Pickleball Scoring Rules: Singles, Doubles, and Wrong Score Called

Est. Reading: 5 minutes

If you’re new to pickleball, you should know how its scoring system works.

This will not only guide you to play the sport effectively but will also help you win. The scoring rules in pickleball may look confusing at first glance since scores in doubles consist of three numbers.

This year, there's also a new rule for the wrong score called. But you’ll realize that pickleball scoring rules are not difficult to understand after spending a few minutes learning the rules.

How Pickleball Scoring System Works

Before we continue, you should know that the Major League Pickleball (MLP) is now implementing the rally scoring system. This means that after a rally, a point can be scored by either the serving team or the receiving team, regardless of who serves.

On the other hand, USA Pickleball still uses the traditional scoring system, which is based on the side-out scoring system. As of September 2023, the proposal to change this has been denied.

So, in this guide, we'll focus on the side-out scoring system.

With this system, you can only earn points if you or your team is serving. This means your opponent can only score once it’s their turn to serve. Both singles and doubles use this scoring system, except the score for singles has two numbers, such as 10-8. On the other hand, the score for the doubles has three numbers, such as 10-8-2. The third number in doubles explains the serving position. We’ll explain more about this below.

To score a point, the server should win the rally, a term used to describe the series of shots between the opposing players or teams. It starts when the ball is served and ends before a fault.

To win a game, you (or your team) should be the first one to score the winning point. Winners must win by 2 points, so if the score is 11-10, you must get another point before calling a victory. Most pickleball games are played to 11 points, but some tournaments may be played to 15 or 21 points.

Before we continue, here are some basic scoring rules that apply to both singles and doubles based on the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook:

  • You can only score a point if you are the server or on the serving team.
  • Before a play starts, the server should first announce the score.
  • The score should not be called until all the players (server and receiver) are in the correct positions and ready to play.
  • If you’re not ready yet, raise your pickleball paddle (or the other hand) above your head. You can also turn your back against the net.
  • If you’re not ready yet but only reacted after the score was called, your signal will be ignored.
  • You cannot use the “not ready” signs to delay the game.
  • If the server cannot speak loud enough, the server's partner can announce the score on behalf of the server.
  • If the server scores, the server will serve again but should switch places with the other player for every serve. 
  • If you win a rally, but your opponent is serving, it’s called a side-out. Therefore, you’ll not earn a point.
  • To win a rally, your opponent should commit a fault. A point is also scored if your opponent has zero points and a technical foul is called against your opponent.

Pickleball Singles Scoring Rules

As mentioned above, the score for pickleball singles has two numbers, such as 2-0 (two-zero). The first number is the score of the server, while the second number is the score of the receiver. And since there is no point for the receiver if the server commits a fault, the receiver will now make the serve, and the new server will announce the score as 0-2 (zero-two).

This sequence of announcing the scores shall continue until the end of the game. Always say the serving persons score first.

Pickleball Doubles Scoring Rules

Scoring in pickleball doubles is very similar to singles, except there’s now a second server. The third number in the score is the server’s number. To help you understand easier, let me give you an example. 

Assuming you are in the middle of a game, your team score is 4, while the other team is 3, and you will be the server. The person on the right will always start first; let's say that is you in this example. The score is “four-three-one” (4-3-1) since you are the first server.

If you missed your serve (or the other team won the rally), your teammate will serve next. Therefore, he or she should announce “six-three-two” (4-3-2) as the second server.

Related Post: Pickleball Singles vs Doubles: Similarities and Differences

Why Is The Pickleball Doubles Score 0-0-2 Before the Game Starts?

This is the First Server Exception rule, explained in Section 4.B.6. of the official pickleball rules. The said rule states that the starting server of each game is designated as “Second Server” and that only the starting server should serve. Basically, you only get one chance to serve when the game starts.

The purpose of this First Server Exception rule is to remove the advantage from the first server of the game that would allow them to serve again once the receiver loses the rally. A side-out will be marked to allow the opposing team to serve after the initial rally lost by the serving team. So, before a game starts, the “second server” will announce “zero-zero-two,” or sometimes, “zero-zero-start.”

Wrong Score Called Rule

Just like in other sports, players and referees in pickleball may sometimes commit errors when announcing the scores. As a response, USA Pickleball is implementing the so-called Wrong Score Called rule (Section 4.K. of the official pickleball rules). To ensure you know the correct rule, here are the old (2022) and the new (2023+) rules for calling the wrong scores:

Old Rule (2022)

If the server or referee calls the wrong score, once the serve is made, play shall continue to the end of the rally, and the correction made before the next serve. After the serve is made, a player who stops play based solely on an incorrect score call will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally.

New Rule (2023)

If the wrong score is called, the referee or any player may stop play before the return of serve to correct the score. The rally shall be replayed with the correct score called. After the return of serve, play shall continue to the end of the rally and the score correction made before the next serve. 

After the return of serve, a player who stops play to identify or ask for a score correction will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally. A player who stops play to identify or ask for a score correction when the score was correctly called will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally. 

As you may have noticed, there's a big difference between the 2022 and the 2023 rules. Today, a player or the referee can stop a play if that player or referee is sure that the announced score is incorrect. For me, the 2023 Wrong Score Called rule is more logical.

If you have been following pickleball during its previous years, you know that this Wrong Score Called rule used to exist but was revised in 2022. Note, however, that it may not be applicable in recreational games but is being strictly implemented in tournaments.

Final Thoughts

If you arrived at this part without scratching your head, I assume you now clearly understand the difference between the scoring rules in pickleball singles and doubles. But to help you more, simply remember these three words in sequence, “Me-You-Server.”

If you're playing doubles, just remember your server number. The sport is not as complicated as you think!

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