How Long Is A Pickleball Game?

Pickleball is a common recreational activity for many amateur athletes who enjoy a fun game to play in groups, but how long does a pickleball game usually last? Superficially, pickleball is similar to tennis, with elements of other paddle sports–such as badminton and table tennis–also integrated into the game. The rules of pickleball are very straightforward, but this does lead to some variability in the amount of time a single game or tournament can take.

Standard Game Rules

The standard rules for a game of pickleball are very simple. Most pickleball games, like tennis, are played either in singles or doubles, with doubles being the most common. The game is played on a court, typically an indoor or outdoor court used for tennis or badminton. Players use solid, square-shaped paddles, slightly larger than those used in table tennis, to hit a wiffle ball back-and-forth over a net in an attempt to score points. Similar rules to tennis also apply to pickleball, regarding faults, hitting a ball out-of-bounds, and so on. Points are scored by hitting a ball over the net and in the opponent’s zone, which is then unable to be returned by the other team.

A standard game of pickleball lasts until one player or team reaches 11 points, though in certain tournament settings, individual games can be played to 15 or 21 points. As with other games of a similar nature, such as volleyball, if two teams are within a point of each other when one of them reaches 11, the rules state that the game must be won by two points.

Considering these rules, the average single game of pickleball–regardless of whether it is a singles or doubles game–usually lasts between 15 and 25 minutes. This represents the average amount of time for one team to reach 11 points, or whichever amount of points is required by the game. However, certain factors can lengthen or shorten the time it takes to complete a game of pickleball, as we will see below.

Singles and Doubles

The length of a game of pickleball can often depend upon the number of people playing in the game and the relative skill of the players. Pickleball games can be played in singles, with two opposing players facing off, or in doubles, with two teams of two players battling each other. Depending upon many factors, these two types of games can be very different in time. For instance, a game of doubles pickleball can often last longer than a singles game, as there are two players on each side going after the ball, meaning that there is a greater ability for defense. However, a doubles game could also be shorter than an average pickleball game if one team is more skilled than the other.

Similarly, in a game of singles pickleball, a player with greater skill may beat their opponent quickly, but a singles game can also last much longer if both players are evenly matched. Another factor that can influence the length of a game is the environment. Indoor pickleball games can often be shorter due to the climate-controlled environment they take place in, while outdoor games may last longer due to the tiring effects of heat or cold, as well as other potential distractions.

Faults and Rallies

Another major element of timing in pickleball games relates to the faults that occur in the game, as well as the length of each rally. As in games like tennis, faults can occur in pickleball when various rules are violated, such as volleying in the non-volley zone, if the server’s foot crosses the baseline while serving, or if a serve does not land diagonally from the server in the opposite zone of the court, among other violations. The game will move quicker if a player or team commits multiple faults during a pickleball game, as each fault by the non-serving team results in a point to the serving team, while each fault by the serving team results in a loss of serve to the other team.

The other factor that can alter the time of a pickleball game is the length of the rallies that occur. A rally is the term used to describe the back-and-forth motion of the ball between teams. In pickleball, if two players or teams are very skilled, their rallies may be quite lengthy, meaning that the ball can go back-and-forth for some time without a point being scored. A pickleball game with many long rallies will often be longer than average, while shorter rallies will result in a shorter game.

Tournaments

Many pickleball players or teams enter tournaments, where single pickleball games occur as part of matches. Like tennis, the standard for a match in a pickleball tournament is for two players or teams to play the best two out of three games, with each game being scored to 11 points. However, alternate versions of the pickleball tournament exist: for example, tournament matches may consist of a single game to either 15 or 21 points, with a win by two requirement.

In pickleball tournaments, which often attract more serious and skilled players, it is common for a single match to last approximately an hour, which is the amount of time needed for one team to win two out of the three games. Time lengths for the entire tournament can thus be figured out by how many teams will be playing each other. For example, a tournament with eight teams in a bracket scenario would be expected to take about seven hours to complete if each match is played separately: four hours for the first round of four matches, two hours for the second round of two matches, and an hour for the final match. However, a tournament with multiple matches played simultaneously may take less time.

FAQ

How many sets are in a pickleball match?

Pickleball matches are typically played in a best two of three format. This means that there will be either two or three sets for each match. If one player or team wins the first two sets, there will only be two sets. However, if the first two sets are split between opponents, a third set will be played to decide the winner.

How long is a pickleball tournament?

The length of a pickleball tournament will vary based upon the rules of the tournament, the number of teams playing, and the skill of the players involved. A tournament can take many formats that will alter its length, such as a best two out of three format for each match (which will make matches longer) or a single-game format. The number of teams playing, as well as whether matches are played simultaneously or individually, can also lengthen or shorten a tournament. Finally, the skill of each player or team will affect the length of a tournament, with better-matched teams taking longer to finish a match than others. In general, a good rule of thumb is to assume that each match in a pickleball tournament will last approximately one hour.