The most complicated part in understanding the sport of Pickleball is its doubles scoring system. In a regular scoring system, only two numbers are highlighted – the score of the serving team followed by the score of the opposite team. But in Pickleball, there is a third digit that often causes a confusion – the number of the server. Let us break this down.
Firstly, always remember that it is the server’s score that is called first. Secondly, depending on the score of the server, it is to be decided that from which side of the court would they be serving. If the serving team’s score is in even numbers, the serve will be made from the right side of the court. If the score is in odd numbers, the serve will be made from the left side of the court.
In Pickleball, the team serving first is allowed only one serve after which the other team gets two serves. Serves are then alternated after two loss of serves per side.
Imagine that Team A is serving first in a match against Team B. Since the pair of Team A will begin the match, they will serve from the right side of the court. At this stage the scorecard will read 0-0-2. So why is it that the server number is 2 and not 1 at the start of the game? As stated before, the server begins from the right side when the score is an even number. Since at the start, the score is 0, the server is assigned the number 2. Moreover, since the team serving first gets only one serve, the assigned number 2 also compensates for the server number.
Let us further assume that Team A lost the first point of the match. Since this team was serving first, they will lose their serve now. Team B will now serve and the scoreboard will read 0-0-1. This is because Pickleball does not follow the rally scoring system and hence players can win a point only on their own serve. Team B wins the next point on their serve. The score will now read 1-0-1. The same server will now go to the left side of the court to serve since the server’s score is an odd number.
Team B loses the next point. The score will now read 1-0-2. This means that now the partner of the previous server will now serve from the left side of the court. Once this server loses a point and hence his serve, the serve will swing back to Team A.
It is important to remember that the number of the server in a team is not fixed. Let us say that John and Jim are in the same team. When on serve, John is the first server and Jim is the second. Let us say they lose their serve. But they immediately fight back and get their serve back. Now, it is not compulsory that it should be John who should serve first since he was the first server in the previous game. A team can change the serving number according to their convenience. So, Jim can also be the first server.
The match goes on till one of the pairs reaches the score of 11, 15 or 21, depending on how much points worth the match is. In most cases the match goes on for 11 points but at a professional level, 15 and 21 point matches are often played. The final score should be such that the winning team should lead by at least a difference of two points.
It is often advised that beginners should announce the scores out loud in doubles matches to get used to this scoring system.