by Mark Leonard

When I started playing pickleball, one of the parts of the game that was confusing was the serving pattern in doubles. I remember being told “each player on a team serves before giving the serve to the other team, EXCEPT at the start of the game”. I also remember being told “this is the rule and you just have to remember it”. Now that I’m a “veteran” pickleball player and am introducing the game to other new players, I find myself using some version of that message myself. 

But I really wanted to understand why this rule is as it is. So I decided to break this down to its basic parts. 

Let’s take the serve in pairs. On the first round, your team serves until you commit a fault and then my team does the same:

Server 1Server 2
Round 1Your teamMy team

Now for the second round, we do the same thing except that my team gets to go first:

Server 1Server 2
Round 2My teamYour team

Putting that together, we now have:

Server 1Server 2
Round 1Your teamMy team
Round 2My teamYour team

For Round 3, we will repeat Round 1. And then Round 4 will repeat Round 2. We will keep going in that pattern for the whole game.

Server 1Server 2
Round 1Your teamMy team
Round 2My teamYour team
Round 3Your teamMy team
Round 4My teamYour team
Round 5Your teamMy team
Round 6My teamYour team

This is how we do the serve in doubles pickleball, but trying to keep track of who serves by round is a bit confusing. So in order to simplify it, let’s keep the order exactly the same, but just add a blank at the beginning of Round 1

Server 1Server 2
Round 1Your team
Round 2My teamMy team
Round 3Your teamYour team
Round 4My teamMy team
Round 5Your teamYour team
Round 6My teamMy team

If you compare this to the previous chart, you’ll see that we haven’t changed the order of serving. We’ve just grouped the servers differently so that it is easier to keep track with our 1 and 2 indicators for the server. The only accommodation that we have to make for this is to have the first server of the game be a Server 2.

For the purposes of playing or instructing beginners, it is usually enough to say each team serves twice except for the first serve. But for the occasional person that thinks that sounds strange or arbitrary, I hope this will be a useful explanation for why it makes sense.


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