Can You Play Pickleball As Singles?

Can You Play Pickleball As Singles?

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Pickleball is a fun sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It can be played as doubles (two players per side) or singles (one player per side). While doubles is the most common format, playing singles pickleball is gaining popularity as well.

Here is a beginner’s guide to playing pickleball by yourself as a singles game. We will cover the rules, benefits, challenges, strategies, equipment, drills, and more for successful singles pickleball. Whether you want to hone your skills alone, get in some extra practice, or just enjoy a fast-paced workout, singles pickleball is a great option.

What is Pickleball?

For those new to the sport, pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a lowered net using a perforated plastic ball and solid paddles similar to oversized ping pong paddles. The court is the same size as a doubles badminton court and measures 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.

The game combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It can be played as singles or doubles and is easy to learn but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.

Pickleball was invented in 1965 and has grown into one of the fastest growing sports in the US. It is popular for players of all ages due to its fun, social nature and ability to provide an excellent low-impact workout.

What are the Rules of Pickleball?

The basic rules of pickleball are similar whether playing singles or doubles. Here is a quick overview:

  • The serve must be made underhand and lands diagonally in the opponent’s service court.
  • Players score points only when serving.
  • Games are played to 11 points, but you must win by 2.
  • The ball must bounce once before hits are returned.
  • The non-volley zone extends 7 feet from the net on each side and players cannot volley when standing in this zone.
  • Doubles teams switch sides when the first team reaches a score of 6 points.

How do the Rules Change when Playing Singles Pickleball?

When playing singles, the rules stay mostly the same with a few important differences:

  • Only one player per side of the court instead of two.
  • The serve still goes diagonally, but now it alternates from right to left service court each time.
  • Since there is no partner, the entire court is covered by each player.
  • No switching sides at 6 points since there are no teams.

So the singles pickleball court dimensions, equipment, scoring and most other regulations remain the same as doubles play. The main differences simply involve having one player covering the entire court without a partner.

What are the Advantages of Playing Singles Pickleball?

Switching to a singles pickleball game instead of doubles provides some great benefits for variety, skills development, and fitness.

Can Singles Pickleball Improve Your Skills?

Playing singles is an excellent way to improve your all-around pickleball skills. Here are some of the main skills you can enhance:

  • Reflexes and reaction time – With no partner, you must quickly react to shots hit to either side of your body. This improves reflexes.
  • Movement and footwork – You’ll need to efficiently cover the whole court, which means better footwork and lateral movements.
  • Shot anticipation – Reading where your opponent will hit helps anticipate their shots. This is a key singles skill.
  • Accuracy – With no partner, every shot lands in or out on your own racket. So dialing in your accuracy is a must.
  • Shot selection – Choosing the right shots strategically becomes more crucial when going solo.
  • Return of serve – You’ll return many more serves in a singles match, allowing you to master your service return.

So if you want to take your overall pickleball skill set to the next level, switching to singles can help improve many areas rapidly.

How is Singles Pickleball Beneficial for Fitness?

In addition to skills development, playing singles pickleball provides excellent fitness benefits including:

  • Increased movement – Covering the whole court yourself results in more running around and movement.
  • Higher intensity – The fast pace of singles leads to more high-intensity Movement and heart-pumping action.
  • Greater calorie burn – The extra running and intensity burns more calories in a shorter period of time compared to doubles.
  • Enhanced agility – The quick changes of direction and reactions needed builds agility.
  • Improved endurance – If you can play longer singles matches, it will boost your endurance.

So singles pickleball is an efficient, high-intensity workout that engages your heart, legs and core. It’s a great cardio and calorie burner!

What are the Challenges of Playing Singles Pickleball?

While singles pickleball provides many benefits, it also comes with unique challenges you need to be ready for.

How Difficult is Singles Pickleball Compared to Doubles?

In general, singles pickleball is more difficult than doubles. Here are some of the key challenges:

  • Covering the whole court – You are responsible for the entire court versus just half in doubles. This requires more movement and can be tiring.
  • No rest between points – Without a partner, you don’t get breaks between points to catch your breath.
  • Faster pace – The ball is usually hit back and forth more rapidly in singles, increasing the speed.
  • More errors – With nobody to back you up, any mistakes you make land out, upping the pressure.
  • Serving and returning solo – All serves and service returns fall on your shoulders alone.

The increased demands of singles make it about twice as difficult and tiring as doubles pickleball for most players. Work up to it gradually.

What are the Common Mistakes in Singles Pickleball?

Due to the faster pace and need to cover more court, many common pickleball mistakes become amplified in singles play:

  • Poor footwork – Not moving your feet efficiently to reach shots will hurt you more when going solo.
  • Lack of anticipation – Without reading your opponent’s hits, you can get caught out of position often.
  • Hitting too softly – Not hitting with enough pace lets your opponent attack more aggressively.
  • Lack of strategy – Having a smart singles strategy for serve, return of serve, defense and shot selection is crucial.
  • Fatigue – Letting yourself get overly tired leads to mental mistakes and muscle errors.

Learning to avoid these common errors will help make you a stronger singles player. Start at lower intensity until you adjust.

What are Some Strategies for Playing Singles Pickleball?

To overcome the challenges, using the right strategies and tactics for singles play is key. Here are some of the top tips:

How to Serve in Singles Pickleball?

Serving well is crucial since you can only score points on your serve. Effective singles serving strategies include:

  • Vary spin, placement and speed on first serves. Don’t let your opponent get comfortable.
  • Use flat or topspin serves wide to the backhand to open up the court for your return.
  • Jam your opponent on the body with topspin on second serves to elicit weaker returns.
  • Move aggressively into the court on second serves to take time away from your opponent.
  • Hit down-the-line spin serves to pull them wide and open up angles for your third shot.

How to Defend in Singles Pickleball?

Defense is also vital to counter your opponent’s attacks. Recommended defensive tactics are:

  • Keep your eyes focused on your opponent’s paddle to react quicker.
  • Play farther back from the non-volley zone than doubles to give yourself time.
  • Move forward as soon as you see them lob to attack higher balls.
  • Use steady, controlled groundstrokes to force them into making errors.
  • Mix in dinks, lobs, drops and angled shots to disrupt their rhythm.

With strong serving, defensive skills, shot variety and patience, you can become a formidable singles pickleball player.

Can You Participate in Singles Pickleball Tournaments?

Yes, there are pickleball tournaments focused specifically on singles play once you get better and want to test your skills.

How to Prepare for a Singles Pickleball Tournament

Here is how you can get ready for competing in a singles pickleball tournament:

  • Practice frequently against the best singles players you can find to get used to the fast pace and intensity.
  • Drill on serving, returns and other singles skills to develop consistency.
  • Get coaching from an experienced singles player or coach to learn tactics and refine technique.
  • Analyze opponents you may face to understand their playing styles and patterns ahead of time.
  • Train physically to build your endurance, movement and reflexes required to last through long matches.
  • Use quality equipment like a lightweight paddle and court shoes to maximize quickness and support.

With dedicated preparation, you can hold your own at singles pickleball tournaments and have fun competing!

What Equipment Do You Need for Singles Pickleball?

Having the proper pickleball gear tailored for singles play can give you an edge.

How to Choose the Right Paddle for Singles Pickleball

Look for these ideal paddle features for singles:

  • Lightweight – Around 7 ounces helps swing faster for quick reactions.
  • Shorter length – Keep it under 15 inches to allow great maneuverability.
  • Grippy handle – Absorbs sweat and allows you to grip tightly on returns.
  • Large sweet spot – Makes it more forgiving on off-center hits moving fast.

Other considerations are balance for control, polymer core for pop, and composite face for touch shots. Test different singles paddles to find your ideal match.

What Type of Shoes are Best for Singles Pickleball?

The right performance shoes are also key for singles play:

  • Court shoe – A shoe designed for pickleball or tennis allows quick starts, stops and side-to-side slides. The herringbone sole pattern grips pickleball courts well.
  • Lightweight – Keeping the weight down enhances acceleration for fast reactions.
  • Breathable – Combination mesh uppers or ventilation holes allow airflow to feet so they don’t get hot.
  • Ankle support – Many players opt for a high-top style for stability in active lateral movements.

Don’t play singles in running shoes or cross-trainers. Get shoes built to handle the intense movements of singles pickleball.

What are Some Drills to Improve Your Singles Pickleball Game?

Doing drills tailored for singles skills is the fastest way to improve. Here are two useful solo drills:

How to Improve Your Footwork in Singles Pickleball

Footwork drills to practice:

  • Shadowing – Imagine an opponent hitting shots as you shuffle and move side-to-side reacting.
  • Cone stepping – Set up cones in a pattern to work on precise foot movement and direction changes.
  • Court sprints – Sprint to touch various court lines working on acceleration.
  • Backpedaling – Move backwards then quickly forward to practice changing direction.

Doing these footwork drills 5-10 minutes before singles play helps warm up your movement skills.

How to Enhance Your Accuracy in Singles Pickleball

Aim drills to sharpen accuracy:

  • Cross court targets – Set up cones or markers on the court to hit cross court groundstrokes aiming at a target.
  • Down the line targets – Same as above but aim down the line to hit your targets.
  • Serve precision – Toss a bucket on each service court sideline and practice hitting them with serves.
  • Wall volleys – Volley close to the wall alternating sides working on steady volleys.

Perfecting your shot accuracy is vital in singles pickleball where every ball lands in or out based on your precision.

These solo drills let you practice key skills anywhere anytime to keep sharpening your game.

Is Singles Pickleball a Growing Trend?

Yes, singles pickleball’s popularity is rising rapidly as more players discover its fun and benefits. Here are signs of its growth:

  • More singles events – Tournaments and competitions focused on singles are increasing from recreational to pro levels.
  • Greater interest – Pickleball participants are expressing heightened interest in trying or learning singles play.
  • Rising participation – The number of players entering singles brackets at tournaments has grown notably.
  • Pro adoption – More professional and competitive players are training to compete in singles as well.
  • TV/Streaming – Major media outlets are broadcasting more high-level singles pickleball competition.
  • Singles strategies – There are now coaching videos, tips and drills widely available focused on excelling at singles tactics.

Where Can You Find Singles Pickleball Leagues and Clubs?

As participation increases, more singles pickleball leagues and groups are forming across the country. The USA Pickleball Association has a pickleball places search tool to help you find singles groups and events.

You can also search for “singles pickleball near me” online and on social media platforms like Facebook to connect with other singles players. Start your own singles meetup group if none exists!

Tips for Transitioning from Doubles to Singles Pickleball

Making the switch from doubles to singles pickleball can take some adjustment. Here are useful tips:

How to Modify Your Game Strategy for Singles Play?

  • Be more patient – Keep shots in play waiting for opponents mistakes. Don’t go for too much.
  • Use more spin – Topspin and underspin help control the ball and alter pace.
  • Vary speed – Change up tempo to keep opponent off balance.
  • Go down the line more – Open up the court by moving opponent side-to-side.
  • Don’t crowd net – Staying back allows time to cover and change direction.
  • Serve with precision – Place serves strategically since you can’t cover as much court.

Evolving your strategies and mindset takes time. Start by playing singles games with more skilled players to learn.

Can You Play Pickleball Singles Against a Wall or Backboard?

Yes, using a wall or backboard is a great way to practice singles pickleball by yourself. Here are tips:

  • Hit gentle shots with control focusing on placement rather than power.
  • Move around while hitting to work on footwork.
  • Practice both forehand and backhand groundstrokes.
  • Direct the ball to different targets drawn on the wall.
  • Let the ball bounce once before hitting to simulate live play.
  • Use proper form and follow through on each shot.

Wall practice helps groove stroke mechanics, shot accuracy and singles footwork. Add in solo drills too.

Insights from Pro Pickleball Players about Singles Game

Let’s look at advice top pro players provide on excelling at singles pickleball.

What do the Pros Say about Singles Pickleball Strategies?

According to pro Ben Johns, accurately placing serves and service returns is crucial in singles. Pro Catherine Parenteau emphasizes changing up spins and placement to disrupt your opponent’s timing.

Many pros stress the importance of strategy and shot selection rather than just power when playing singles pickleball. Employing dinks, drops, lobs and angles smartly is key to outmaneuvering your opponent.

How do Pros Train for Singles Pickleball?

To prepare for singles pickleball tournaments, pros focus on these training methods:

  • Drilling serves and service returns for consistency
  • Footwork and agility exercises
  • Playing practice matches against quality singles opponents
  • Analyzing matches to improve mental strategies
  • Building endurance to handle long singles matches
  • Working on explosiveness for fast starts and reactions

By tailoring their training, top pros develop the physical skills and tactical expertise needed to excel in singles competition.


Playing singles pickleball offers a fun and fast-paced change of pace from doubles. With the right strategies, equipment and practice, players of all skill levels can enjoy competing in singles play.

The fitness, social and skill development benefits make singles pickleball worth adding to your routine. As more players discover it, the popularity and growth of singles pickleball is poised to continue rising.

So grab your paddle, find an open court and give singles pickleball a try. You may find you enjoy rallying alone and being responsible for every shot. It could quickly become your new favorite way to play this classic sport.

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