Many players often wonder what the double-hitting and carrying rules are in pickleball.
“Carrying” the pickleball occurs when the ball slides across the face of the paddle. In other racket sports like tennis, carrying is illegal – and pickleball is no exception under most scenarios.
In this article, we’ll dive into the official rules for carrying with examples to ensure you are crystal clear on what constitutes a carry and what should happen if a player carries the ball during a point.
What Is Carrying the Ball in Pickleball?
The Official USA Pickleball Rulebook 2023 (section 3.A.1) defines a carry as a player “hitting the ball in such a way that it does not bounce away from the paddle but is carried along on the face of the paddle.” Think of a ball sliding across the paddle’s face rather than bouncing off the paddle face soon after it makes contact with the paddle.
When you carry the ball, you’re making contact with the ball and the ball is sliding along the face of the paddle. The ball is then “pushed” off the surface of the paddle instead of bouncing off the paddle toward the desired direction.
Carrying does occur on the pickleball court, usually by accident. Carries can be confusing because they happen quickly, but it’s important to know that a carry is illegal in pickleball if it is intentional.
Is It Legal to Carry the Ball in Pickleball?
No, it’s not legal to deliberately carry the ball in pickleball. The USA Pickleball Rulebook states under Section 7.L that a fault occurs if a player is found to be deliberately catching the ball on the paddle while serving or during a rally.
In general, the ball should be struck cleanly and softly, only allowing for a brief hit of the paddle’s surface before bouncing off the paddle toward its target.
It’s important to note that a fault is only called if:
- the carry is intentional/deliberate or
- if the ball comes to a complete stop on the paddle.
Carrying the ball can happen unintentionally, and it may also happen during a double hit. If a double hit occurs, the ball must maintain the direction it was going on the 1st hit and the double hit must occur only with 1 player and paddle.
Both carries and double hits done intentionally are not allowed on the court. If a referee or opponent sees an intentional carry or double hit, then a fault should be called.
What Happens If You Carry the Ball in Pickleball?
A carry occurs when the pickleball slides across the face of the paddle and does not immediately bounce off the paddle after making contact with the paddle. If a carry occurs, it’s considered a fault if the carry was deliberate and intentional.
According to official pickleball rules, a fault results in a sideout or loss of serve (if the team was serving) or the loss of a point (if the other team was serving).
Carrying the Ball in Pickleball? Example 1
Imagine a player who gets lobbed during a match. The player turns around with their back to the net and runs toward the baseline to hit the ball.
With their back to the net and paddle under the ball, the player scoops the ball onto the paddle, holding it there for a moment before pushing the paddle and ball over their head so that the pickleball propels to their opponent’s side of the court.
This example fits the definition of a carry in Section 3 of the official pickleball rulebook, as the ball is moved along the face of the paddle instead of being hit in a direction away from the paddle. Additionally, Section 7’s fault rule also applies – since the player was deliberately carrying or catching the ball on the paddle.
In this scenario the player has performed an illegal carry and the result is a fault.
Carrying the Ball in Pickleball? Example 2
In this example, assume a firefight hands battle is occurring at the net.
Next assume during the firefight one player makes contact with the pickleball, the ball slides along the face of the paddle before coming off, and is then hit again by the player’s paddle.
As long as this move was not intentional, the paddle motion was continuous, and the ball continued moving in 1 direction during this sequence (i.e., it didn’t start out going straight on the first hit and then went sideways on the 2nd), it is most likely not a fault and play would continue.
The point here is that carries and double hits occur naturally during pickleball points from time to time, and as long as they are not intentional and the ball flight doesn’t change then play should continue.
FAQs - Carrying the Ball in Pickleball
What Are Other Types of Illegal Hits in Pickleball?
In addition to carrying the ball, there are various forms of illegal hits in a game of pickleball. These usually occur on the serve or if the pickleball comes into contact with a player’s body or apparel.
Illegal serves, for example, happen when a player doesn’t use the proper underhand motion or attempts to go for an overhand serve, which is illegal in pickleball.
A 3rd type of illegal shot occurs during a rally when a player violates the 2-bounce rule and hits a shot in the air instead of allowing the ball to bounce first.
Can You Double-Hit in Pickleball?
A double hit is defined in the USA Official Rulebook as hitting the ball twice before it is returned. In a pickleball game, there can be both illegal and legal double hits; the key difference lies in whether the double hit was deliberate and if it was done in 1 continuous motion.
A legal double hit occurs during an unintentional, continuous stroke in only one direction that does not change the direction of the ball after the first hit. Any other type of double hit is usually a fault.