Pickleball Singles Rules: A Strategic Guide

Third Shot Blog

By Third Shot Blog

While traditionally played in doubles format, singles pickleball can be just as exciting. In order to excel at singles pickleball and emerge victorious on the court, it is crucial to understand the specific rules and strategies that come into play. Whether you are a seasoned player looking to enhance your skills or someone new to the game seeking guidance, this article will delve into the intricacies of pickleball singles rules and provide valuable strategies for achieving success in this exciting format. So grab your paddle and let’s explore the world of singles pickleball!

What is pickleball singles?

Singles pickleball differs significantly from doubles pickleball as it involves only one player per side of the court, leading to a distinct strategic approach. Many pickleball players have a complex relationship with singles play, possibly due to its demanding nature. Engaging in singles pickleball can be an intense physical workout, surpassing the exertion required in doubles. Additionally, the isolation experienced in singles play may contribute to this ambivalence, as there is no teammate for support or encouragement.

Pickleball singles serving rules

Singles pickleball follows most of the same rules as doubles pickleball, with a few exceptions. The serving rules, non-volley zone (kitchen) regulations, line calls, and faults all apply to both formats of the game equally. However, there are two notable distinctions between singles and doubles play. Firstly, each player in singles is only allowed one serve compared to two serves in doubles. Secondly, unlike in doubles where players are designated as server 1 or server 2, there is no such designation in singles play. As a result, the scoring system for singles pickleball consists of just two numbers – indicating the server’s score followed by the receiver’s score.

A female pickleball player serves a bright yellow ball to her opponents at a dedicated court at a public park.

Where players stand for singles pickleball

The serving rules in pickleball singles are straightforward yet crucial for a fair game. At the beginning, the server always starts on the even/right-hand side of the court. After each point won, the server retains the serve but switches to the other side of the court.

Serving technique remains consistent, with players required to serve crosscourt/diagonally. The server maintains the serve until either the opponent wins the rally or the server commits a fault. In case of a fault or a lost rally, a side out occurs, and the opponent takes over the serve.

Proper player positioning is vital during both the serve and return of serve, following a specific pattern based on the score. If the server’s score is even, they serve from the even/right-hand side of the court to the receiver’s corresponding side. Conversely, if the score is odd, the serve originates from the odd/left-hand side, targeting the receiver’s side accordingly.

It’s essential to adhere to these position rules during singles play, as being in the wrong position results in a fault and loss of the rally. Faults can be called either upon serve contact or until the subsequent serve happens. If a fault is called before the next serve, the server loses the rally without awarding any points. However, previously awarded points remain valid, regardless of correct or incorrect positions. If a fault is called after the subsequent serve, the server keeps the point.

In the event of a fault on the final point of a pickleball match, the result stands unless the fault is identified before submitting the scoresheet to the pickleball tournament operations personnel. Maintaining proper positions during serving and returning is crucial for a smooth and fair singles pickleball game.

Beginner pickleball singles strategy 

Playing singles pickleball offers a distinct experience compared to doubles, as the strategic dynamics drastically change. You find yourself solely responsible for every shot, engaged in a one-yard race with your opponent on your side of the court.

Embracing singles pickleball requires mastering key elements to excel in the game:

  1. Powerful and Deep Serve: In singles, a strong and deep serve is paramount. You must use your serve to gain an advantage right from the first shot and put pressure on your opponent.
  2. Deep Return of Serve: Responding with a deep return of serve is crucial to position yourself near the net and limit your opponent’s angles. Aim to place your return in a corner, quickly move to the non-volley zone (the kitchen line), and cut off their angles on the third shot.
  3. Advance to the Non-Volley Zone Line: Cutting off your opponent’s angles becomes essential in singles. Progress toward the Non-Volley Zone line strategically, tracking the flight of the pickleball to dominate the court’s angles.
  4. Strong Fundamentals and Placement: Whether in doubles or singles, solid fundamentals and precise placement play a vital role. However, in singles, they become even more critical since you don’t have a partner to cover for you.
  5. Utilize Angles and Passing Shots: Singles pickleball is all about seizing open court opportunities. Exploit angles and execute passing shots to outmaneuver your opponent and secure victory.
A female pickleball player returns a volley at the net on a dedicated pickleball court.

Why you should try singles pickleball

If you’re still on the fence on whether you should try singles in pickleball, here are a few benefits to consider:

  • Improved Strategy: Playing pickleball singles requires a different level of strategic thinking compared to doubles. Players must develop and execute their game plan without relying on a partner’s positioning or shots.
  • Enhanced Focus: With no teammate to rely on, singles players must maintain heightened focus throughout the game, honing their shot selection and staying fully engaged in every rally.
  • Personal Challenge: Singles offers a unique one-on-one challenge that pushes players to test their individual skills, athleticism, and mental resilience on the court.
  • Cardiovascular Workout: The fast-paced nature of singles pickleball involves constant movement and quick reactions, providing players with an excellent cardiovascular workout.
  • Agility and Footwork: The need to cover the entire court alone enhances players’ agility and footwork, helping to improve their overall athleticism.
  • Quick Decision Making: Singles players must make split-second decisions, improving their ability to read opponents and react swiftly during each point.
  • Greater Court Coverage: Without a partner, players must cover more ground, leading to improved court coverage and anticipation of opponents’ shots.
  • More Court Time: In singles, players have more opportunities to be actively involved in the game, leading to more playing time and skill development.
  • Versatility: Competence in both singles and doubles makes players more versatile and adaptable, adding to their overall pickleball proficiency.
  • Individual Achievement: Success in singles brings a sense of individual accomplishment, allowing players to measure their progress and growth as individual athletes.
  • Enjoyable Challenge: Singles provides a fun and challenging experience for those seeking a different aspect of pickleball and enjoy the thrill of one-on-one competition.

In conclusion

In conclusion, pickleball singles is an exciting and fast-paced game that requires players to have a solid understanding of the rules and strategies. By learning the basic rules, such as serving and scoring, beginners can quickly get started with singles in pickleball. So grab your paddle, find a partner, and start playing pickleball singles today!