What Is Singles In Pickleball?

What is Singles in Pickleball?

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Singles pickleball is a one-on-one game where each player covers the entire court by themselves.

Pickleball can be played as either singles or doubles. In doubles pickleball, two players play on each side of the net and work together as a team. Singles pickleball, on the other hand, is a one-on-one match between two opponents.

So what exactly is singles pickleball and how does it differ from doubles play? Here is a complete overview explaining the rules, strategies, and keys to competing in singles pickleball matches.

How Do the Rules of Singles Pickleball Differ from Doubles?

The basic rules of pickleball generally apply the same way to both singles and doubles matches. However, there are a few key differences when it comes to serving, court positioning, and strategy in singles play.

Serving Differences

One major difference is the side of the court the serve must be made from. In doubles, the serve can be made from either the right or left side of the court. But in singles:

  • If the server’s score is even, the serve must be made from the right side of the court.
  • If the server’s score is odd, the serve must be made from the left side of the court.

This alternating serve side rule helps ensure both players get opportunities to serve from each side over the course of a singles match.

Court Positioning

Another big difference is that in singles, each player must cover the entire side of the court by themselves. There is no partner to help defend shots or cover open spaces on the court.

This forces players to strategically position themselves near the non-volley zone line to best defend against their opponent’s shots. Players must quickly react and sprint to reach shots hit to the outer edges of the court.


The strategies used in singles versus doubles pickleball also differ quite a bit. Having no partner means every shot is up to you. Singles pickleball becomes a one-on-one duel requiring tremendous focus and consistency.

Players need to take advantage of angles and passing shots to move their opponent around and create openings. Keeping your opponent on the run while maintaining control of your own shots is key in singles play.

Why is Singles Pickleball More Physically Demanding?

One of the biggest differences between singles and doubles pickleball is the physical demand. Covering an entire side of the court by yourself can be extremely taxing.

Here’s why singles pickleball requires greater fitness and endurance:

  • In singles, every shot turns into a one-yard race between you and your opponent to get to the ball. Without a partner, you sprint and react to returns very quickly.
  • You must constantly adjust your positioning to defend against shots to the left, right, and center of your court. This leads to frequent changes of direction.
  • The game becomes much more fast-paced without anyone there to help you out. You have to sprint and recover faster between shots.
  • With no one backing you up, the pressure is on for every single shot. This can drain you mentally in addition to physically.
  • Extended rallies are taxing as you and your opponent exchange shots back and forth across the entire court. This tests your stamina.

Singles pickleball is certainly a great workout! Proper physical conditioning is critical if you want to compete at a high level or avoid wearing down too quickly.

What Are the Keys to Mastering Singles Pickleball?

Succeeding in singles pickleball requires mastering skills beyond just solid fundamentals. You must tailor your strategy and skills to suit the one-on-one nature of the game.

Here are some of the keys to master if you want to excel at singles pickleball:

Angles and Passing Shots

  • This is all about using angles and passing shots to pull your opponent out of position and create openings on the court.
  • Move your opponent side to side and look for chances to pass them when they leave spaces undefended.


  • Consistency and control are critical since you can’t rely on a partner for backup. Keeping errors low will help you prevail.
  • Focus on keeping your shots deep and avoiding mistakes, especially when pulled wide by angle shots.

Fitness and Endurance

  • As covered earlier, fitness is hugely important in singles play. If your conditioning is not up to par, your opponent can wear you down.
  • Work on your movement and endurance so you can handle the physical demands and excel in longer matches.

Adaptable Positioning

  • Constantly adjust your positioning based on your opponent’s tendencies and where you think their next shot will go.
  • React quickly to shots down the line or cross-court. Balance covering the middle versus the edges.

Mental Toughness

  • With all the pressure on you, staying mentally tough is key. Don’t let mistakes or your opponent’s shots frustrate you.
  • Maintain focus through entire matches and don’t let your energy and intensity drop.

Mastering these keys requires tremendous skill, practice, and training. But doing so can help you achieve singles pickleball success and outplay opponents in this demanding one-on-one game.

How is Strategy Different in Singles vs. Doubles Pickleball?

To recap, singles and doubles pickleball vary quite a bit when it comes to strategy and court positioning. Here’s a quick rundown of how they differ:

In doubles pickleball:

  • Two players cover the court and can rely on their partner for help.
  • Teams strategize together and coordinate their positioning.
  • There are more shot options with two people able to take returns.

In singles pickleball:

  • Each player covers the entire court alone with no backup.
  • All strategy, positioning, and shot choices rely entirely on you.
  • It becomes a rapid one-on-one duel requiring complete focus.
  • You must exploit angles and openings yourself to pull opponents out of position.
  • Remaining consistent while keeping your opponent moving is key.

The strategies shift significantly based on whether you have a partner on your team or are playing solo. This leads to very different experiences and requires different skill sets to excel at each format.

Is Single Pickleball Played Competitively?

Absolutely! Singles pickleball has competitive tournaments and events just like doubles play. Major pickleball tournaments often have pro and amateur divisions for both singles and doubles competition.

The Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships, the US Open Pickleball Championships, and the Minto US Open Pickleball are a few of the biggest annual tournaments that include pro singles events.

Top professional pickleball players from around the world compete in these singles competitions. The world’s best square off in action-packed matches that require tremendous athleticism, skill, and endurance. Fans can watch elite singles showdowns at the highest levels of competitive pickleball.

There are also plenty of local and regional tournaments that have singles brackets for competitors of all skill levels. Many pickleball clubs and recreation centers host singles ladders and round-robin play as well. So there are lots of opportunities to test your skills in competitive singles pickleball.

Is Singles or Doubles Better for Beginners?

For pickleball beginners just learning the game, doubles is typically recommended over singles. Here’s why:

  • Doubles allows you to cooperate with a partner. You can learn together while covering each other’s weaknesses.
  • In doubles, you only have to focus on half the court’s space. This makes learning positioning and shots easier.
  • Having a partner reduces pressure compared to covering the whole court alone.
  • The slower pace and lower intensity level of doubles pickleball gives you more time to react.
  • Your endurance doesn’t get tested nearly as much with a partner sharing the workload.

Once you establish solid fundamentals in doubles play as a beginner, you can then translate those skills over to the faster-paced singles format. Starting off with singles as a true beginner can be extremely challenging.

Final Tips for Excellence in Singles Pickleball

Here are some final tips to recap the keys to singles pickleball success:

  • Master control and consistency – keep mistakes low.
  • Exploit angles to open up the court and move your opponent around.
  • Work on passing shots to take advantage when your opponent is pulled out of position.
  • Maintain superb fitness, movement, and endurance to handle the physicality.
  • Stay mentally focused and block out distractions.
  • Position yourself strategically based on your opponent’s tendencies.
  • Remain energetic and intense throughout matches.
  • Practice both forehand and backhand shots equally to avoid having a weak side.

Taking your pickleball abilities to the next level requires mastering the nuances of singles play. But the experience of competing one-on-one can be extremely rewarding. Following these tips will have you pursuing pickleball greatness in no time!

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