What Is Rally In Pickleball?

What is Rally in Pickleball?

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A rally in pickleball is the exciting back-and-forth play between opponents after the serve but before a fault. During a rally, players hit the ball over the net, trying to win the point. A rally ends when either a point is scored or a fault occurs.

The most exciting part of a pickleball game is the rally. Rallies bring suspense, strategy, and challenge to the game. Players have to think fast, move quickly, and hit accurate shots during a rally. The longer the rally, the more intense and thrilling the gameplay becomes.

So what exactly is a rally in pickleball? A rally is the continuous volleying that happens after the serve but before a fault. During a rally, opponents hit the ball back and forth over the net, trying to force their opponent into making a mistake. A rally ends when either a point is scored or a fault occurs. The scoring and fault rules determine how rallies play out in pickleball.

Scoring in Pickleball

Pickleball uses a unique scoring system different from other racquet sports. Here are the key scoring rules:

  • Only the serving side can score points
  • Points are scored on rallies after the serve
  • The first side to 11 points and leading by at least 2 points wins

This scoring style is called “rally scoring”. The main feature of rally scoring is that either side can score points during a rally, regardless of who served.

For example, if Player A wins the serve, but then Player B scores the first point in the rally, Player B gets the point. In sports like tennis, only the serving player/team can score in a standard game.

Rally scoring makes pickleball games faster paced and more competitive. Players must strategize to win rallies from both the serving and receiving positions.

How Points are Scored

During a rally, points are scored when:

  • The ball bounces twice on the opponent’s side
  • The ball is hit into the net or under the net
  • The ball is hit out of bounds
  • The opponent is unable to return the ball before it bounces twice

The first side to score 11 points by a margin of at least 2 points wins the game.

Examples of Rally Scoring:

  • Player A serves. Player B returns the serve. Player A hits the ball into the net – Player B scores 1 point.
  • Player A serves. Both sides volley back and forth. Player B hits the ball out of bounds – Player A scores 1 point.
  • Player B serves. Player A returns the serve but fails to return Player B’s next shot – Player B scores 1 point.

No matter who serves, either side can score on a rally. This creates exciting back-and-forth play!

Faults in Pickleball

While points are scored frequently in pickleball, rallies also end when one side commits a fault. Understanding faults is key to grasping pickleball rules.

Here are common faults that end a rally:

  • Hitting the ball out of bounds – The lines define the playing area. A ball landing outside those lines is out of bounds.
  • Hitting the ball into the net – Any shot into the net ends the rally as a fault.
  • Failing to clear the non-volley zone – This 7-foot zone near the net is for volleying only. A player can’t enter it to hit a groundstroke.
  • Volleying from the non-volley zone – A player in the non-volley zone must let the ball bounce before hitting it. Volleying from this zone is a fault.
  • Double bounce – After one bounce on each side, the ball must be hit before a second bounce. If not, it’s a fault.
  • Double hit – Hitting the ball twice in one shot is a fault.

committing a foot fault on the serve – Stepping over the baseline while serving is illegal.

When a fault occurs, the rally ends immediately and the offending player loses the point. Understanding faults helps players know when a rally will end.

Final Points and Winning the Game

To win a pickleball game, a player or team must be the first to reach 11 points with a lead of 2 or more points.

However, there is one exception to rally scoring:

The final 2 points required to win the match must be scored by the serving side.

For example, if Player A reaches 10 points first, Player B can only tie the score at 10-10. Player A will then serve for the final 2 points required to win the game at 11-10.

This “win by 2” rule prevents a team from losing immediately after gaining the serve. It allows the leading team a chance to close out the game on their service turns.

Why Rally Scoring Improves Pickleball

Many players prefer rally scoring over the traditional tennis approach of only allowing the serving side to score. Here are 3 key benefits of rally scoring in pickleball:

1. More Excitement and Engagement

Rally scoring keeps both sides engaged throughout the game. Even if you don’t have the serve, you can still score points, so you have to be ready to return well. This creates excitement and strategic play.

2. Quicker Games

Tennis games can drag on if the receiver struggles to win points. Rally scoring avoids this by letting either player score. Pickleball games move faster and have more back-and-forth volleys.

3. Comebacks are Always Possible

Since either side can score, comebacks are always possible even if you are behind. You don’t have to wait for your serving turn to start catching up on the scoreboard.

Rally scoring brings energy, speed, competitiveness, and fun to pickleball! It allows exciting rallies where strategy is vital from every position. Understanding the rally rules will help you improve your pickleball game.


To summarize, a rally in pickleball is the intense volleying that occurs after the serve but before a fault. During rallies, both sides hit the ball back and forth over the net, trying to force an error or unreturnable shot from their opponent.

Rallies add excitement through their fast pace, unpredictability, and back-and-forth play. Thanks to pickleball’s unique rally scoring system, points can be scored by either side during a rally regardless of who served. This keeps the game fast-paced and competitive.

Mastering the art of the rally is key to becoming a strong pickleball player. Understanding rally rules and scoring will help you develop strategies to consistently win rallies from any position on the court. With more intense rallies come more opportunities to score points and lead your team to victory!

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