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How To Play Pickleball Singles

How To Play Pickleball Singles
Table of Contents

One of the key features contributing to pickleball’s widespread popularity is its adaptability, offering both singles and doubles formats to cater to diverse preferences and skill levels. While there is much discussion on the frequently played doubles, pickleball is also a single-player per-team game. We’ll explore how to play singles in pickleball and how it differs from its doubles counterpart.

While doubles play emphasizes teamwork and strategic collaboration, singles demand different skills and tactics. Our journey will navigate the unique aspects of singles matches, shedding light on the dynamic gameplay, strategic intricacies, and distinct competitive landscape.

This guide unfolds the theoretical intricacies of pickleball singles, providing you with a solid foundation to comprehend the game’s nuances. Our information is your starting point, the theory of your practice. While this resource equips you with essential knowledge, remember that true mastery of pickleball singles is forged through dedication on the court.

Your commitment, combined with the theoretical wisdom found here, will catalyze your advancement in pickleball singles.

What Are Pickleball Singles?

Pickleball singles are matches with single-player teams. While not as prevalent as doubles, they hold a distinct place in the pickleball community, the evidence for which is the separate categories for singles in tournaments.

In the court, a pickleball player plays singles pickleball using a pickleball and pad
Each team comprises a sole player in pickleball singles.

Unlike tennis, where singles and doubles courts differ, pickleball singles share the exact court dimensions as doubles. Primary rules like diagonal serves or restricting volleying in the kitchen also remain the same as in doubles. So, how are the two different?

The game retains its fast-paced, dynamic essence but demands a personalized strategy. Let’s have an in-depth look into pickleball singles.

How Are Singles Played in Pickleball?

Pickleball singles are played on a standard court measuring 20 by 44 feet. Unlike doubles, singles involve one player on each side, intensifying the focus and strategic play. How to score in pickleball singles? Both serving and scoring in singles share some similarities with doubles, but they also carry distinctions, which we’ll get into shortly.

Both pickleball singles and doubles are typically played until a team scores 11 points with a 2-point difference. Let’s explore how serving and scoring work in pickleball singles.

Serving in Pickleball Singles

A significant impact of reducing the team size to one in pickleball singles is on serving. In singles pickleball, the server’s primary objective is to send the ball diagonally into the opponent’s service court, initiating the rally.

Like in doubles, the ball should not touch the no-volley zone during a serve and instead land into the diagonal serving court. The opponent must return the serve after a bounce, after which the server must also hit the ball after a bounce. Hence, two shots after a serve must not be volley shots. This is called the double-bounce rule, which must be followed to avoid a fault.

After the two shots post-serving, players can hit volleys outside the kitchen zone or return shots with a bounce from any part of the court. A rally stops when a player commits a fault.

In doubles, if a serving team commits a fault, its serving turn passes to the other team member. Once the team has committed two faults cumulatively, the serving turn passes to the opponent.

How many serves are there in singles pickleball? In singles, if the server commits a fault and ends the rally, their serving turn passes to the opponent. Only the server can score points at the end of a rally. The server gets a point if the opponent commits a fault and ends the rally. Therefore, the serving team must only commit a single fault to give up the turn to the opposing team.

The server is only allowed a single service attempt per service. However, an exception arises in the case of a let, where the ball grazes the top of the net but still gracefully lands within the proper service court. The server can, however, keep doing serves until they commit a fault.

Unlike the collaborative nature of doubles, where partners alternate serves, singles place the entire serving responsibility on individual players. This aspect sets the match’s pace and demands adaptability and a keen understanding of the opponent’s strengths and vulnerabilities.

Scoring In Pickleball Singles

Faults, inherent in any pickleball match, take on heightened significance in singles play. Distinguishing itself from doubles, scoring in singles is an individual affair. The scoring format in doubles tracks scores in the following format: 0-0-1. The first number represents the serving team, and the second indicates the receiving team. The third number is unique to doubles as it indicates which of the two players of the serving team is serving.

Pickleball singles typically ascend to 11 points, requiring a 2-point gap for victory. However, the game can extend beyond this threshold if the battle intensifies and the margin remains slim. How to keep score in pickleball singles?

The scoring format for singles is a simple 0-0 with the two numbers corresponding to the first and second teams. The singles scoring card has no third number because both teams have only one serving player.

A single players plays pickleball in a court area
The serving team only has a window of a single fault to give up the serving turn to the opponent.

In singles play, faults take center stage, emphasizing precision and execution. Common missteps, like stepping into the non-volley zone or faltering in the serve, are routine errors and pivotal moments that can sway the game. Singles’ emphasis on individual performance magnifies the impact of each fault.

What Are Skinny Singles?

Beginners often find taking responsibility for the entire court as a single player intimidating. This is where the skinny singles come in. How to play pickleball singles as a beginner?

Imagine the usual pickleball court undergoing a sleek makeover, dramatically reducing the width to just one-half of a serving court, creating a compact 10-foot-wide playing space. The players can either choose to play diagonally or on one side.

Skinny singles retain the same rules and scoring as standard pickleball singles. The serving style depends on whether you decide to play on the same side or diagonally. For the former, your serve must enter the opponent’s serving court on the same side, and for the latter, your serve must enter the opponent’s serving court on the diagonal end.

Players must adapt their shots, considering the confined space and adjust their serves accordingly. The condensed court size transforms skinny singles into a tactical battlefield where each move requires careful consideration.

How To Play Pickleball Singles as Beginners

As a pickleball beginner, here’s how you should get into singles.

The Equipment

Start by obtaining the necessary equipment: a paddle, suitable court shoes, and comfortable athletic wear.

Find A Community

Locate a nearby pickleball court through community centers, local parks, or online platforms dedicated to the sport. To enhance your skills, consider joining a pickleball club, connecting with experienced players, and finding regular training partners. Clubs often organize practice sessions and offer valuable guidance for beginners.

Do Drills

Engaging in drills is crucial; focus on fundamental shots like serves, volleys, and groundstrokes. Practice agility and court coverage to improve your overall game.

A girl is playing pickleball in a red shirt and blue shorts while holding a yellow ball and pickleball paddle
Finding a community to practice regularly with can give you a steep learning curve.


For sustained progress, familiarize yourself with pickleball etiquette and rules. Attend local tournaments to gain exposure and experience competitive play. Embrace the learning curve, and as your skills develop, so will your enjoyment of this fast-paced and inclusive sport. With dedication and practice, you’ll master the art of pickleball singles.

Pickleball Singles Vs. Doubles

Here’s our quick overview of the key similarities and differences between pickleball singles and doubles. We hope they are insightful for players looking to enhance their understanding of both formats.

We show some text on this image to provide knowledge about pickleball singles and doubles
Similarities in pickleball singles and doubles.
We show some text on this image to provide knowledge about pickleball singles and doubles, difference between pickleball singles and doubles
Differences in pickleball singles and doubles.

The Difference Between Pickleball Single/ Doubles and Tennis Singles/Doubles

Tennis singles and doubles have the same primary difference as pickleball singles and doubles. The tennis singles have one-player teams, while tennis doubles have two-player teams. There are differences in the fundamental court design in tennis singles and doubles. A doubles tennis court is 36 by 78 feet. For singles, the width of the court is reduced to 27 feet from 36 feet.

This image shows pickleball court dimensions for singles and doubles
An illustrated bird’s eye view of a makeshift pickleball court on a tennis court.

Unlike tennis, pickleball singles and doubles don’t have different dimensions (except for skinny singles, which is not a formal competing category). The court dimensions remain unchanged, and the strategic emphasis aligns closely with both formats.

This subtle transition preserves the core elements of pickleball, making the shift between singles and doubles less pronounced compared to the more distinct differences found in tennis. The adaptability inherent in pickleball ensures that players can seamlessly navigate between individual and collaborative play, adding a layer of accessibility and continuity to the sport.

Frequently Asked Questions

In pickleball singles, scoring is straightforward. A game is played until one of the teams scores 11 points with a 2-point advantage. A server earns a point if they win a rally. The server’s score is displayed first, followed by the receiver in the following format: 0-0. A 2-point gap is required for victory, and if the game reaches 10-10, players engage in a tiebreaker, securing the win with a 2-point lead. Understanding the scoring system ensures a seamless and enjoyable experience on the pickleball court.

Scoring in pickleball singles is straightforward. Games are typically played to 11 points; only the serving side can score. The scoring format is 0-0, with the serving team’s score declared first. If the opponent commits a fault, you win the rally and get a point. Maintaining clear communication and ensuring everyone is aware of the current score is essential.

 Beginners can benefit from practicing the scoring system during friendly matches, gradually building confidence and familiarity with the game’s scoring dynamics.

The fast-paced nature of pickleball, combined with alternating serves and quick rallies, can be challenging to track. Focus on vocalizing the score before each serve and encouraging your opponents to do the same. Regular practice and repetition help reinforce the scoring process.

With time and experience, keeping track of the score becomes more natural, contributing to a smoother and more enjoyable pickleball experience.

In pickleball singles, each server can keep serving until they or a team player commits a fault. The serve must be underhand, i.e., aimed from below the waist. If the serve results in a fault, such as hitting the net or landing out of bounds, the server loses the opportunity to score on that serve.

However, there’s an exception for the first serve of the game, where the server can have two attempts, known as the “first server exception.” This helps beginners get into the flow of the game. After the first successful serve, subsequent serves follow the one-attempt rule in each turn.

In pickleball singles, a team consists of only a single player. The rules remain similar to doubles play, each player serving diagonally to the opponent’s service court. A serve must also happen with both feet planted on or outside the baseline.  

Strategy becomes more critical than ever with a more extensive court to cover individually. Singles play offers a challenging yet rewarding experience, promoting individual skill development and an intensive workout on the court.

How To Play Singles In Pickleball

Like doubles, pickleball singles demand precision, agility, and strategic prowess. They also have the familiar underhand serves, the non-volley zones, and similar court dimensions, emphasizing individual mastery as there is more ground to cover for each player.

In the court area, old women and men play single pickleball
Pickleball singles and doubles share the same court dimensions.

While doubles thrive on teamwork, singles explore personal finesse across the large court. Most major pickleball tournaments dedicate a category to singles, so it’s clear that this format holds its enthusiasts within the community. To improve your hand in singles, start playing practice matches that require you to sprint around the court.

Do you prefer the individual intensity of singles or the collaboration in doubles? Please share your thoughts with us below and keep the conversation going.

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Charles Melton
Charles Melton
Charles has competed professionally for the past 11 years, having picked up the sport in sophomore high. He remembers the first time he held the paddle and made a shot toward his P.E. coach. Since then, he hasn’t looked back. He likes to write and play with Darcy the pug in his free time. He is associated with The Pickleball Professionals.