A rally in pickleball is where the ball is in continuous play back and forth across the court after the ball is served and before a fault occurs. Rallies at the professional level typically last between 7-12 shots.
What Is A Rally In Pickleball?
A rally in pickleball is where the ball is in continuous play back and forth across the court, after the ball is served and before a fault occurs. The rally continues until either a fault is made or a rule violation occurs that results in a dead ball.
Any type of fault as outlined in the USAPA Rulebook will cause a rally to end. The following list includes many of the common faults that will end a rally:
- If the serve is returned without the ball bouncing first.
- Hitting the ball directly into the net without the ball fully crossing over onto the opposing team’s side.
- Hitting the ball under the net or between the net post and the net along the side of the net.
- A player hitting a ball that already went out of bounds.
- A player hitting a ball onto their side of the court.
- A player fails to return the ball before it bounces twice on their side of the court.
- A player stops a live ball before it hits the ground, such as catching the ball or having the ball hit any other part of their body.
- A player hitting the ball before it comes onto their side of the pickleball court.
- Non-volley zone rules violations.
How Long Do Pickleball Rallies Last?
Looking at match data for several pro tournaments, shots per rally typically range anywhere from 7 to 12 shots. This rate will greatly differ depending on the skill levels of the players involved, meaning that a rally can last anywhere from just 3-4 hits all the way up to dozens!
According to Guinness World Records, the longest recorded pickleball rally was accomplished by twin brothers Angelo and Ettore Rossetti on October 10, 2021, in Connecticut, USA. Their rally lasted over 6 hours and consisted of 16,046 consecutive hits.
Strategy for Pickleball Rallies
The key to getting comfortable with rally play is to master the dink shot. A dink is a soft, short drop shot made from your non-volley zone line that goes into your opponent’s non-volley zone.
The goal of the dink is to slow down the game to become more focused on building a rally to your advantage. Cross-court dinks back and forth with your opponent are essential for setting you up to make your scoring shot. Many high-level players consider the third shot of the game to be the most pivotal moment as the rally starts.
I recommend practicing rallying with a friend, just hitting the ball back and forth over the net and seeing how many shots you can go up to. Getting into the rhythm of being on the kitchen line and fluidly returning dinks is a great way to train your pickleball skills.
Pickleball Rallies vs Rallies in Other Sports
While pickleball is often compared to tennis as a racquet sport, its rallies are far more related to those in badminton.
Tennis is much more fast-paced, and because of this, its rallies can be short, with each opponent making efforts to make aggressive plays. Badminton, on the other hand, is reliant on the fact that the shuttlecock has a tendency to float over the net, so both lob shots and dinks are used in a similar manner as pickleball.
How Does Pickleball’s Scoring System Work?
Pickleball’s most accepted scoring system is known as side-out scoring, meaning that only the serving team is able to score points.
If the serving team makes a fault, the opponent isn’t rewarded points. Rather, the server is simply passed to the server next in line.
However, many pickleball players find that “rally scoring” is a great way to keep the games moving at a quicker pace. Rather than only allowing the serving team to score, rally scoring allows the returning team to score as well.
Both styles of scoring make for two entirely different games of pickleball:
- Side-out scoring is more strategic and focused on a player’s endurance.
- Rally scoring is simpler and keeps the game going at a fast pace.
Let’s take a look at some of the details of each scoring system to determine which one might be best suited for you.
Traditional Scoring (Side-Out Scoring)
Traditional side-out scoring is the tried-and-true method of scoring for pickleball. It remains to be the USAPA-accepted scoring method for most tournaments.
- Points are only awarded to the serving team. Accordingly, the receiving team cannot score points during play.
- At the beginning of a pickleball game, the player on the right side (even side) of the service court will serve diagonally to the opposite side.
- When a point is scored, the server moves to the left side (odd side) of the court and continues service.
- Once the serving side makes a fault, the next server on that team begins their serve from their side of the court. When that team’s second server faults, service passes to the receiving team.
Pickleball rally scoring is very similar to traditional pickleball scoring in terms of the sequence of gameplay, but there are a few key differences that set it apart. Between playing to a higher score and awarding both teams points during play, rally scoring keeps pickleball both fast and exciting.
- Rally scoring games are usually played to 15 or 21 points instead of the traditional 11 points.
- Each team only has one server per side, even in doubles matches. This helps clear up any possible confusion as to who’s up next to serve.
- The serving team retains their service until they make a fault, then the serve is simply rotated over to the returning team.
- Both serving and returning teams can score points during play. Unlike traditional scoring, if the serving team makes a fault, the returning team is awarded a point.
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