Professional Pickleball Association Pro Tour won’t implement new drop serve and let serve rules; bans Zane Navratil’s Chainsaw serve

February 8, 2021

The announcement is here. It states the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) — arguably the largest and most prestigious pro tour in the world — will not be adopting the following rule changes for professional play: (1) the drop serve will be prohibited; (2) let serves will be reinstated; (3) players will not be allowed to use their paddle to lift the ball into the air while serving. The latter rule change was used by Zain Navratil to pioneer his controversial “Chainsaw” serve.

The policy will apply only to professional and senior professional matches that take place at PPA events. Rec players will not be affected (i.e., rec players will continue to have to abide by USA Pickleball’s 2021 rules).

Don Stanley, the PPA’s head referee, explains the changes in a video here.

Near the beginning of the video, Stanley states that PPA — an unsanctioned tour* — is in complete compliance with USA Pickleball’s rules. He says that this was confirmed by USA Pickleball, with whom he consulted.

Stanley then explained that the USA Pickleball rules aren’t really rules but, rather, guidelines — at least when it comes to unsanctioned tournaments. Here is the relevant passage from the rulebook:

“The purpose of the rulebook is to provide pickleball players with the rules necessary for organized league and tournament play. Some sections of this rulebook are designed to be used only for
the conduct of sanctioned tournaments. A sanctioned tournament allows players to be ranked on a national or international basis. Non-sanctioned tournaments may also use these sections as
Tournament Directors for non-sanctioned tournaments may be flexible in the use of these guidelines to better fit the skills, ages, and diversity of their players. USA PICKLEBALL and IFP enthusiastically encourage these non-sanctioned tournaments to promote knowledge and growth of the spport.” [Emphasis added.]

* * *

So PPA tournaments — marquis events attended by virtually all of the top pro players — will have one set of rules. Other pro tournaments such as the APP will have another set of rules. (They will follow USA Pickleball rules). Rec matches, including rec matches that take place at PPA tournaments, will also follow USA Pickleball rules.

What emerges is a confusing patchwork of rules that will change from tournament to tournament and even within a single tournament depending on the level of the player. It seems to us that this is not optimal for the sport.

*In an earlier version of this post, we stated incorrectly that PPA tournaments were sanctioned. We regret the error.

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