Synopsis: If You Start Out Serving, The Score Will Always Be Even When You Are on the Right Side of the Court
February 4, 2016 By Prem Carnot
Ever heard your partner or opponent say, “The score must be even because you were over there before and now you’re over here…”?
You’re not the only one who’s heard such a proclamation and just moves obediently in the direction they’re pointing while wondering, “WHICH number is even? What does that even mean? And how they heck does that tell you anything anyway?”
If you’ve found yourself in that confusing situation, then this article is for you.
This article is NOT about the basic rules of pickleball scoring (click here for those). Instead, it will walk you through the logic and patterns that arise from the basic pickleball rules so that you can use them to figure out the score in those inevitable circumstances (which seem to be unique to pickleball) when no one on the court remembers what the score is.
In this article, you’ll learn:
By “side of the court,” I mean, when you are FACING the net, whether you are on the right-hand side of the court (in tennis, “the deuce court”, where your partner is on your left), or whether you are on the left-hand side of the court (in tennis, “the ad court”), which means your partner’s on your right.
So here’s the secret: At the beginning of every game, make a point to note which player on each team is starting on the right side of the court.
Easy enough? Great! That’s why we started simpler. Maybe you already do that, maybe not, but keep reading for the more advanced tips.
But before we get into Secrets #2 and #3, let me remind you about two pickleball rules that are particularly relevant to figuring out the score and whose turn to serve it is.
The Relevant RulesRelevant Rule #1
As you (hopefully) know, the rule in pickleball is that the player whoever is on the right side of the court serves FIRST at the beginning of the game (and each time your team receives the ball).
We’ll often say that you will “serve first” because you will serve your team’s first serve of the game, but thanks to Rule #2 listed below, this does NOT necessarily mean that you will ALWAYS be the first server each time your team gets the ball back.
Relevant Rule #2
Each time a team scores a point, the players switch sides of the court. i.e. the player on the left moves to the right side of the court and the player on the right moves to the left side of the court.
Secret #2: If You Start Out Serving, The Score Will Always Be Even When You Are on the Right Side of the CourtTogether, the two rules above mean that if you start out serving on the right, then every time your team’s score is EVEN, you’ll be on the RIGHT side of the court. (And, therefore, that every time your team’s score is ODD, you’ll be on the LEFT side of the court.)
(Since the “deuce” and “ad” tennis terms don’t directly apply to pickleball, it’s more common to call the right-hand side of the court the “even” side and the left hand the “odd” side. Again, this is because when we track the FIRST server, the score will always be EVEN when they are on the RIGHT (deuce) side of the court and ODD when they are on the LEFT (ad) side of the court.)
In practice, we’ll sometimes say, “You’re the EVEN server”. Also FYI, this is one of the few situations where it is socially acceptable to call your partner ODD.
Need a little example to understand exactly WHY this is true?
You’re not the only one.
Here ya go…
So: Let’s say your name is Chris and your partner’s name is Pat.
Let’s follow the tournament tradition, where we’ll mark you, the first server, with red to keep track of your position throughout the game. In a tournament, it would be a red bracelet but for our purposes we’ll show your paddle red.
Since you’re the first server, Relevant Rule #1 means that you’ll start the game on the RIGHT side of the court. Your partner Pat will start on the--Yes, you guessed it!—LEFT side of the court.
Okay, so, it’s the first serve of the game…
The score is 0-0-2 or, as some some groups say, 0-0-Start.
(Quick Sidebar: The USAPA has recently ruled that 0-0-Start is not valid for official matches. Although 0-0-2 can be confusing for beginners, if you consider the last number in the score as an indicator of whether it is your team’s FIRST (Score is 1) or LAST (Score is 2) chance to serve, it makes more sense that the beginning score is 0-0-2 because it’s your LAST chance to serve before the other team gets the ball. Okay, let’s be frank, it still doesn’t actually make sense but hopefully that gives you a better way to explain it to newbies.)
Now back to our first set of the game, when the score is 0-0-2.
If we can fudge and call “0” an EVEN number, our logic holds: You are on the RIGHT, and the score is EVEN.
Art has been playing pickleball since Nov 2017. He enjoys playing this active, low physical impact game of skill and strategy. And finds that it can be played at all levels competitively while being a wonderful way to make new friends.