How to play singles pickleball – Pickleball Singles Rules

Your guide to playing singles pickleball

Love pickleball but having a hard time finding a foursome?  Well, you can always play a one-on-one pickleball match.  Singles pickleball can be more challenging but it is also a great way to up your play.  Since it’s just you on one side, you’ll get much more hits in.  It also means no rest as you have to go for every shot. There’s no partner to alternate like you have in doubles pickleball.

Singles pickleball is less common though.  Most time when you see this, players are practicing versus following pickleball singles rules. Therefore, you may not be familiar with the differences between pickleball singles rules and pickleball doubles..  But if you want to play a real match you’ll have to learn the rules for singles pickleball.   

Basic Pickleball Singles Rules

The main difference from double pickleball is you are alone on one side.  This means to rules of positioning will be different. The first serve is made from the right side of the court. This is similar to doubles. What’s also the same is when you score you will alternate serving to the other side. However, what’s different is when you lose a round you alternate to your opponent rather than to your partner.  Note that throughout the game, players serve from the right side when their score is even, and the left side when their score is odd.

Scoring in Singles Pickleball

Scoring is easier in singles pickleball than in doubles (but we would argue less fun). Instead of the You-Me-Who pattern, it’s just you and me or serving player’s point then receiving players points. For instance a 2-1 score would be the serve currently has 2 points and the receiver has 1.  Since there is no teammate there is no third number to call out. 

Pickleball Singles Rules for Serve Returns (aka Double-bounce rule) and Volleys

The rules in singles for play after the serve are the same as in doubles pickleball.  Players cannont volley in the no-volley zone (“the kitchen”).  In addition the two-bouce or double-bounce rule still applies.  The receiver of a serve must let the ball bounce before returning it.  And the server must let the ball bounce before returning the receivers shot. Afte this back and forth, players may then volley.  Just stay out to the kitchen.

Tips for better singles pickleball play

Singles pickleball is faster play and you will need to cover the full court.  With no partner to rely on, conditioning is important.  It’s also important to make sure you are staying within your limits.  Pickleball is fun so it may not be apparent in the moment if you are overexerting yourself.  Injuries are common so take breaks and checkin with yourself.  Are you still ok to play.  Also remember to stay hydrated. You will be getting more of a workout, so you’ll need more water.

The play strategy for singles pickleball can be a little different.  You’ll want deep big serves and returns.  This allows you more time to position yourself.  Once you’ve gotten past the second return, you’ll want to work yourself up to the no-valley zone.  This allows you to cut off your opponents angles.  Find the open court and aim, giving your opponent less chance to make a return.


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