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Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: STOP Messing with the ATP

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 09-05-2022

The pickleball gods seem to go out of their way to solve problems that don’t exist.

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket present Exhibit A in this quest, a proposal submitted by a member of the pickleball-playing public to change the rules for next year to eliminate the around-the-post (ATP) shot(*For those new to Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, this is a (mostly) humorous tongue-in-cheek opinion piece – don’t take us too seriously.)

Who comes up with this stuff? The Assembly to Wring the Life and Joy Out of Everything? I suspect they’re the same people that tell you that you can’t go swimming after lunch, or that you’d better not remove the tag from your mattress.

The ATP is a glorious shot, and one that even mediocre players who are fully celebrated here at MFTLB can pull off once in a while.

Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: STOP messing with the ATP | Pickler Pickleball

And, oh, how we dance around the pickleball court when that happens, celebrating an all-too-rare moment of triumph.

“A player may return the ball around the outside of the net post,” the current Rule 11.M reads.

The ball does not need to go over the net, and the height of the ATP shot does not have to be higher than the net.

It’s a shot that sometimes happens at the end of a dink battle when a crosscourt dink goes so wide that it offers the returner to opt for an ATP down the line, rather than a crosscourt return over the net.

The stated rationale for the rule change is that the ATP “provides the striker with an unfair advantage to hit the ball behind the receiving team or strike the receiving players with the ball. Thus the receiving team does not have the opportunity to return the ball.”

I know what you’re thinking: Striker? When did this turn into soccer? If soccer terminology is going to be introduced, we here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket demand making headers legal.

The problem with this proposed outlawing of the ATP is that its rationale is deeply flawed.

The reason why the person who hits the ATP can do it isn’t from an “unfair advantage”, any more than a player who hits a rally-winning overhead smash is taking an “unfair advantage” of a weak pop-up that made the smash possible.

The ATP is enabled when the crosscourt dinker goes too wide, a decision that he or she makes, and can correct. Complaining that ATPs are unfair completely absolves the tactical error made by the player who set it up.

The other flaw in the proposed rule change is the assertion that the “receiving team does not have the opportunity to return the ball.”

That’s just plain wrong. You can watch YouTube videos of skilled players anticipating an ATP and succeeding in returning the shot.

Simone Jardim does a tutorial on ATP defense…


There’s no good reason to eliminate the ATP. Doing so would be an unforced error.


Read past editions of Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, including:

Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: The PPA, the APP and Monty Python | Pickler Pickleball

Frank Cerabino is a long-time columnist for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, a pickleball addict like the rest of us, and a newly published author. Check out Frank’s newly released book, I Dink, Therefore I Am: Coming to Grips with My Pickleball Addiction (available on Amazon and a great read (or gift!) for any pickleball player), for pickleball tips and laughs!

I Dink, Therefore I Am | Frank Cerabino


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