What is the Starting Score of a Doubles Pickleball Game?

Pickleball is a fascinating sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, drawing players of all ages and skill levels to its addictive gameplay. If you are new to the sport, learning the rules and scoring system is an essential part of your pickleball journey. In this blog post, we will specifically focus on the starting score of a doubles pickleball game and its importance in this much-loved game. A solid understanding of the game’s beginning score will help you experience seamless initial gameplay and pave the way for mastering other nuances integral to victory.

What is the Starting Score of a Doubles Pickleball Game?

In a doubles pickleball game, the starting score is 0-0-2. This unique, three-number format represents the serving team’s score (0), the receiving team’s score (0), and the current server’s position (2). The position number two indicates that it is the second server’s turn to serve. This format is essential for ensuring a fair and balanced game and streamlines the scoring process. Once both servers lose their serves, the opposing team gains serving rights with the score resetting to 0-0-1 for the first server.

Understanding Pickleball Scoring: The Basics

Before diving into the specifics of a doubles pickleball starting score, it’s essential to have a fundamental understanding of the sport’s scoring system. In pickleball, only the serving team can score points. Each team consists of two players and has two service opportunities, one for each player, before the serve is turned over to the opposing team. This unique scoring approach plays a vital role in making the game both exciting and unpredictable, as only the serving team can score while the receiving team strives to regain service rights.

Deciphering the Three-number Score Format

In pickleball, the score is announced using a three-number format, which may seem confusing to novice players. However, once you understand the reasoning behind this unique format, you’ll appreciate how it streamlines gameplay and makes it easy to track the score and progress of each team.

Component 1: Serving Team’s Score

The first number in the format represents the serving team’s score. After a successful serve and rally, if the serving team wins the point, their score is incremented. Conversely, if the serving team loses the rally, the score remains the same, and the server changes or the opposing team gains service rights.

Component 2: Receiving Team’s Score

The second number in the format denotes the receiving team’s score. Remember that the receiving team is not allowed to score points; this number is for informational purposes, allowing both teams and bystanders to keep track of the game’s progress.

Component 3: Server’s Position

The third and final number indicates the current server’s position, either a one (1) or two (2). In a doubles pickleball game, each team has two service opportunities before the service rights are turned over to the opposing team. The first server’s position is denoted by a one (1), whereas the second server’s position is represented by a two (2).

Getting Started: The Power of 0-0-2

At the beginning of a doubles pickleball game, the score is announced as 0-0-2. This seemingly peculiar starting score has a very particular purpose; it levels the playing field and sets the stage for strategic and enjoyable gameplay. Let’s dissect each component of the score:

Component 1: Serving Team’s Score – 0

As the match begins, both teams start with a score of 0, reflecting the fact that neither team has scored any points yet. This number will increase as the serving team scores points throughout the game.

Component 2: Receiving Team’s Score – 0

Similarly, the receiving team’s 0 score indicates they have also not secured any points. This number remains constant until they gain serving rights and score points themselves.

Component 3: Server’s Position – 2

At the start of the match, the initial server’s teammate begins as the second server (position number 2). This singular service opportunity levels the playing field, as the second server on the serving team will only have one chance to score before the opposing team takes on serving rights. By defaulting to the second server, the game allows each team a fair opportunity to secure their first point and sets the stage for strategic and engaging gameplay.

Rotation of Serving Rights and Score Progression

It is vital to understand how service rights rotate during gameplay and how the score progresses in a doubles pickleball game. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the process:

1. Initial Serve – 0-0-2

The game begins with the initial serving team at the second server position with the score announced as 0-0-2. The second server initiates the first serve, and the game commences.

2. First Loss of Serve

If the initial serving team loses the rally, the service rights are handed over to the opposing team, and the score is reset to 0-0-1 to indicate the first server serving.

3. Scoring and Rotating Servers

As the game progresses, the serving team ramps up their score by winning rallies. If the serving team loses a rally, the serve rotates to the other player on the serving team, and the server position switches from 1 to 2 (or vice versa). When both server positions on the serving team have been exhausted, the service rights transfer to the opposing team.

4. Winning the Game

A doubles pickleball game typically goes up to 11 points, and a team must win by a margin of at least two points to secure victory. Unique scenarios like playing up to 15 or 21 points may also occur, depending on tournament rules or players’ preferences.

The Importance of Side-switching and Server Stacking

Throughout a doubles pickleball game, strategic side-switching and server stacking play vital roles in maintaining a competitive edge. Mastering these techniques can significantly impact a team’s performance and overall game strategy.


As the game proceeds, side-switching occurs when the combined server-side score adequately reflects an odd number (i.e., 7, 11, 15, etc.). This switching strategy ensures that each team has an equal opportunity to play in varying environmental conditions, like sunlight or wind. Side-switching is crucial for fair play and balancing the game, especially when external conditions fluctuate.

Server Stacking

Server stacking is a strategic move wherein the servers assume a specific position to maximize their advantage over the opposing team. For instance, a right-handed player might pair up with a left-handed player to cover a larger area and create a stronger offense. Exceptional use of server stacking can elevate a team’s gameplay and optimize their chances of winning.

Essential Skills and Game Strategies

Mastering the starting score and scoring system is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pickleball success. Implementing potent gameplay strategies heavily depends on honing several essential skills and techniques. These attributes can significantly boost a player’s performance on the court:

1. Serve Accuracy

A powerful and accurate serve is a valuable skill that can set the stage for a winning rally. By targeting the opponent’s weak spots and keeping them on their toes, an effective serve can be a potent weapon in a player’s arsenal.

2. Return of Serve

The ability to consistently return a serve and put pressure on the serving team is just as vital as a successful serve. An excellent return can neutralize an opponent’s serve and place the receiving team on equal footing during the rally.

3. Volley Mastery

By perfecting the art of volleying near the net, players can exert pressure on their opponents and increase their chances of forcing errors or winning rallies outright. Volley mastery can help dictate the flow of the game and keep your adversaries vigilant.

4. The Power of Dinking

Dinking is a core pickleball skill that refers to making gentle shots landing just over the net, usually at a sharp angle. Strategic dinking disrupts an opponent’s rhythm, forcing them to make awkward shots or return to the baseline to reset the rally.

5. Court Awareness and Positioning

Great court awareness and positioning can be game-changers in doubles pickleball, with players making calculated decisions and being poised in the right place at the right time. Effective positioning, both defensively and offensively, enables better ball handling and control, helping you secure points and win crucial rallies.

Maximizing the Starting Score: 0-0-2

Now that you have an in-depth understanding of the starting score in a doubles pickleball game, you can focus on maximizing its potential. By mastering pickleball’s essential skills and strategies, you can exploit the starting score to your advantage, outplay your opponents, and achieve victory on the court. Remember that knowledge is power, and in the unique sport of pickleball, understanding the nuances of the 0-0-2 starting score can make a significant difference in your overall performance and success.

Adapting to Different Types of Pickleball Games

While this article has primarily focused on the starting score of a doubles pickleball game, it’s essential to note that pickleball can also be played in various formats, such as singles and mixed doubles. Each game format has its unique nuances and strategies. Adapting to different types of games will not only strengthen your understanding of the sport but also equip you with valuable skills to excel in any pickleball setting.

Singles Pickleball

In singles pickleball, the starting score is 0-0, as there is only one server per side. The two-number format signifies the server’s score followed by the receiver’s score. As there is only one server, the server position (1 or 2) is not applicable in this game format. The core strategies and skills discussed earlier also apply to singles pickleball, but the dynamic changes since each player needs to cover the entire court alone, emphasizing agility, endurance, and shot placement.

Mixed Doubles Pickleball

Mixed doubles pickleball is another popular format where teams consist of one male and one female player. The starting score is still 0-0-2, and the scoring system remains identical to standard doubles pickleball. However, mixed doubles often presents new challenges and opportunities, as players with varying skillsets and styles face off against each other. Effective communication between teammates and strategic use of each player’s strengths are the keys to success in mixed doubles.

Etiquette and Sportsmanship in Pickleball

As with any sport, the importance of observing proper etiquette and sportsmanship should not be underestimated. Good sportsmanship creates a positive atmosphere, enhances the overall enjoyment of the game, and promotes fair play. Here are some essential etiquette guidelines to follow in pickleball:

1. Call Your Scores Loudly

Prior to each serve, make sure to call the score loudly and clearly enough for all players on the court to hear. This helps prevent confusion and ensures everyone is on the same page.

2. Be Honest with Line Calls

Pickleball heavily relies on the honor system when making line calls, particularly in recreational play. Always call the lines fairly, and if unsure, it’s better to give the benefit of the doubt to your opponents.

3. Maintain a Cheerful Attitude

Staying positive, even during challenging moments, creates a pleasant playing environment for everyone. Congratulating your opponents on a great shot or play demonstrates good sportsmanship and enhances the spirit of friendly competition.

4. Respect the Court and Equipment

Treat the pickleball court, balls, paddles, and nets with respect. Avoid throwing or damaging the equipment, and clean up your belongings and any trash before leaving the court.

5. Give Players Space

Always respect other players’ personal space, particularly when playing on courts adjacent to other games. When entering or crossing a court, wait for a break in play and ask for permission to avoid interrupting an ongoing game.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball is a fun and engaging sport that offers a fantastic way to stay active, compete, and socialize with others. While understanding the starting score, rules, and strategies can significantly enhance your gameplay, it’s crucial to remember the fundamental principle of enjoying the experience and promoting good sportsmanship. Keep learning and growing, and you’ll soon find yourself thriving on the pickleball court, regardless of the format or level of play.

FAQ: Doubles Pickleball Starting Score and More

If you still have questions about the starting score of a doubles pickleball game or other aspects of the sport, we’ve got you covered. Below is a concise FAQ section designed to address the most common questions and provide clear answers to help you better understand this captivating game.

1. Can you score on the first serve of a doubles pickleball game?

Yes, the serving team can score on the very first serve (0-0-2) if they win the initial rally. However, if they lose the rally, the service rights transfer to the receiving team.

2. Why do pickleball games start with the second server in doubles play?

Doubles pickleball games start with the second server (0-0-2) to ensure fairness and balanced gameplay. It immediately gives the receiving team a chance to gain serve and score points after a single lost rally by the serving team.

3. What is the difference between the first and second server in doubles pickleball?

The only difference between the first and second servers is the order in which they serve. When a team has the serve, each player gets an opportunity to serve consecutively. The second server serves after the first server loses the rally.

4. How do you know which player is the first or second server?

When a team first obtains the serve, the player on the right side of the court becomes the first server. After losing the rally, their teammate becomes the second server, and so on. Once both servers have served, the receiving team acquires serving rights.

5. Can both players on a doubles pickleball team lose their serve on the first rotation?

Only the second server can lose their serve during the initial rotation. After losing the serve, the service rights are passed to the receiving team. The first server’s serve will come into play during subsequent rotations.

6. Do you have to win by two points in a doubles pickleball match?

Yes, a team needs to win by at least a two-point margin in a doubles pickleball match, regardless of whether the game is played to 11, 15, or 21 points.

7. How many points are needed to win a doubles pickleball match?

Most doubles pickleball matches require a team to score 11 points to win. However, in certain tournaments or situations, games can be played to 15 or 21 points as well.

8. Can you lose points in a pickleball match?

No, points cannot be lost in a pickleball match. Only the serving team can score points, whereas the receiving team strives to regain the serve before attempting to score.

9. What happens when you switch sides in pickleball doubles?

During a doubles pickleball game, teams switch sides when the total combined points of both teams is an odd number (e.g., 7, 11, 15, etc.), ensuring equal playing conditions and fairness.

10. What is the non-volley zone in pickleball?

The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is the 7-foot area on both sides of the net, where players are prohibited from volleying the ball (hitting it before it bounces). Stepping into the non-volley zone while volleying results in a fault.

11. Can you serve overhand in pickleball?

No, overhand serves are not allowed in pickleball. The serve must be executed underhand, with the paddle’s contact to the ball occurring below waist level.

12. Why is it called “pickleball”?

Pickleball’s name is often attributed to the co-inventor’s dog, Pickles, who would chase and retrieve the ball during games. Contrarily, some believe that the name comes from the term “pickle boat,” used in rowing to describe a mixed crew, similar to how pickleball combines elements of various sports.

13. Can you play singles and mixed doubles pickleball?

Yes, pickleball can be played in various formats – including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles – each with unique game dynamics and strategies.