How Long is a Pickleball Match and How Many Hits Per Rally?

Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Being America's fastest-growing sport, pickleball matches are held almost anywhere in the country. They are played by people of all ages, including older adults. But how long is a pickleball game? How about tournaments? And how many shots do players make in a single rally?

To answer these questions, you should first understand what happens during a pickleball match and tournament. If you're a newbie in the sport and plan to take it seriously and join tournaments, this post is for you.

What is a Rally in Pickleball?

A rally in pickleball starts once the server serves and ends when a player commits a fault. Therefore, it is a continuous series of shots between the opposing players or teams. Although rare, a rally could also end once a player violates other rules, such as showing misconduct. Such acts could lead to technical fouls or game forfeits.

You will often hear the term "rally', the rally scoring system is rarely used in pickleball matches. Instead, most matches and tournaments use the traditional side-out scoring system. Here, the serving team will continuously serve as long as the opposing team commits a fault. For a complete comparison, check out our Side-Out vs Rally Scoring Guide.

How Long is a Rally in Pickleball?

There are no rules on how long a rally in pickleball should last. Although several factors affect a rally's duration, the estimated maximum length of a pickleball rally is 15 seconds. Nonetheless, a tournament match tends to have longer rallies as it comes closer to the end since the players are already exhausted.

How Many Hits Does a Pickleball Rally Have?

Again, the skill levels of players have a significant effect on the duration of a rally. Less-skilled players tend to commit more mistakes than more-skilled ones. To give an idea, here are the estimated number of hits (or shots) per rally based on a player's skill level:

  • Beginners: 2-4 hits per rally
  • Intermediate: 6-14 hits per rally
  • Advanced:12-25 hits per rally
  • Professionals: 20-30 hits per rally

Interestingly, a match summary report for the PPA DC N2Grate Open 2022 states that the event had 143 rallies and an average of 11.5 shots per rally. This doubles event was played by the duo of Collin Johns and Ben Johns against Matt Wright and Riley Newman. 

How Long is a Pickleball Game?

A single pickleball game to score 11 points is estimated to last 15-25 minutes. The actual length of a particular game depends on several factors. It includes the score, score format, and the players' skill levels. Continue reading, and we will discuss all of them in detail.

How Long Does a Pickleball Match Last?

A pickleball match typically lasts for 30-75 minutes. The actual length of a pickleball match mainly depends on the number of games. Some matches have one game only, while others are best of three or best of five. If one player or team has dominated the match, there may only be two or three games.

How Long is a Pickleball Tournament?

A pickleball tournament could last for 4-6 hours. The main factor that indicates the length of a pickleball is the number of events, which will depend on the number of courts available. As expected, a venue with a lot of courts can accommodate multiple matches at the same time. For the different formats, read our Pickleball Tournament Formats Guide.

Factors That Affect the Length of a Pickleball Game

Like in other sports, several factors affect the length of a game in pickleball. Here are the most significant ones:

Skill Level of Players

The more skilled players are, the less likely they will commit faults. It means that their rallies are long. On the other hand, beginners are expected to make errors, which can lead to shorter rallies. Interestingly, age does not necessarily affect a player's performance. To know how skill levels are measured, read our Pickleball Player Skill Ratings Guide

Playing Strategies

Different players use different strategies to win a rally. In most cases, the aggressive ones dictate the length of a game since they are good at making their opponents commit mistakes. If both players or teams are strategic, you can expect longer rallies. In contrast, players who lack strategies can lead to shorter rallies due to frequent errors. 

Number of Side-outs

As mentioned earlier, pickleball matches usually use the side-out scoring system. If the serving player or team commits a fault, the opponent shall serve but will not score a point. Therefore, the more side-outs a game has, the longer it will be. On the other hand, the more rallies the serving team wins, the shorter the game.

Scoring Format

USA Pickleball-sanctioned tournament matches are usually played in two out of three games to score 11 points. Depending on the event organizers, some are three of five games to 11 points, but may also be one game to 15 or 21. All game formats end by winning 2 points ahead. The higher the score limit a game has, the longer it will be.

Singles vs Doubles

Assuming players have the same high playing skill levels, singles games are generally shorter than doubles. The score will likely get stuck frequently in both formats due to side-outs. However, there could be more side-outs in doubles than in singles since two players are on the same side of the court and will have a tougher defense.

Indoors vs Outdoors

Indoor pickleball balls are slower than outdoor balls and bounce less because they are lighter and have larger holes. On the other hand, players in outdoor pickleball courts are exposed to wind and heat, and these distractions can slow down the game. On that note, the venue of a pickleball match is also a factor for the duration of the games.

Number of Time-Outs

According to the Pickleball Time-Out Rules, a game has a standard time-out of 1 minute. Games to 11 or 15 points have two time-outs, while games to 21 points have three. There are also time-outs for equipment change or adjustment and medical instances. Therefore, these time-outs can also dictate the length of a game.

How Long is the Longest Pickleball Rally?

According to the Guinness World Records, identical twins Angelo and Ettore Rossetti hold the record for the longest pickleball rally, which had a whopping 16,046 shots! The event took place on October 10, 2021, at the Racquet Sports at the Tennis & Fitness Center in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, and lasted for 6 hours and 11 minutes! The act was part of the twins' annual Rally for Charity event on World Mental Health Day.

Meanwhile, the longest pickleball rally in the tournament's history probably occurred during the 2023 PPA Florida Open. The match was between the brothers Ben and Collin Johns against Kyle Koszuta and Craig Johnson. The rally had 109 shots and lasted about 1 minute and 55 seconds. Despite the exceptional skills of the Johns brothers, Johnson patiently waited until Ben Johns committed an error. Watch it below.

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