Singles pickleball is very similar to doubles pickleball; however, there is only one player on each side of the pickleball court, and the strategy of singles pickleball is very different than doubles pickleball.
Most pickleball players probably have a love-hate relationship with singles pickleball. This may result from how rigorous and enduring singles pickleball can be. Singles pickleball can be quite the workout (even more than doubles pickleball), as you will need to cover the entire pickleball court on your own. It could also stem from the fact that singles pickleball can be quite isolating as you are the only one on your side of the court. In other words, you do not have a partner to lean on or to pick you up.
Rules for Singles Pickleball
Singles pickleball generally has the same rules as doubles pickleball, with a few exceptions. For instance, the pickleball rules for serving, the Non-Volley Zone, line calls, and faults all apply to singles pickleball in the same manner as doubles pickleball.
Where singles pickleball differs from doubles pickleball is that (1) each player only has one serve and (2) there is no need for the third number in the score for singles pickleball, as there is no concept of server #1 or server #2. As a result, the score in singles pickleball will only be two numbers – the first number will be the server’s score and the second number will be the receiver’s score.
Player Positioning for Singles Pickleball
The first serve will always start on the even/right-hand side of the pickleball court. If the server wins the point, then the server will keep the serve and switch to serve on the other side of the pickleball court.
The server will always serve crosscourt/diagonally and will keep the serve until the opponent wins the rally or the server commits a fault. If the opponent wins the rally or the server commits a fault, then there will be a side out and the opponent will now serve.
Similar to doubles pickleball, player positioning is important on the serve and the return of serve. The correct server must serve the pickleball from the correct side of the pickleball court, and the correct receiver must return the serve from the correct side of the pickleball court. The correct side of the pickleball court is dictated by the score of the pickleball game:
- If the server’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc.), then the serve must be from the even/right-hand side of the pickleball court and served to the receiver’s even/right-hand side of the pickleball court.
- If the server’s score is odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc.), then the serve must be from the odd/left-hand side of the pickleball court and served to the receiver’s odd/left-hand side of the pickleball court.
If the server in singles pickleball is found to be in the wrong position, then a fault will occur and the server will lose the rally. A fault can be called upon contact of the serve or up until the point of time that the next serve occurs. If a fault is called prior to the subsequent serve, then the server will lose the rally and no point will be awarded. However, all previously awarded points (whether with the players were in the correct or incorrect positions) will stand. Further, if the fault is called after the subsequent serve, then the awarded point to the server will stand. If the fault occurs on the last point of a pickleball match, then the result will stand unless the fault is called prior to returning the scoresheet to the pickleball tournament operations personnel.
Basic Singles Pickleball Strategy
Singles pickleball is a very different game than doubles pickleball, as the strategy of the game is much different. Every shot is up to you, as you are alone on your side of the pickleball court, and every shot is a one-yard race between you and your opponent.
If you decide you are ready for a game of singles pickleball, be sure to master the following keys to singles pickleball:
- Big, Deep Serve – A big, deep serve is essential in singles pickleball. You need to use the serve to give yourself an edge over your opponent from the very first shot.
- Big, Deep Return of Serve – A big, deep return of serve is important so that you can get in to the pickleball net and cut off your opponent’s angles. Be sure to return the serve deep into a corner, move in to the Non-Volley Zone line (also known as the Kitchen line), and cut off your opponent’s angles on the third shot.
- Move in to the Non-Volley Zone Line – Again, in singles pickleball, it is important to cut off your opponent’s angles on the pickleball court. To cut off your opponent’s angles, you must work your way in to the Non-Volley Zone line. Be sure to follow the flight of the pickleball to properly cut off those angles!
- Strong Fundamentals and Placement – Strong fundamentals and placement is key for both doubles pickleball and singles pickleball. However, since you are alone on the court in singles pickleball, it is even more important to have strong fundamentals and solid placement of the pickleball as you do not have a partner to back you up.
- Angles and Passing Shots – Singles pickleball is all about finding the open court. Take advantage of any angles and passing shots to find the open court and defeat your opponent.
Singles pickleball is a one-yard sprint to each shot, which can really be taxing on your body and challenging for your endurance. Be sure to work on your cardio before tackling singles pickleball.
For more singles pickleball strategy tips, check out Pickler's pickleball blog titled "Pickleball Strategy: 9 Singles Pickleball Tips to Win Big."
Are you ready for singles pickleball?!
Looking for More Pickleball Rules?
We know pickleball rules can be tricky at times. Don’t worry. Pickler explains the ins and outs of all of the pickleball rules in a series of pickleball rules blogs to make sure that you make the right call on the pickleball court. Learn more by visiting Pickler's pickleball rules blogs that are linked below!
- Pickleball Rules - The Ultimate Guide to the Rules of Pickleball
- 10 Must Know Pickleball Rules Before Your Hit the Court
- 10 Pickleball Rules Changes to Learn for 2021
- Pickleball Rules – Learn How to Start – 5 Things You Need to Play
- Pickleball Dictionary – Quickly Learn the Pickleball Vocabulary
- Pickleball Serving Rules – Master the Start of Every Pickleball Game
- Pickleball Scoring Rules – Learn How to Keep the Score in Pickleball
- Pickleball Kitchen Rules – Learn Important Non-Volley Zone Rules
- Pickleball Line Call Rules – How to Make the Right Call
- Pickleball Rules – Faults & Dead Balls on the Pickleball Court
- Pickleball Rules – Commonly Misunderstood Rules in Pickleball
- Pickleball Tournament Rules - Must Read Before a Tournament
- Singles Pickleball Rules - How to Play Singles Pickleball
- Wheelchair Pickleball Rules - How to Play Wheelchair Pickleball