Every year, the USA Pickleball Rules Committee reviews suggested rule changes from players across the country. The multilayered system of review and voting decides whether a proposal ultimately makes it into the rulebook.
Here are some pickleball rule changes to look out for in 2023.
Wave Goodbye to the Spin Serve
The spin-serve saga started with Zane Navratil's chainsaw serve. In 2022 a rule change reduced it to an off-brand, one-handed version.
The one-handed version remained controversial in 2022. It was used and weaponized on the APP Tour and at the amateur level. The PPA Tour was ahead of the trend and decided to nix any pre-serve spin at the pro level.
Sure enough, in 2023 the spin serve is officially dead. No spin can be added to the ball on the toss. Ace victims rejoice.
4.A.5. The Volley Serve.
The server shall use only one hand to release the ball to perform the serve. While some natural rotation of the ball is expected during any release of the ball from the hand, the server shall not impart manipulation or spin on the release of the ball immediately prior to the serve. The server's release of the ball must be visible to the referee and the receiver. If the referee determines that manipulation or spin has been imparted, or the release of the ball is not visible, the referee shall call for a reserve.
In matches without a referee, the server's release of the ball must be visible to the receiver. The server shall not impart manipulation or spin on the release of the ball immediately prior to the serve. If the receiver determines that manipulation or spin has been imparted, or the release of the ball is not visible, the receiver shall call for a reserve immediately after the serve occurs. Exception: A player who has the use of only one hand may use their hand or paddle to release the ball to perform the serve.
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More Time to Correct the Score
One of the most common errors in pickleball is calling the score wrong. There's something about a long dink rally or firefight that makes us forget how numbers work.
USA Pickleball is rolling this rule back to the 2021 version where players will have until the return of serve to stop the point for a score correction. If they stop the point but the correct serve was called, it will result in a fault.
In 2022 players had a smaller window to correct the score. It needed to be corrected before the server made contact with the ball. This did not provide enough time between the score call and contact, so the rule was changed again.
To be safe, it can be easier to wait until the point has ended to have the discussion. But we all know a player (or are the player) who can't focus if the score is called wrong.
Check out a summary of these rules in an interview with USAP's Mark Peifer:
Am I Good?
Players used to be forced to use the correct lingo to verify the server and position before a point, "Am I the correct server?" etc. If they did not go through the correct "secret" line of questioning, they could still commit a positioning fault.
Now, players can simply ask "Am I good?" to check their position and status to eliminate any incorrect server/returner errors.
This rule was adopted from the pro tours where players started asking refs "Am I good" and then receiving instruction on how they were misaligned before serving.
This helped with game flow and removing any anti-climatic "fault" call immediately at the start of a point.
Illegal Serves May Result in Fault or Replay
Refs will have the option to call for a replay or fault in 2023. If they are unsure if a serve was illegal, they can call for a re-serve. If they are certain a serve was illegal, they have the option to call a fault.
A well-known instance of calling a serve into question happened this year between Tyson McGuffin and Jay Devillers.
Devilliers thought McGuffin was using an illegal serve and started to mock it for his own serve. The rule at the time was that the illegal serve would result in a replay, giving Devilliers an unlimited amount of chances to replay.
Now refs have the discretion to call a fault instead of a replay to prevent something like this from happening again and to keep matches moving.
One point of potential controversy is that the receiver may also call for a replay. Recall rule 4.A.5 above, if the receiver thinks the ball was spun on the toss they may call for a replay. This opens the door to some highly subjective calls where a player could abuse the rule and call for a replay on a strong/well-placed serve.
Bright colors go hand in hand with pickleball fashion. Most picklers are not afraid to break out a bright green or highlighter yellow during a match. Unfortunately, these colors can make it hard to see a ball that is a similar shade.
Tournament directors have always had the right to request a change of inappropriate apparel.
To mitigate a potentially unfair advantage, they can request players to change apparel based on the color being too close to the color of the ball. Certain colors can camouflage the ball and provide an advantage.
For sanctioned tournaments, the ball color will be known in advance to allow players to plan accordingly.
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Equipment Time Outs
Mark Peifer explains in the video above that equipment timeouts have also changed for 2023.
Previously, players needed to use up their regular gameplay timeouts before they could use an equipment timeout. This means that if there was an equipment issue, a regular timeout would be charged if it was still available.
In 2023 the equipment timeouts are accessible even if regular timeouts remain.
Additionally, the two-minute time limit has been removed. If there are circumstances that justify a longer timeout, like needing to re-lace a shoe, a player will be awarded more time at the ref's discretion.
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