2017-07-13 / Around Town

Pickleball: A Perfect Mix of Ping-Pong and Tennis

By Brooke Constance White

Meghan Mureddu, daughter of Carol Mureddu, program supervisor, strikes a pickleball volley. (Photo by Meri Keller) Meghan Mureddu, daughter of Carol Mureddu, program supervisor, strikes a pickleball volley. (Photo by Meri Keller) Pickleball can best be described as ping-pong on the floor. Sound fun? The Newport Recreation Department has indoor and outdoor pickleball courts along with beginner and intermediate clinics for players of experience levels.

Carol Mureddu, program supervisor for the department, said that the sport, which is played on a court that’s about half the size of a tennis court, has been around for decades, but came to Newport about five years ago. Although people of all ages can play, it’s popular with the older crowd as the court is smaller, so there's less running around.

Although a pickleball paddle looks similar to a ping-pong paddle, it’s actually a bit larger and can be various lengths and weights. The game might look easy, but it can take a little getting used to if you’ve played other paddle/racquet sports.

“There are a lot of people who have played other racquet sports… but want something that’s a bit easier on the joints and includes less running around,” Mureddu said. “The wiffle ball doesn’t bounce up as far or get as much momentum as the tennis ball, so players really have to control it and stay low with it. When playing outside, it can be hard to figure out how hard to hit the wiffleball because it’s lighter and can be blown by the wind more than a tennis ball.”

The game, which can be played in doubles or singles, starts with one player standing in the rightside box on his or her side of the court, calling out the score and then serving the ball underhand into the air before hitting it diagonally crosscourt. If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left-hand court. As points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed, such as the ball going out of bounds or hitting the net during a serve, and the first server loses the serve. Points can only be scored by the serving team, and games are normally played to 11 points, won by two. When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, etc.) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right-side court when serving or receiving. When the team’s score is odd (1, 3, 5, etc.) that player will be in the left-side court when serving or receiving.

Although the game is quite simple, there are some odd rules, Mureddu said. For example, when the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning. The serving team must also let it bounce before returning. After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either hit the ball before it bounces (called a volley) or play it off a bounce.

Within seven feet on either side of the net is an area commonly referred to as “the kitchen,” where volleying is prohibited.

The sport, which, Mureddu said is a popular after-work pastime for Newporters, can be enjoyed at the year-old Hunter Park pickleball courts, located off Third Street. At the city’s recreation center, the full-sized gym can be taped off and portable nets brought in to create indoor pickleball courts.

“It’s a very social game,” Mureddu said. “The games are quick, so people can rotate in and out quickly. There’s some groups that play several times a week. We’re thrilled that so many people enjoy the sport and use the courts.”

Beginner level players can join in the Zero-Zero Start group on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for $5 per person. Rec staff will be available to assist with game play and equipment. Intermediate level play takes place round-robin style on Mondays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for $2 per person. Advanced level play is held on Friday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. for players with an International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) rating of 4.0 and above for $2 per person. The play nights mentioned above will continue throughout July.

For more information, call 401- 845-5800 or visit cityofnewportrecreation.com.

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