January 25, 2021. 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.
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.
Need More Pickleball Rules Clarifications & Interpretations?
Please 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.