Rules change in professional sports. Just take a look at Major League Baseball. America's pastime added a pitch clock 150+ years into its history.
Major League Pickleball, with less than two years under its belt, is still growing and changing. After each event, feedback is received on how the event can be improved for the next go around.
For San Clemente, we will see eight new changes in effect. Rule changes 1-8 from the league are listed below:
1) VIDEO (VAR) CHALLENGE SYSTEM:
We are now using 120 frames per second cameras for all (VAR) Video Assisted Replay challenges on all courts in addition to the C360 cameras and all other broadcast cameras. Each court has 8 line call only cameras. We think this will significantly increase accuracy in challenges.
Please see the below video as the closest example we could find. I want to set expectations with referees and players that this ball will be ruled IN. I understand it is about as close as one could get, mere millimeters to the left is out and some may argue it's OUT, but in MLP this ball will be called IN.
2) “FREE” VIDEO CHALLENGES:
Each team is now allowed THREE “Free” Challenges PER MATCH. If the match goes to a Dreambreaker, each team is given ONE “Free” Challenge. These are not cumulative from the previous 4 games.
In the Dreambreaker each team has one, and only one “Free” Challenge. All of the other previous rules from Daytona are in place. Teams may still challenge if they have no “Free” Challenges left, and risk losing a point, if wrong.
Expect to see more challenges in San Clemente. An additional free challenge per match will give teams less hesitancy to challenge a call. This might take away from the game flow in certain scenarios but is worth ensuring that the right calls are made on the court.
3) NEW COIN TOSS RULES:
Teams may now choose to have Men’s Doubles played before Women’s Doubles as part of the coin toss. The 4 choices for coin toss are now
- Men’s Doubles/Womens Doubles
- ACT/REACT when it comes to Mixed Doubles.
This change will no doubt throw viewers for the biggest loop. At least those that have followed the league since its inception. Seeing some matches start with men's doubles and some with women's might be confusing for the first event or two.
The real question will be whether there is an advantage to selecting this option. If you're more confident in your men's team, maybe send them out first to build the momentum. A win in the first game can help ease the tension for game number 2.
There might also be a window to take advantage of players that are slow starters i.e. Ben Johns and JW Johnson. If you ever hope to win against these two your best chance is first thing in the morning.
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4) END CHANGE:
Teams will now start games 2, 3, and 4 on the end where they finish the previous game. For example, say Women’s Doubles is played first, and the teams switch ends at 11.
Now when the game is over the teams start Men’s Doubles on the same end they finished Women's Doubles. This pattern continues in every game, including the Dreambreaker.
Wind has been an issue in the first two MLP events this year. This rule helps to negate the advantage of one team finishing each game on the "good" side.
Because of the freeze-at-20 rule, more points are usually played after the switch at 11 than before it. This again helps reduce the advantage one team might receive.
Some of the most iconic moments from MLP come from game-winning celebrations. Finishing the match on the same side as your bench is more conducive to big celebrations. Hopefully, we see more of those with this setup at well.
5) SERVICE FAULTS:
Serving before the score is called completely comes with one verbal warning, per player per game.
6) LINE CALLS:
If either of the players on the court calls the ball IN during the course of play, the ball will be called IN. Players or coaches/GM’s on the bench are allowed to influence line calls but any out call must be made by a player on the court immediately, or in a “bang bang” fashion.
7) SEEDING IN KO ROUNDS:
The top 2 seeds may no longer come from the same group. The #3 seed may come from ANY group, including from Groups with the #1 or #2 seed. All other seeding and KO round rules remain the same.
8) PADDLE TESTING:
While MLP has an accurate field test for deflection, we don't have one yet for spin and its correlation to surface roughness. For San Clemente, if a paddle is USAP certified it will be allowed and not tested for surface roughness.
Paddle testing is still not perfect but this is another step forward. Regulation will be influenced by USA Pickleball approval and technology from Pickle Pro Labs.
The hope is that no illegal paddles interfere with competition over the weekend but it is important to acknowledge that a process is in progress.
MLP San Clemente kicks off on Thursday this week with Challenger Level play. Teams are chomping at the bit to rack up more points before the end of season one.
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