Deflated Pickleball (Cracked or deformed pickleballs)

What is a deflated pickleball

Deflated pickleball has become a non-official term to refer to a pickleball that is no longer viable for play. Pickleballs over time can crack.  With repeated play, they can also become deformed or form soft spots.  Any one of these alignments will create a dead pickleball, meaning it should be taken out of play and tossed (preferably recycled).

What are the rules around a cracked or deflated pickleball

Rule 11.E of the USA Pickleball 2023 Official Rulebook addresses the issue of broken or cracked pickleballs.

“If any player suspects the ball is or becomes cracked after the serve, play must continue until the end of the rally. In officiated matches, players may appeal to the referee before the next serve occurs to determine if a ball is degraded, soft, broken or cracked. If, in the judgment of the referee, a broken or cracked ball impacted the outcome of a rally, the referee will call for a replay with a replacement ball. If both teams agree that the ball is degraded or soft, the ball will be replaced, but there is no replay of the prior rally. In non-officiated matches, if both teams agree, players may replace a degraded, soft, broken, or cracked ball before the next serve occurs. In only the case of a cracked ball, if the players agree the cracked ball impacted the prior rally, a replay occurs. If the players do not agree that a cracked ball impacted the outcome of the prior rally, the prior rally stands as played.”

Basically, if you suspect a deflated pickleball, continue the rally.  After the rally you may appeal to the referee in officiated matches. If the shape of the ball impacted the outcome, the rally will be replayed. In non-officiated matches, you and the opposing side must agree to replay the rally.

Matches and games that highlight the deflated pickleball rule

In the PPA 2023 Cincinnati Open, the mixed doubles semi-finals match, there was a controversial call.   Anna Leigh Waters and Ben Johns appealed after a rally in which James Ignatowich smashed the ball.  The claim was the ball was altered and effected the outcome of the rally.  The referee sided with Ben Johns it claimed the ball “did deflate.”  This was the first time I heard the term deflate used for a plastic ball, but it seems to be sticking as a universal term for a deformed or dead pickleball.

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  1. Pingback: Pickleball News: Fall 2023 | Pickleball Fever | MOMUS

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