Pickleball Rules Changes - 2021
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2021 Pickleball Rule Changes

This post lists rule changes from prior years.  To view the current year (2024) rule changes, please click here.

The day is finally here. It’s the long-awaited effective date for the new pickleball rules for 2021. Some make sense. Some don’t. Oh, well. It’s the same for everybody.

Adding Clarity & Application to the Pickleball Rules

As was done in previous years, accompanying the just-recently published 2021 official pickleball rulebook, is the 2021 pickleball rule change document that highlights the major rulebook changes from the previous edition – including comprehensive explanations detailing why each of the particular rule(s) was modified.

Also new in 2021 is the Alternate Rulebook – USA Pickleball’s attempt to simplify the presentation of the rules that can be used for all occasions other than tournaments.

What’s Different in 2021?

There are several sections in the pickleball rulebook that have been changed for 2021. Shown below are a couple of the major changes in 2021 – including the elimination of the let serve and the introduction of the drop serve as a provisional rule in 2021.

Let serves have been eliminated.

Serves that hit the net and land beyond the non-volley zone (including beyond the non-volley line) and in the correct service court are now live and should be played. It is no longer a replay. If any player stops play because of a service let being called, that player/team will have committed a fault per rule 7.I.

The drop serve has been added as an additional service option and it has been incorporated into the 2021 rulebook as a “provisional rule.”  (Rule #4.A.8)

The provisional drop serve rule simply states that a player is now allowed to drop the ball (however, you cannot propel the ball upward or downward) and hit the serve after the ball bounces. As long as your feet are appropriately positioned at contact, and as long as you did not propel the ball downward or upward as you “dropped” it, the serve will be considered a legal serve.

Please realize that you still have the option of serving the “traditional” way by not bouncing the ball first. The 3 criteria of (1) contact below the waist, (2) swing in an upward motion and (3) paddle below the wrist at contact still apply to this traditional serve. These three criteria, however, do not apply to the drop serve.

Click here for more details and answers to frequently asked questions as it relates to the traditional serve and the drop serve.

Additional Rule Changes in 2021

In addition to the removal of the let serve and the addition of the drop serve in the 2021 rules, the rules committee made several other modifications. In fact, the “2021 Change Document” is comprised of 77 pages — yes, 77 pages — of changes and explanations for the changes that occur in each of the 13 sections of the Official Rulebook.

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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.

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  1. What is the ruling on a paddle being dropped on the court during play but not dropped in the kitchen (NVZ)

    1. Rule #11.H in the Official 2021 Rulebook applies in this instance:

      11.H. Items on the Court. If any item a player is/was wearing or carrying lands on their side of the court, unless the item lands in the non-volley zone as a result of a volley, the ball remains in play even if it hits the item.

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