How To Play Pickleball Singles

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States and every year more players pick up a pickleball paddle and begin playing this fun and exciting game. It has simple rules and is easy to play, even for beginners.

How To Play Pickleball Singles

Pickleball can be played as both a singles and a doubles competition. If you’re looking to play Pickleball for the first time or have only ever played a doubles game, however, you may need some extra guidance on how to play pickleball as a singles game.

That’s where this article can help! We have all of the information and rules you need to know about playing a singles game of pickleball.

Let’s get started!

How Does Singles Pickleball Differ From Doubles?

Apart from the obvious answer of singles pickleball having fewer players, there are several differences between singles and doubles pickleball. 

You will find that singles pickleball will be much more taxing, both physically and mentally. You need to cover the entire course yourself and don’t have a partner to rely on so be prepared to cover some ground.

Singles pickleball is a great workout and will make even the fittest players short of breath. Many of the rules that are in place for doubles pickleball are still present for singles pickleball although there are some necessary differences.

Singles Pickleball Rules

Now, let’s look at some of the rules for singles pickleball. We’ll mainly focus on the rules that differ from doubles pickleball but will include some general rules as well.


In doubles pickleball, the score is usually represented by three numbers. For example, 10-5-2 may be a score you will see in doubles pickleball. However, in singles pickleball, the score is only represented by two numbers, such as 10-5.

This is because the third number, in our example ‘2’, represents the number of the player serving. As pickleball only has one player per side instead of two, this number isn’t needed.

Instead, you only need the serving player’s score (10) and the receiving player’s score (8). Each player only has one serve in singles pickleball and there is no need to number different servers.

Player Positioning

One thing that you must keep in mind when playing singles pickleball is your positioning. The first serve must always start from the even/right-hand side of the court.

In the case of the server winning the point from this serve, the server will then not only keep the serve but also switch to the other side of the course for their next serve.

The server must always serve across the court in a diagonal line and they will keep the serve until either the receiving player wins the rally or the server commits a fault.

If either of these events occurs, there will be a side out and the original receiving player will now become the server.

Player positioning is very important in both singles and doubles pickleball and needs to be correct. If you are the serving player and you’re in the wrong position, then this is a fault and you will lose the rally. 

Faults can be called either at the point of contact of the serve or at any point until the next serve happens. If the fault is called before the next serve, then the server loses the rally and no point will be awarded.

Any previously awarded points will not be affected and will still stand, however.

When the fault is called after the next serve, then the awarded point still stands as the correct time has passed. If the fault occurs during the last point of a pickleball match, then the result will stand.

The exception to this rule is if the fault is called before the scoresheet is returned to the staff handling the operations of the match and tournament.

Basic Strategy

How To Play Pickleball Singles

One of the largest differences between singles and doubles pickleball is how the strategies (Also check out What Is Stacking In Pickleball?) differ.

With doubles pickleball, you can confer with your partner and find a routine and strategy that suits both of your strengths but in singles pickleball, everything falls to a single player.

Here are some of our top tips for being successful at singles pickleball.


Possibly the most important part of singles pickleball is getting your serve right. Your serve needs to be as deep and big as you can manage. Make your opponent run for the ball as this will give you a great advantage from the start.

When it’s your turn to receive the serve, try to return their serve with as much force as you can. This will give you more opportunity to move to the pickleball net so that you can reduce your opponent’s playable angles.

Try to angle your return so that it lands deep into one of the corners of the court.

Move To The Non-Volley Zone Line

You want to cut off the angles your opponent can play as this will make it easier for you to return their volleys. To do this, you need to try and work your way into the Non-Volley Zone line as quickly as you can.

Ideally, you should be there after returning their serve. This isn’t always possible, but aim to get there as quickly as possible!

Aim For The Open Court

Make your opponent run to return your shots by aiming your shots into any space of open court you can find (Also check out Can You Play Pickleball On Grass?).

The key to winning singles pickleball is finding the open court as unlike doubles pickleball, it’s much more difficult for an individual player to cover the entire court. Find those wide angles as much as you can.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we looked at how to play pickleball singles. We explained how it differs from doubles pickleball and talked about some of the rule differences between the two games. We looked at how the scoring format differs, player positioning, and strategy.

We hope that the information and hints in this article will help you understand how to play pickleball singles.

Damien Dansel
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