The high backhand shot in pickleball is often considered one of the most difficult shots because it requires a combination of skill, technique, and timing to execute properly. Learn how...
Singles Pickleball Strategy Tips
Singles pickleball is a very different game than doubles pickleball. In singles pickleball, you are alone on your side of the pickleball court— it is only you versus your opponent. You do not have a partner. This means that you have to rely on yourself—both physically and mentally—to cover the entire court, make every shot, and spot the right strategy on the pickleball court. And, the strategy in singles pickleball is what makes singles pickleball so different than doubles pickleball.
So, what is the strategy in singles pickleball? Whether you are looking to try your first singles pickleball game, or an old pro, these pickleball tips will help you improve your singles pickleball strategy.
1. Consistently Serve Deep in the Pickleball Court – Although a deep serve is an important strategy for doubles pickleball, a big, deep serve is even more important, and absolutely essential, in singles pickleball. You should hit a big, deep serve to push your opponent back beyond the baseline and make for a more difficult longer return for your opponent.
Although a deep serve is the rule of thumb, be sure to avoid hitting your serve out of bounds due to giving yourself too small of a margin for error.
2. Serve Near the “T” on the Pickleball Court – Another singles pickleball strategy tip on the serve is to consider hitting your serve towards the middle of your opponent’s side of the pickleball court, but still within the correct service box. In other words, serve near the “T” on the pickleball court (which is the intersection of the baseline and the centerline on the pickleball court). By serving near the “T” on the court, you will reduce the amount of time that it takes you to prepare for your next shot after the serve and you will also cut down on your opponent’s ability to hit a lot of angles with the return of serve. Although serving near the “T” on the pickleball court is a good rule of thumb, be sure to mix up the placement on your serves.
3. Consistently Hit a Deep Return of Serve – A big, deep return of serve is important in singles pickleball. The return of serve should be deep in your opponent’s side of the pickleball court (in other words, close to the baseline, but within the court). By keeping the pickleball deep in the pickleball court, you will make for a more difficult third shot for your opponent and give yourself more time to react and get in toward the pickleball net.
Also, consider hitting to your opponent’s weaker side— oftentimes, the backhand side—and give yourself enough margin for error.
4. Know What to Do When You Hit a Bad Return of Serve – Now, we know a big, deep return of serve is the preferred singles pickleball strategy. However, what if you hit a bad return of serve? What should you do? You generally have two options:
a. Stay back at the baseline and play defensively to get yourself back in the rally; or
b. Move in, but stop a few feet behind the Non-Volley Zone line in order to prepare for your opponent’s third shot. By moving in, you are playing more aggressive and your goal is to reduce the angles created by your poor return of serve.
The correct decision of these two options may depend on your strengths, your opponent’s strengths, and, maybe, just how bad your return of serve was.
5. Momentum Is More Important than Space – Momentum is oftentimes more important than open court space. Although open space on the pickleball court is definitely a great spot to hit a shot, sometimes your opponent’s momentum is more important than how much court that he or she leaves open. It is very difficult to stop momentum and change directions. As a result, consider where your opponent’s momentum is taking him/her and hit shots in the opposite direction that your opponent’s momentum is taking him/her.
6. Track Your Shot on the Pickleball Court – After you hit your shot, follow the flight path of your shot. By following the flight of the pickleball, you will be between your opponent and your side of the pickleball court that is closest to your opponent. In other words, you will be standing in the middle of the shortest distance between your opponent and your side of the pickleball court. This is important because this forces your opponent to hit the pickleball either (a) to the side of the pickleball court that you are already covering, or (b) crosscourt, which is a much more difficult shot for your opponent. So, follow the flight of the pickleball and track your shot to put pressure on your opponent!
7. Come In to the Kitchen Line! – One common theme between doubles pickleball and singles pickleball is that the overwhelming majority of points are won at the Non-Volley Zone line. As a result, it is important to move in and get to the Non-Volley Zone line. This is especially true in singles pickleball because, by coming in to the Kitchen line, you are able to cut off your opponent’s angles on the pickleball court.
To note, with this pickleball strategy tip, you may get burned a time or two—meaning that your opponent may win a few rallies with a good passing shot. However, the overwhelming majority of points are won at the Kitchen line, so it is important to put yourself in a position to win by moving in to the Kitchen line.
8. Let Your Opponent Make the Mistake –Sometimes pickleball players—especially singles pickleball players—go for “too much.” In other words, they try to hit winning shots.
One strategy in singles pickleball is to put pressure on your opponent and allow your opponent to make the mistakes. Force your opponent to make a bad shot by going for a “winner,” rather than making those mistakes yourself.
9. Up Your Cardio! – Singles pickleball is a one-yard sprint to each shot, as you are the only one on your side of the pickleball court. Sometimes, the player that wins in singles pickleball is simply the player that can last the longest on the pickleball court! You do not want to lose a singles pickleball game just because you are too tired to carry on. Be sure to work on your cardio and endurance off the court, so you can play better pickleball on the court.
Although singles pickleball is less common than doubles pickleball, it is just as loved. And, with these strategy tips, you will be on your way to love it even more.
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