How to Play Pickleball Singles

Pickleball is a fun sport that combines elements of Wiffle ball, tennis, badminton, and table tennis. From its beginning in the mid-1960s, pickleball has continually increased in popularity. 

The traditional game started as a four-person game with two teams of two players on each side of the net. Though it is still most commonly played with four people, adaptations have been developed to play with only two people, similar to tennis singles. 

Whether you just want to see how you do without a partner or you are limited on people, let’s take a look at how to play pickleball singles and some strategies for winning without a team. 

Pickleball Singles Rules

Pickleball Singles Rules

The rules for pickleball singles are pretty much the same as the standard or doubles play. Though you have to abide by the same rules, there are just a few minor differences. The scoring and serving positions are different. 

Since there is no second server on the serving team, the score is simply called out as server score then receiver score. The score of the server also determines the serving position. 

There are alternating service courts which means that the serve is done from the right side when the score is even and the left side when the score is odd. Other than these few exceptions, the rules are the same as a doubles game.  

Pickleball Singles Strategies

Pickleball Singles Strategies

Most players have their own pickleball strategies, but the flow of the game can get more difficult when playing singles. No matter your skill level, pickleball singles are more physically demanding than playing doubles, so consider these strategies during your next game alone. 


When it’s your serve attempt during the singles play, you should position yourself towards the centerline, so when the serve is returned, you can cover both sides of the court. 

Additionally, you should try to serve the ball hard enough to hit near the back of the court near the baseline of the other team. This will give you more time to respond to cross-court shots. It is also a good idea to serve cross-court in order to again give you more reaction time. 

Pickleball Singles Strategies

Hitting the Ball

Your strategy when hitting the ball in a singles game of pickleball is important because it will control the game’s pace.

You should be trying to hit the ball to land in the non-volley zone in order to prevent intense volley back and forth in front of the net. A hard passing shot every now and then can be a good hitting strategy as well because it makes it difficult to return.

Drop shots are another hitting strategy. A drop shot is a shot hit off a bounce towards the back of the pickleball court. A drop shot is intended to hit within the non-volley line of the receiving team, preferably close to the net. 


Since in pickleball singles, you don’t have another partner to cover the other side of the court. This means that your positioning on the court is essential. 

When upholding the double bounce rule, also called the two bounce rule, stay behind the non-volley zone line near where it intersects the middle line. 

Play To Your Opponent’s Weaknesses

If you have been playing with your opponent for a while now, you may notice that they have a few weaknesses. A common one is a backhand hit. You can achieve this by hitting your passing shot just to the opposite side of their dominant hand. 

Of course, deep shots and tips right over the net to the other side of the court also tend to be weaknesses. Playing strategically to these weaknesses can help you win in pickleball singles. 

Prioritize Speed and Power

Pickleball singles are more fast-paced than doubles pickleball because you don’t have that other person to help cover distance. Therefore, it can help to prioritize speed and power. 

Getting to the ball as fast as you can and hitting your passing shot hard can make all the difference, especially on the third shot when they are not expecting you to hit deep. 


Here are the two most frequently asked questions about pickleball singles. 

What are 3 strategies to use when playing singles in pickleball?

There are far more than three strategies to use when playing singles in pickleball, but three general strategies include prioritizing a fast game with power, and speed, utilizing opposite shots of your opponent, and serving hard and deep. 

How do you score in singles pickleball?

You score in singles pickleball on the serving side when the receiving player makes a fault. 

Try Out Pickleball Singles

Singles pickleball may be more physically demanding than doubles pickleball, but when you play singles, you develop a new love for the game because it takes more strategy. Just remember to aim for the non-volley zone, cover your entire side of the court, and come out with a bang on your first serve. Good luck out on the pickleball courts!

2 thoughts on “How to Play Pickleball Singles”

    1. Angel Woodyard

      Hi Kate,

      This is one of those questions that you’ll hear a variety of answers for. The reason is the Official Pickleball Rule Book gives no guidance other than that any reasonably fair method of determining who should serve can be used. It is customary to let the winner decide if they want to keep the serve or pass it, but you might find this to be different in tournament play, where serving rules may be more specified.

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