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What is a let in pickleball? Everything you need to know in 2023

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Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Feb 9, 2023

An image showing a pickleball ball hitting the net

What is a let in pickleball, you ask? And is there even a let in pickleball?

Have you ever played a game and wondered what happens when a pickleball serve hits the net and lands on the opponent's court? Or perhaps you've heard your opponents shout "let!" but weren't sure what they meant. This is common for new players.

Well, we're here to break down everything you need to know about this pickleball term - the LET. We’ll cover where the pickleball let stands in 2023. And we’ll go through a major rule change two years ago. Get your pickleball paddles ready and let's dive in!

A pickleball player prepares to serve

Is there a let in pickleball?

No. According to the latest official pickleball rulebook, there is no longer a concept of a "let" in pickleball. If a serve hits the net, but still lands in the correct service court, play continues without interruption.

Of course, if the serve hits the net and does not land in the correct service court, it’s a fault, just like any errant pickleball serves. The serve goes to the 2nd server, or a side out.

Learn how to serve in pickleball

The USA Pickleball (USAPA) Rules Committee eliminated the pickleball let rule in 2021 intending to maintain the integrity of the game. As a result, there is currently no let rule in pickleball.

What was a let in pickleball?

While the let rule is no longer officially a part of pickleball play, it's still useful to understand what it was and how it was used.

A graphic displaying the definition of a pickleball let serve

Mostly, there’s a single-serve attempt allowed in pickleball. But this rule doesn’t apply in let.

A let was defined as a serve that hit the top of the net before landing on the right side of the opponent's service court. Previously, it resulted in a re-serve and was considered a fluke occurrence—something that might happen only occasionally.

Now, based on the updated pickleball rulebook, a let is not automatically counted as a point for either player or team.

Now, if a serve hits the net and lands in the correct service box, it’s considered a live ball and the receiving team or player must play it. If they miss it or don’t return it over the net, they will have faulted, and the serving team scores a point.

However, a serve that hits the net and the ball lands outside the service box or on the kitchen line is still considered a service fault, resulting in a 2nd server or side-out call.

A guide to kitchen rules

Why is it called a “let”?

Let’s talk about the origin of the term "let." Below are some theories behind its use:

  1. The term "let" is borrowed from tennis, where it’s also used to indicate a serve that hits the net and is replayed.
  2. Some people believe that the term "let" comes from the phrase "let it play," which means to allow the game to continue.
  3. Another theory is that "let" is a shorter version of the French word "filet," which means "net."
  4. Lastly, some believe it came from the Old Saxon word "lettian," meaning "to hinder."

Other pickleball terms to learn

Aside from the term “let,” there are a few other basic terms pickleball beginners should know:

  • Service fault: The service fault occurs when the serve fails to land within the correct receiver’s service box, according to the rules that govern how to play pickleball.
  • Non-volley zone: Also known as the "kitchen," the non-volley zone line is a designated area on the court where pickleball players must let the ball bounce before striking it. It's the area within 7 feet on both sides of the net.
  • Double Bounce Rule: The double bounce rule in pickleball requires that the ball must bounce in the service area of the opposing team and then on the serving team’s side of the court before any player is allowed to volley the ball (strike it before it bounces).
A map of a pickleball court

What should you do if a serve hits the net?

As discussed, you’re required to return any serve that hits the net and lands in the correct service box. The service box is the area in front of the baseline, between the centerline and sideline (but behind the non-volley zone line).

A lot of things can occur when a ball hits the net. It may lose speed and drop short, or it might change direction completely. So, you should always be prepared to act quickly.

Focus on proper footwork to move around the court effectively. With practice, you’ll be able to return serves – even serves that hit the net – with confidence and consistency.

2020 pickleball let rules vs 2021 pickleball let rules

In January 2021, the USA Pickleball Rules Committee released a revised set of rules for the sport. One of the main differences between the 2020 and 2021 versions is the removal of the let rule.

The 2021 new rules also legalized the “drop serve” which allows a player to drop the ball and hit with an upward arc off the bounce.

Why the let rule was removed

It’s not uncommon for sports to periodically review and update their rules in order to improve the fairness and enjoyment of the game. The pickleball let rule was removed from the 2021 USA Pickleball official rulebook in order to:

  • Protect the integrity of the game
  • Reduce the opportunity for conflict
  • Make officiating less difficult.

The let rule originally allowed for a replay of a serve. However, these were often misunderstood and misapplied by players, leading to confusion and disputes on the court.

In fact, these even led to some contentious matches where players have accused their opponents of cheating. That certainly isn’t something anyone wants to see in pickleball.

Pickleball rule changes in 2023

Benefits of removing the let rule

Removing the let rule allows for a more straightforward and consistent application of the rules. It reduces confusion and disputes on the court, which can lead to players being unfairly penalized. The let rule can also interrupt the flow of the game. So, removing the rule allows for a smoother play.

Imagine a close pickleball match between two players, with no referee present. The score is tied, and Player A serves the ball. It just clears the net, and lands in Player B’s service box. But Player B is unable to return the ball and immediately line calls a let, claiming that the serve hit the top of the net.

Player A accused Player B of cheating. Player B denies the accusation and insists that the ball hit the net, and that the ball should be re-served.

How to become a pickleball pro

This scenario is based on real-life situations in pickleball. Clearly, the pickleball rule changes are intended to reduce the number of arguments and disputes during a pickleball match.

In the above scenario, there would be no argument about whether the ball hit the net or not. By simplifying the overall rulebook, players will have a better understanding of the rules and have a more enjoyable experience.

A pickleball player bounces the ball and prepares to serve

Does the let serve matter in the 2023 rule changes?

The 2023 USA Pickleball Rulebook doesn't include a reference to a service let. So, go ahead and hit your serves low and close to the net. It’ll be legal, whether it hits the net or not!

Tennis vs pickleball lets

A graphic comparing tennis and pickleball lets

Both tennis and pickleball have similar concepts of a let: a serve that hits the net on its way over. But they differ in some key ways:

Similarities

  • In both sports, a let serve is not considered a fault.
  • In both sports, a let does not result in a penalty point.

Differences

  • In tennis, the let serve is replayed.
  • In pickleball, a ball that hits the net and lands in the correct service court is live and must be played.

Check out tennis vs pickleball

Bottom line

We hope this guide answered all of your questions about the let serve in pickleball. With some practice and a solid grasp of the rules and lingo, you'll be a pickleball pro in no time!

In the meantime, why not check out some of our top pickleball tips to help you dominate the court and win more pickleball games? Don't forget to let us know how you got on via our socials!

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About the author
Brandon Mackie
Brandon is an avid writer and co-founder of Pickleheads™. Once a competitive tennis player, Brandon can now be found these days honing his dinks on pickleball courts near Phoenix, Arizona.
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