The centerline is one of the most important lines on a pickleball court. It divides the court into two sides and helps determine which team should take the serve. Understanding the centerline is key for both recreational and competitive pickleball players.
The Basics of the Pickleball Court Centerline
The centerline is the line in the middle of the pickleball court that runs parallel to the net. It extends from the non-volley line to the baseline. The centerline separates the court into two halves – the even court and the odd court.
Here are some key facts about the pickleball centerline:
- It is one of the lines that make up the dimensions of a regulation pickleball court.
- The centerline divides the court into an even side and an odd side.
- It runs directly through the middle of the court, perpendicular to the net.
- The centerline is an out-of-bounds line. If the ball lands on the line, it is considered out.
- During doubles play, each team occupies either the even or odd side of the court.
Understanding the purpose and placement of the centerline is an essential part of mastering the game of pickleball. Let’s look at why this line matters.
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Why the Pickleball Centerline Matters
The centerline plays several important roles:
Determines Serving Team & Starting Server
- At the start of a game, a coin toss determines which side serves first – even or odd.
- The team that wins the coin toss chooses even or odd. This establishes which team serves first.
- The team that did not choose even or odd for the first service sequence gets to choose for the second service sequence.
- Within each team, the starting server is chosen by the team.
So the centerline establishes the starting serve and helps alternate service between teams.
Separates Responsibilities During Play
- The centerline designates which player on each team should take responsibility for balls landing near the center during play.
- Each team is responsible for calling whether a ball landing on their side is in or out.
- Only the player on the side where the ball lands can make an “in” or “out” call. Their partner cannot.
This avoids confusion and arguments over who should make line calls.
Establishes Positions During Doubles Play
- For doubles, partners position themselves on either side of the centerline.
- One partner takes the even court and the other takes the odd court.
- Partners switch sides only when their team gains the serve back after losing it.
- Keeping each partner on a designated side ensures better court coverage. It also allows them to make accurate line calls.
So the centerline provides a clear system for positioning in doubles pickleball.
Marks Boundary for Serves
- On serves, the ball must clear the non-volley zone and land in the correct service court.
- The centerline marks the midpoint of the service court.
- In doubles, the serve must land in the diagonal service court – the one bisected by the centerline.
This means the centerline identifies the proper service courts for pickleball.
As you can see, pickleball relies heavily on the centerline for serving, calling lines, and court positioning. Understanding this special boundary line leads to better play.
How the Centerline Works in Doubles Pickleball Games
The centerline takes on special significance in doubles pickleball. Here is how it operates:
Divides Service Responsibilities
- At the start of each side’s service turn, the player in the right-hand court serves first.
- After that player loses the serve, the partner on the left-hand court then serves.
- Serving alternates between partners until that team’s service turn ends.
So the centerline determines which partner serves first.
Provides Reference for Service Courts
- On each serve, the ball must land in the diagonal service court – the one bisected by the centerline.
- By using the centerline as a reference point, players can accurately identify the correct service court.
This avoids faults from incorrect court targeting.
Designates Line Calling Duties
- As mentioned earlier, only the player on the side where the ball bounces can call lines for that ball.
- The centerline assigns clear responsibility for making accurate line calls.
- For example, if a ball lands near the centerline on the even court, only the even court player can call it in or out.
Allows Partners to Switch Sides
- After each service sequence, partners will switch sides during a doubles game.
- This ensures each player serves from both the right and left sides over the course of a match.
- Switching sides requires both players to cross over the centerline to reach their new side.
So the centerline facilitates side-swapping between points in doubles pickleball.
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How the Centerline Works in Singles Pickleball Games
In singles play, the centerline holds less significance, but still plays a key role:
Separates Service Courts
- As in doubles, the centerline runs through the middle of the service courts in singles play.
- The server must hit the ball diagonally and land it within the proper service court.
- The centerline identifies the midpoint of each service area.
So it provides an accuracy check for serves.
Designates Line Calling Responsibility
- On any rally, if the ball lands near the centerline, the player on that side of the court makes the call.
- The centerline unambiguously assigns line call duties in singles pickleball.
Marks Out-of-Bounds Territory
- As always, the centerline is an out-of-bounds line.
- If a ball lands on the line, it is considered out.
- The centerline clearly delineates the in-bounds playing area from the out-of-bounds area.
While less integral for singles play, the centerline still maintains order and fairness.
Unique Rules for the Pickleball Centerline
The centerline comes with some special rules and procedures:
Centerline Calls Only on Serves
- During a match with referees/line judges, players can only make centerline calls on serves.
- If a player calls a centerline fault on a rally, the call will be overruled.
- This prevents players from making erroneous or strategic calls on the centerline after the serve.
So centerline authority is limited to just the serve.
Look Straight Down the Line
- When judging a centerline serve, players should look straight down the line rather than at an angle.
- Staring directly down the centerline provides the most accurate view of where the ball bounced.
- Referees will also look straight down the line before making a call.
This “down the line” view reduces mistakes on centerline calls.
Call Must Be Instant
- When calling a fault on the centerline, players must make the call instantly as the ball bounces.
- Hesitating or delaying indicates uncertainty. The serve will typically be called good in that case.
- An immediate call shows decisiveness and confidence in seeing a true fault.
So don’t delay on centerline calls after serves. Call it right away.
Ball Must Touch Line to Be Out
- Many players mistakenly call a ball out if it lands near the line. However, the ball must physically touch the centerline to be considered out.
- Mere proximity is not enough. The ball must visibly hit the line.
- In cases of uncertainty, the ball should be called in.
Knowing this rule avoids erroneous faults on the centerline.
So the centerline requires these unique procedures and standards when making calls. Following them ensures fair and accurate decisions.
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Helpful Strategy Tips for the Centerline
The centerline also factors into pickleball strategy and court positioning:
Move Your Partner to the Weak Side
- Analyze opponents to determine which player is weaker.
- Serve to the weaker player’s side to draw them near the centerline.
- Their partner will be pulled out of position, leaving an open court.
Exploit the centerline to create weaknesses in the opposing team.
Use Centerline Pickles
- A “centerline pickle” uses spin or placement to stop the ball on the centerline.
- Your opponents won’t be able to call it out since it straddles the line.
- Centerline pickles can be an ace serve or win a rally.
Master this tricky, stealthy shot.
Play the Bounce
- On hard drives hit near the centerline, play the bounce not the call.
- Don’t stop play until you actually hear “out”. The ball may clip the line.
- Continue playing until the call is confirmed.
This avoids losing points due to the centerline.
Charge the Line
- When your opponent serves, position yourself close to the centerline.
- You’ll have an optimal view straight down the line for accurate calls.
- Quickly retreat after the call so you don’t obstruct play.
Owning the centerline gives you control on line calls.
Using smart centerline strategies will boost your capabilities as a pickleball player.
The centerline is one of pickleball’s most vital lines, especially for competitive play. It governs serves, line calls, court position, and strategy. Mastering the nuances of this special boundary line will level up your game. Whether you’re a casual player or aspiring pro, understanding the pickleball centerline will ensure you maximize your skills on the court. So get out there, review these key centerline concepts, and watch your play improve.