PPA Says Good Bye to Spin Serves – Random Thoughts

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On the heels of our big questions post yesterday and answering whether the Morgan Evans serve would have any impact on pro pickleball, the PPA announced today via The Dink that they are eliminating all spin serves. The language being used is as follows:

The server shall not impart manipulation or spin on the release of the ball immediately prior to the serve. The release of the ball to perform the serve shall be visible to the referee. If the referee determines that manipulation or spin has been imparted, or the release of the ball is not visible, the referee shall call for a re-serve.

The PPA did this last year with let serves and the paddle chainsaw serve, and now they are doing it with the Morgan Evans serve. That is, going rogue and choosing their own rules for their organization. We are both on record as being against spin serves, despite the fact that it is a natural evolution of the game. Although we’re not against the idea of getting rid of the spin serves, which likely would have happened in 2023 anyway, having two sets of rules probably isn’t great for the sport overall. Confusion and division in a rapidly growing sport cannot be the best.

Update: Head Referee for PPA, Don Stanley, clarified this rule change is only for pros, not amateurs competing at PPA events

But this is a running trend for pickleball as we have two pro tours plus a governing body in USA Pickleball that are not on the same page and don’t really have a desire to get on the same page. USA Pickleball bungled the new serve rule for 2022 by keeping the Morgan Evans one-handed version of the spin serve. It made no sense to say on the one hand that we don’t like what spin serves are doing for the game but, on the other hand, keep the most effective version of those spin serves in the rules. It appears USA Pickleball made this change with limited consultation. 

If it wasn’t clear before, the PPA’s goal is to continue to set themselves up to be to be the leading organization of the pickleball world. They want to be what the ATP is to tennis and the AVP is to beach volleyball. What also seems to be clear is the influence that their most prominent contracted players have on the choices that are made by the PPA (we also expect head referee, Don Stanley, would have had significant influence on this rule change given his very public stance against spin serves).

The spin serves will still have an impact on pro pickleball as we will see them used at APP tour stops and the majors – US Open, Tournament of Champions and Nationals. However, if it wasn’t inevitable before, the PPA’s decision almost certainly signals the death of spin serves. In the bigger picture, the PPA making these types of decisions may well force the hands of the rule making choices of USA Pickleball and we have to think they can’t be happy about that. It would be best if everyone could work together and ensure consistency across the game. Unfortunately, that’s not the direction things are going in the wild west world of professional pickleball.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com

9 thoughts on “PPA Says Good Bye to Spin Serves – Random Thoughts

  • December 29, 2021 at 11:01 am

    Would have loved to be in the meeting when they decided to stop any spin added to the ball during the serving motion.

  • December 29, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for heads up about the PPA rules change. Honestly, I don’t think it is that big of a deal that the PPA is having different rules than USA/APP. NFL and NBA has some different rules than amateur levels in their respective sports. Personally, when playing, I kind of like the spin serve (even though I don’t have much of one) because it adds an interesting element to the game and it is fun to learn how to return it. But when watching Pro Pickleball, I don’t like it and I think it is bad for the viewer and therefore business. Makes the game revolve around the serve and return and the last few singles title matches I saw (Zane vs JW, Zane vs McGuffin) were just painful to watch. Fewer rallies and honestly it just looks like of goofy and wacky. Let’s just be honest – PPA is about money and more money for them and pros. To get it, that means more viewers and better TV coverage. The spin serve is a loser for them longer term. Even if the spin serve somehow doesn’t hurt the quality of play and viewing experience, the shorter points will mean shorter matches and more people tuning out and therefore hurts the bottom line from an advertising/sponsor perspective. Nothing wrong with competition in business. Let’s see how the APP does with the Spin Serve and PPA does without and revisit in a year to see. I’m open to changing my mind….but some of the matches I saw that were spin serve dominant just got old after the novelty wore off.

    • December 29, 2021 at 12:28 pm

      Don’t disagree with a lot of what you have said. Our general opinion is for pro tours to have different rules is not good. However, the serve likely isn’t going to be any major differing factor for viewers and there will be many other bigger factors that play into how well the respective tours do

      • December 31, 2021 at 9:40 am

        “However, the serve likely isn’t going to be any major differing factor for viewers”

        I don’t think the spin serve tanks viewership overnight….but over time it would hurt The last few singles gold matches I saw (Zane Killing T-Mac, then JW Killing Zane) were just dreadful to watch. Very few rallies. Good luck selling that to already skeptical TV execs if that’s the future of pickleball. And if PB turns more into that….I’ll find something on Netflix to watch. If I want to watch great serves and returns, I’ll watch Tennis not Pickleball. Good move by the PPA.

  • December 29, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    this is good for bj and really good for tm and zn. yet another reason for zane to be the app poster boy for 2022. I think he and coop? will absolutely dominate mixed on the appt. i wonder if he saw this coming?

  • December 29, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for the reporting update. This is just another nail in the coffin for USAPA. Here is the root of the problem: lack of leadership. The USGA for example, has ZERO issues about equipment. Between the Royal & Ancient and the USGA, all professional golf tours comply with the equipment standards set forth by the governing body. The players of all tours comply with the decisions from the rules and competition committees. You don’t have rogue golf tours making up different rules (except for special events ie modified stableford scoring) just because they want to. The USGA and ATP and FIFA (NFL, NBA, NHL, etc) all have effective leadership governing bodies that make sure the integrity of the sports and games is paramount.

    Let’s not forget that pickleball is still 96% recreational. Only a small percentage of players play tournaments where this is a factor. So my message to USAPA: straighten up and take command of the sport and engage both tours and be the adult in the room.

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