What’s the call?

I’ve really tried to be up on the rules of pickleball.  I’ve read the rule book, several times actually, and have a pretty good grasp of them. Sometimes though, there are situations that really require some extra thinking!  Here’s a scenario that had me stumped!

Player A unexpectedly hits a soft service return, dropping the ball just over the net into the opponent’s kitchen.  Player B, who was still in the back court anticipating a deep return, charges up and is able to get to the ball, which has already bounced.   His shot strikes his opponent’s body.  Then, because of his momentum, his paddle touches the net.

What’s the call?  Who won the rally? 

Here’s what the IPF Rulebook says with regard to this scenario.  I will list the rules that apply in numerical order, however they might not be applicable in the same order.

Section 7  – Fault Rules

– A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.

– A fault will be declared for the following:

7.E.  A player, player’s clothing, or any part of a player’s paddle touches the net or the net post when the ball is in play.

7.F. (partial) The ball in play strikes a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying.

Section 8 – Dead Ball Rules

8.A.  A dead ball is declared after any action that stops play

8.B.  A ball is not declared dead until it has bounced twice, or has violated one of the fault rules. (See Section 7)

So, what do you think?

Well heck you say, that’s an easy one!  He touched the net with his paddle.  That makes his shot illegal and therefore his opponent wins the rally!

NOT SO FAST!   Think again.  Rules apply in the order the faults occur.

So, while it is illegal to touch the net according to Rule 7.E., the fact that the ball struck Player A first, Rule 7.F. applies first, which means the ball was dead (Rule 8.A.) by the time the paddle hit the net.

But, but, but……momentum on his shot carried him into the net, you say!!!  Well, that’s what I said.  Nope!  The only rules in the book that say anything about momentum are the non-volley zone rules!  There is no such rule for any other shots.  Therefore, as long as the ball struck Player A before  Player B’s paddle touched the net, the rally goes to Player B.

Rules are fun to interpret, but can be tricky!  Thankfully, this scenario would be a rare one!  Player B would have had to hit a pretty hard shot for it to reach Player A before he touched the net!   But, it’s possible!

Thanks to a group on the USAPA Ambassador’s Forum for posting this scenario!

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5 thoughts on “What’s the call?

  1. P. Brunn-Perkins

    Similar situation? Opponents ball landed at my feet and just as I hit it (I couldn’t tell if the ball was going in or out), my partner yelled, “out.” The opponents claimed that because I played the ball, my partner’s call of “out” was invalid. If the rules are “applied in the order the faults occur” then my partner made the right call. Do you agree?

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    1. In your scenario, it sounds like the ball had already hit the ground when your partner called it out. Therefore, Rule 6.D.12. applies “If an “out” call is made after the ball bounces, it will be considered a line call. The ball will be considered dead and play shall stop.” It doesn’t matter if you played the ball. (That’s why it’s important for the non-hitting partner to make line calls when you are attempting to hit the ball so you can concentrate on hitting it, not whether it is in or out.)

      Had your partner called the ball “out” before it hit the floor, it would be considered “player communication” and the following rule would have applied:
      6.D.11. While the ball is in the air, if a player yells “out,” “no,” “bounce it,” or any other words to communicate to his or her partner that the ball may be out, it shall be considered player communication only and not considered a line call.”

      I hope this helps!

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  2. Hi Betsy the Crazy Pickleball Lady.
    The answer to your rules question – It’s a fault against the person who touched the net, as the the touching of the net was part of the action to return the ball. It matters not that the ball touched the opponent before the net was touched and the ball was in effect dead, the original motion is the overriding factor.

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    1. I would have agreed with you……but even Christine Barksdale, USAPA Managing Director of Competition and Athlete Services says that the rules are applied in the order the faults occur. In this case, the fault of the ball hitting Player A occurred first, therefore the ball was dead and the rally over before Player B’s paddle hit the net.

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