Pickleball Rules on Match Retirement, Withdrawal, and Forfeit

Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Pickleball, like other sports, doesn't always have a happy ending. Although rare, a player or team may announce withdrawal from a match. In some cases, the match needs to be retired or forfeited. 

Fortunately, USA Pickleball imposes some rules on how to handle unexpected circumstances. This post discusses everything about match retirements, withdrawals, and forfeits. So make sure you read and understand them.

What is a Retired Match in Pickleball?

A retired match in pickleball is when a match has been stopped or discontinued due to injury, illness, personal reasons, or disagreement. A player or team can request a retirement from the referee during the match. The request can be made to the opposing player or team if there's no referee. 

According to Section 12.F.1 of the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook, a retired match will be declared if a player or team discontinues the match once the initial score has already been called to start the match. 

Can a Player Who Retired a Match Still Play in the Next Match?

Yes. Section 12.F.4.a states that a player or team can still play in the next match even after choosing to retire from the previous match. Similarly, a player or team can request a retirement in an upcoming match in a specific bracket.

Retired Match Scoring Rules

Once the retirement of a match has been declared, the last score at the time of retirement will be reported for the player or team that retires. On the other hand, the score for the opponent should follow the two-point margin rule in winning a match. 

For instance, the player or team retires at Game 1 of a 2-out-of-3 games match, and the score is 10-5, with them leading by 5 points. Therefore, the final scores will be "12-10, 11-0." 

Pickleball Withdrawal Rules

Unlike in a retired match, a player or team should request a withdrawal from a match before it starts. The withdrawal shall apply to the entire bracket. Below are the specific rules for a match withdrawal in pickleball.

  • A player or team may request withdrawal from any scheduled bracket if it has not started.
  • A player or team may request withdrawal from all upcoming matches in any bracket, even if that player or team has completed any matches in that bracket. The request should be made before the initial score of their next match is called.
  • A player or team should request withdrawal from the Tournament Director, Head Referee, or operations desk personnel.
  • A withdrawn player or team will be removed from any upcoming participation in the specified bracket.
  • The withdrawn player/team shall have all scores reported, which will depend on the match format. 

Withdrawn Match Scoring Rules

As mentioned above, a withdrawn match is when a player or team requests to withdraw from a match before it even starts. The final score for a 2-out-of-3 games match will be "0-0, 0-0." The final score for a 3-out-of-5 games match will be "0-0, 0-0, and 0-0." The final score for 15- and 21-point matches will be "0-0." In short, the scores for both teams are zero. However, the scores for the previous matches remain.

When Can a Game be Forfeited?

A forfeited pickleball game can occur due to several different scenarios and can even end in a forfeited match. The referee has the authority to forfeit a game if any of the following conditions happen:

  • If a technical warning was given and followed by a technical foul.
  • If a technical foul was given and followed by another technical warning.
  • A forfeited game automatically leads to a forfeited match if the match is a one-game to 15 or 21.
  • If a match is two-out-of-three or three-out-of-five games, and a player or team does not report to play 10 minutes after the match is called to play. 
  • If a starting server refuses to wear the proper identification determined by the Tournament Director.

According to the 2024 Rules Changes and Updates, if the first game of a 2-out-of-3 match to 11 points was forfeited due to late arrival, both teams will not switch ends during game 3. If the teams fail to follow this new rule, there will be no fault and impact on the score.

When Can a Referee Declare a Forfeited Match?

A forfeited pickleball match is when it ends automatically, and the forfeiting team loses the match. The referee can declare a match forfeited if any of the following incidents happen:

  • If a player or /team does not report to play 15 minutes after the match has been called to play
  • If the match is a one-game to 15 or 21 and a player or /team does not report to play 10 minutes after the match has been called to play.
  • If two technical warnings and one technical foul have been declared
  • If a player makes deliberate and aggressive physical contact with an opponent, spectator, or game official
  • If a player aggressively or recklessly strikes or throws a ball or paddle, that endangers an individual or facility.

The referee can also forfeit a match depending on a player's behavior, other than a combination of technical warnings or fouls.

Additionally, a tournament director may declare a forfeited match for improper conduct on the premises between matches. It includes abuse of hospitality and failure to comply with the tournament or host facility rules, locker rooms, and property.

Forfeited Match Scoring Rules

If a forfeited match has been imposed due to the ejection or expulsion of a player or a team, the final score will depend on the format of the match and are as follows: 

  • The final score for a 2-out-of-3 games match will be "11-0, 11-0."
  • For a 3-out-of-5 games match, the final score will be "11-0, 11-0, and 11-0."
  • For 15 and 21-point formats, the final score will be "15-0" and "21-0," respectively. 

In short, the ejected player or team will have no score at all.

In Doubles, Can a Player Continue a Match Without a Partner?

No. As mentioned earlier, if a player or team can no longer continue the match, the only option is to request a retirement. The referee should declare a retired match if a player can no longer continue playing after a medical time-out. Therefore, a player in doubles can no longer continue the game alone.

Final Thoughts

From the rules above, it's clear that pickleball is fair to all players. If you are injured or can no longer play during a match, you must retire the match. If you think you cannot play, you can withdraw before the match starts.

If you violate the rules, you can be expelled and shall face the consequences of your actions. Therefore, the key here is to be fair, honest, and patient. After all, pickleball is not just for winners. It's for anyone who wants to have fun.

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