Rule Submission TitleDrop Serve (duplicate. See entry 20)
Rule Book Year2022
Date CreatedJune 28, 2021
Rule Change ID186
Existing Rule #4.A.8 through 4.A.8.c and 4.A.4
Original Rule Text

4.A.8. Provisional Drop Serve. In addition to the standard serve sequence described in Rules 4.A.1 to 4.A.7, players may opt to use an alternate “drop serve” method.

4.A.8.a. Servers must release the ball from one of the server’s hands or dropped off the server's paddle face from any natural (unaided) height and hit the ball after the ball bounces on the playing surface. The server’s release of the ball must be visible to the referee and the receiver. In matches without a referee, the server’s release of the ball must be visible to the receiver. A replay shall be called before the return of serve if the release of the ball is not visible. The rules for feet placement (4.A.2 and 4.L) still apply.

4.A.8.b. Before bouncing on the ground, the ball shall not be propelled (thrown) downward or tossed or hit upward with the paddle. Failure to drop the ball properly will result in a fault. There is no restriction on where the ball can land on the playing surface after it is dropped (providing 4.A.2 is satisfied) nor how many times within the 10 seconds after the score is called the server may drop the ball.

4.A.8.c. If the drop serve is used, the ball may be struck with either a forehand or backhand motion without any other restriction; i.e., the location restrictions of the ball and paddle in Rules 4.A.3, 4.A.4 and 4.A.5 do not apply.

4.A.4. The highest point of the paddle head must not be above the highest part of the wrist (where the wrist joint bends) when it strikes the ball. (See Fig 4-1 & 4-2)

Proposed Rule Change

Rescind rules 4.A.8 through 4.A.8.c (Provisional Drop Serve) and introduce a new rule 4.A.2 that will be inserted between existing rules 4.A.1 and 4.A.2. Also, rescind rule 4.A.4. Existing rules 4.A.2, 4.A.3, and 4.A.5 through 4.A.7 would be renumbered accordingly.

(NEW) 4.A.2 The ball may be served either out of the air or immediately after the ball bounces once on the playing surface.

Reasoning Behind Suggested Change

The Drop Serve should be retained as an alternative for players who have difficulty serving the traditional way.  These difficulties can be due to physical disabilities (e.g., missing arm) or mental blocks (such as the yips) as well as health concerns (aka Covid).  Having the Drop Serve codified as a serve option, rather than an exception, supports the efforts that have been achieved this year in integrating the rules for players with disabilities into the standard rules.

However, rather than introducing another set of criteria for players to comply with and referees to look for and enforce, the Drop Serve rule should be greatly simplified by leaving the service motion elements for the traditional serve intact for the Drop Serve. Having different standards for the traditional and drop serves complicates matters for referees, requiring them to look for additional elements during the serve.

The Drop Serve requirement to drop the ball is designed to control the ball from bouncing above the server's waist so that an underhand/upward arc serve is automatically made.  However, the restrictions imposed relating to releasing the ball at a natural height and without additional force have been difficult for referees to judge and to judge consistently. The procedure could be greatly simplified by allowing the server to release the ball in any manner and merely requiring the ball to be hit when it is no higher than the server's waist, as is done with the traditional serve. Players could then bounce or toss the ball when making a Drop Serve and there would be no need to try to judge whether a player moved his/her hand or jumped a fraction of an inch or imparted force on the ball. Hitting the ball at or below waist level guarantees that the serve is made with an underhand motion/upward arc by most people except those who are really tall.

Furthermore, since the position of the paddle head at the time of contact is not of concern for the Drop Serve, why is there a need for that restriction when using the traditional serve? The impact of the paddle on the ball is the same whether the ball is dropped or hit out of the air. The paddle head restriction, which is a service motion requirement that was added years after pickleball was invented, should be eliminated for the traditional serve. Then for both serves it would just be a matter of hitting the ball in an upward arc when the ball is no higher than waist level. Besides that, the position of the paddle head at ball contact is the most difficult of the service motion elements to gauge and is the most controversial. The position of the paddle head at contact many times looks illegal when viewing the server from one end of the court but looks completely legal when the server is on the other end of the court. When the paddle position is questionable, it is not reasonable to think that the human eye can discern the exact position of the paddle at the instant the ball is contacted. It is impossible to tell without the review of slow-motion video. More than a fair share of referees have been criticized by players and spectators for not calling a fault for a paddle head position they thought was illegal, not to mention the arguments that have ensued.

Aligning the service motion requirements for both serves would make it easier for both players and referees. There would be no need for players to do, and referees to look for, anything different based on the type of serve. This would also eliminate multiple points of potential conflict as a result of judging the use of force, unaided height, and visibility for the Drop Serve.  The simpler we keep the rules, the better for all.

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