pickleball singles strategy

Pickleball Singles Strategy – Dec 2020

IN THIS GUIDE

Learn how to play pickleball singles

Most players are familiar with playing pickleball with a partner but did you know that playing singles – without a partner can not only be a good challenge but can also help you improve on some of your skills for playing doubles.

And there’s a version of singles called skinny singles, which is a spin on playing a regular singles game. It can be fun and frustrating at the same time but I do find that it helps improve my skill level.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand how to play pickleball singles and the differences between playing doubles vs singles.


3 Key Differences – Pickleball Singles vs Doubles

  1. When playing singles, you are responsible for covering the entire side of the court on your side of the net versus playing doubles where there is a team with two players on each side of the net. Both players on a team share responsibility for covering their side of the court.
  2. Calling the score when playing singles is different because you only have 2 numbers to call – your score and your opponent’s score. When playing doubles, you have 3 numbers to say, your score, your opponent’s score, and whether you’re server 1 or 2.
  3. Playing singles is more physically demanding. Because you’re covering the entire side of the court, playing singles will require you to move quickly, shift laterally, and transition from various parts of the court quickly in order to return the ball. Whereas when playing doubles, you share the court with your partner so it’s less physically demanding since you have a smaller piece of court real estate to worry about. 

Pickleball Singles Strategy Video


Pickleball Singles Rules

The rules for playing pickleball singles are the same rules for playing doubles except for serving and announcing the score.

Serving

The USAPA rule book outlines the rules for both singles and doubles. The rules for serving when playing singles are:

Rule 4.B.5  if the players score is even (zero, two, four….), the serve must be made from the right/even serving area and be received in the right/even service court by the opponent.

4.b.5.b  if the players score is odd (one three, five….), the serve must be made from the left/odd serving area and be received in the left/odd service court by the opponent.

4.b.5.c after the server loses the rally or faults, a side-out will occur, and service is awarded to the opponent.


Scoring

When playing singles, there are only two numbers that need to be called when scoring.

Instead of calling three numbers (4 – 2 – 1), your score, your opponent’s score, and whether you’re player 1 or 2, you just call your number and your opponent’s score.


pickleball singles

How To Serve When Playing Pickleball Singles

When serving in pickleball singles, the strategies you use are similar to when playing doubles but it’s important to remember that your strategy and thought process is critical because you’re the only player covering your side of the court.

And when playing singles, the court definitely feels bigger than anticipated because most players are accustomed to playing doubles and having a partner to help cover the court.

When serving in singles, hit the ball hard and position it to the back of the court and in a corner, if possible. This will make it more difficult for your opponent to make a good return, particularly if you’d hit the ball to their backhand.


How To Score When Playing Pickleball Singles

When playing singles, there are only two numbers that need to be called. Your score and then your opponents score. 

As an example, if you’re serving and you have 3 points and your opponent has 2 points, you say 3 – 2. 

This is different than when you announce the score in doubles because in doubles, you announce 3 numbers, both scores and then server 1 or 2. So in this example, if it was doubles the score would be announced as 3 – 2 – 2 (or 1) depending on which server you are.


What’s the Difference Between Pickleball Singles and Skinny Singles

There’s traditional pickleball singles which means that each opponent is responsible for covering their entire side of the court. 

When playing skinny singles, you and your opponent play without a partner but you’re only covering one half of your court, instead of the entire half of the court.

There are 3 variations of skinny singles:

Pickleball Skinny Singles – Variation # 1

Player one serves from the even side of their court.

Player two stands on the odd side of their court and returns the ball from the odd side of the court, down the line to the server’s even side of the court and play continues this way.

An alternative to this variation is that the serve is done cross-court but the rest of the game is played down the line.

Pickleball Skinny SinglesVariation #2

This variation of skinny singles is played cross-court which is similar to playing doubles.

When your score is even, you serve from the even side of the court. 

When your score is odd, you serve from the odd side of the court.

The server serves the ball cross-court to the receiver’s even side (right side) and then the receiver must return the ball to the server’s even side of the court (right side).

Pickleball Skinny SinglesVariation #3

This version of playing skinny singles combines variation #1 and #2. 

Both players start the game from their even side (right side) of the court. 

If the server wins a point, they move to the odd side of the court and serve down the line (to the opponent’s current side, even side) of the court. 

If the server continues to win points, they alternate from the odd to the even side of the court but their opponent stays on their current side of the court. So if the server is back on their even side, then they are serving cross-court again.

Once the server misses a return shot, the ball goes to the opponent, and they serve from their current side of the court, which is currently the even side and that rally is played down the line (their even side to the odd side). 

If they win the point, they move to the even side of the court, and they serve cross court from their odd side to the other odd side.

When the server loses a rally, the ball will go to the opponent who will serve from their current position.


5 Key Strategies For Playing Singles

Here are some strategies to help you play pickleball singles:

  1. When serving, aim to hit the ball hard to your opponent’s weak side, down the middle or deep into the court. This strategy is important in singles but is a strategy that’s also played in doubles.

You are trying to hit the ball hard so that it is more difficult for your opponent to return it.

  1. Keep your opponent moving. The court is big and a lot to cover for one player so always try to position the ball somewhere on the court that is not within easy reach of your opponent. In doubles, it’s easier for one of the players to return a shot, whereas, in singles, the player must be very fast, and nimble in order to return a shot that’s out of reach.
  1. Serve from the baseline but stand close to the middle line because you’re covering your entire side of the court, it’s difficult to reach all corners when returning a ball. By serving from the middle, you’ll be best positioned to move quickly to return a shot, where ever it might be on the court.
  1. Return the ball deep

Another strategy that is really important in singles, is to return the ball into a back corner. 

I love this strategy and use it often. I find that players are often caught off guard and are typically too close to the baseline to properly hit a ball that lands in the back corner or along the inside of the baseline.

  1. Be Cautious Playing the net

When playing doubles, a common strategy is to move up to the non-volley zone or the kitchen because it’s viewed as the most offensive position to be and allows you to control the game. However, with singles, it’s trickier because if you move quickly to the net, your opponent will find a way to hit the ball down the sides to the back of the court, making it very difficult for you to return it.


FAQs For Pickleball Singles Strategy


How big is a pickleball court for playing singles?

A court for playing pickleball singles is a rectangle measuring 20 feet (6.10 m) wide and 44 feet (13.41 m).


How do you serve in pickleball singles?

The USAPA Rule Book serving rules are:

Rule 4.B.5  if the players score is even (zero, two, four….), the serve must be made from the right/even serving area and be received in the right/even service court by the opponent.

4.b.5.b  if the players score is odd (one three, five….), the serve must be made from the left/odd serving area and be received in the left/odd service court by the opponent.

4.b.5.c after the server loses the rally or faults, a side-out will occur, and service is awarded to the opponent.


What is the strategy for playing pickleball singles?

The strategy for playing pickleball singles is similar to that of playing doubles but with a couple of key differences.

When playing singles, you need to cover the entire court that’s on your side of the net. This means that you need to get into an offensive position that allows you to strategically return a shot.

This also means that you have a lot of territory to cover so you’ll need to think very strategically about where you stand, and what kind of shot you return. You don’t want to make it easy for your opponent to hit a shot back to you that


How Do You Play Pickleball Singles?

Pickleball singles is played by two opponents from opposite sides of the net.

Instead of having two players on each side/team, there is only one player on each side, hence the name singles pickleball.

Instead of having two players on each side/team, there is only one player on each side, hence the name singles pickleball.