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Get to Know: All about Pickleball

Although not widely known outside the United States, in that country Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports, with substantial growth in popularity amongst players of all ages.  Pickleball has been described as a hybrid between tennis, squash, badminton, and table tennis. Players use special rackets (or paddles) and ball, and play on a badminton-sized court, although the playing area is reduced, and the court markings are different. It can be played as a singles game, but it is far more common to feature doubles.

Apocryphally, the game was invented by two friends who were bored one afternoon in the summer of 1965, and who decided to play badminton, only to find that they had no shuttlecock. Instead, they improved with a Wiffle ball (a type of indoors baseball), lowered the nets, and used paddles fashioned from a garden shed. 

Fans of the game claim it was named after the family dog Pickles, although sadly for the myth, he was not born until two years later!

A game begins with the serve which must be under-arm and must be delivered in such a way that that the person receiving it makes contact with the ball below waist-level.  As in tennis, the server must stand behind the baseline and serve into the diagonally opposite court. However, only the serving team can win points.

The first two shots of any rally must be played on the half-volley once the ball has bounced.

A service ends when a fault of one fault or another is committed – ty[es of fault include striking the ball into the net, or out of bounds, hitting the ball after the second bounce, or volleying the ball when returning the service.

The first team to reach 11 points normally wins a game provided that there are two points between the two sides. In the event that there is not a two-point difference, the game will continue until one side establishes a winning advantage.

One concept unique to Pickleball is that of the non-volley zone – an area either side of the net where the ball can only be played if it bounces.

Pickleball has evolved its own unique terminology to describe the game and its main shots, some examples of which are:

 Bounce It: Instructions called out by one player to their partner – it tells them to let the ball bounce because they think it will land out of bounds.

Champion Shot: A shot that bounces twice in the Non-Volley Zone (equivalent to a drop shot in tennis).

Dillball: A ball that is live and has bounced once in court.

Dink Shot: Again, like a drop shot in tennis or a dink in badminton – – a soft shot that just clears the net and drops in an opponent’s non-volley zone.

Flabjack: A term used to describe a shot which is hit in mid-air and must have bounced once during either of the first two shots of any point. After the first two shots, the ball does not have to bounce, and a player can volley it.

Kitchen: A term for the non-volley zone. One player may call out to his teammate – “get out of the kitchen!).

OPA: An exclamation that is sometimes uttered when a third shot has been hit – it is used as a signal that volleying can begin.

Pickle! The phrase used by the server to warn everybody on court that they are about to serve.

Volley Llama: A term describing an illegal shot when a volley is made in the non-volley zone.

Shantanu Gupta predominantly writes for the sister sites of Inplay Cricket India, Inplay Sports India and Indian Cricket World. Having grown up around the intense rivalries of cricket Shantanu took to a journalistic career in following the sport whilst also remaining mindful of other key sports of interest to Indian sports fans. You’ll see him not only writing about cricket but also covering football, tennis and more.

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