? Does a swing-and-a-miss constitute a fault when playing pickleball? A replay? What about letting the pickleball bounce to the court without attempting the swing?

My guess is in rec play, you may just want to give this beginning server another chance. :) After all, we were all beginners at one time! ;-)

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USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024)

While a swing-and-a-miss on the serve was previously considered a fault (pre-2020), that is no longer the case. It is also not a fault if you toss or drop the ball on your serve and let it fall without attempting a swing.

You are, however, required to execute the serve within ten seconds of the score being called. Not getting the serve off within that ten-second window would, indeed, constitute a fault.

Shown below are the relevant 2024 rules with respect to this ten-second window.

Rule #4.E:

10-Second Rule. Once the score has been called, the server is allowed 10 seconds to serve the ball.

Rule #4.E.1:

If the server exceeds 10 seconds to serve, a fault will be declared.

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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. If I swing at a overhead volley and miss it can I still let it bounce and then return it? I read that if you attempt to hit a ball and miss it is a fault . Is this true?

  2. I am very unclear about the effect of the rule change you discuss. On my serve, I at times do not like my toss, as an old tennis player I just let it drop and make no attempt to hit it. Does the rule change make this a fault? I take my paddle back but do not start forward at all. Under the 2019 rules that is not an attempt, does removing #4M make that an attempt?

    Rule #4.M:
    Service Faults. During the service, it is a fault if:

    4.M.3. The server misses the ball when trying to hit it. If the ball lands on the ground without the server swinging at the ball, it is not a fault.

    2020 Rule Change
    According to the 2020 Rules Change Document, “The 2019 Rule 4.M.3 (server misses the ball when trying to hit it) was removed due to inconsistency in determining precisely when the ball passed the front plane of the paddle.”

    1. The way I interpret the removal of Rule #4.M.3. is that if the server misses the ball when trying to hit it, it is no longer considered a fault. Similarly, if you tossed the ball on your serve and let it drop without attempting a swing, it also would not be a fault. Hope that helps.

    1. Hi Mike, A ball (that hasn’t yet bounced — a live ball) that strikes a player standing out-of-bounds (on the serve, or otherwise) would result in a fault against the team that was hit by the ball on the foot.

      Rule #7.H. [… A fault will be declared for the following…] A live ball that is stopped by a player before it becomes dead. Example: catching or stopping a ball in flight before it makes contact with the court.

      Hope that helps.

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