Half-court singles pickleball - aka “Skinny singles” - is a great way to practice all the same shots you’ll need in a doubles game of pickleball.
Also known as mini-singles pickleball, skinny singles is played by only 2 people and is an easy and fun way to work on serves, returns, dinks, 3rd shot drops, volleys and point strategy.
Another bonus of skinny shingles is that with only 2 players you get to hit twice as many shots as in a normal doubles games!
In this article, we’ll dive into exactly what skinny singles pickleball entails, the rules and how to play it, how to keep score - and most importantly, how to win!
What is Skinny Singles in Pickleball?
Skinny singles is a pickleball game that is played on half of the court with two players. Skinny singles requires less movement than regular pickleball singles, and since the court is reduced by half it resembles doubles pickleball more than singles in terms of shot selection and strategies used. Skinny singles games are typically played to 11 like regular pickleball games.
In skinny singles, you use the same shots and strategies as in doubles pickleball because you are, essentially, playing doubles without the double!
How to Play Skinny Singles Pickleball - Overview
Skinny singles games are played on half of the court with players changing sides to the odd (left) or even (right) side of the court for each point based on their score. This means that at times players will be hitting cross-court (diagonally) to one another, and at other times hitting down the line to one another.
It can take a little time to get the hang of which side to play from on each point in skinny singles.
However, it is pretty simple - if your score is an even number (including 0), you play from the right side of the court. If your score is odd, you play from the left side of the court. This rule applies whether you are serving or receiving.
Since both players are only using half the court, only ½ of the court is inbounds and the other ½ is out of bounds. Basically there is an imaginary line running down the center of the court from the net to the service line.
The section of court that isn’t used is simply considered out of bounds.
So, if the ball lands on the section of court that isn’t being used, then the same rules apply as if it had landed outside the court (it’s a fault or error).
When players use opposite sides of the court they are playing “cross court” from one another.
In cross court skinny singles, players will be on the same side of their court (e.g., both on their even side), allowing them to hit diagonally cross court to one another.
With down the line skinny singles, both players play on the same side of the court and serve directly forward to each other.
For example, one player will be on the even side of the court and the other player will be on their odd side, resulting in the 2 players facing one another.
What are Pickleball Skinny Singles Rules?
Skinny singles, despite having such an interesting name, is very similar to doubles pickleball. Serving, returning, scoring and the kitchen rules are all the same as pickleball doubles.
The basic rules (e.g., serve, return, etc) for playing skinny singles follow pickleball doubles and singles rules:
- Both players start at or behind the baseline, and each player must follow the double bounce rule before going to the net or volleying a ball out of the air.
- Only 1/2 of the court is inbounds for each player.
- Only the server can score points. If the returner wins the point it is a “sideout” and they become the server.
- Winners and balls hit out of bounds or in the net by the opponent result in a point for the server or a sideout for the returner.
How to Keep Score in Skinny Singles Pickleball
The tricky part of skinny singles is players switch to the odd and even sides of their court based on their own score. This is different from both singles and doubles pickleball.
If a player has an even numbered score - 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc - he or she serves OR returns from the right-hand side (aka the even side, or the deuce side in tennis) of the court.
If a player has an odd number like 1,3,5, etc, he or she serves or returns from the left-hand side (aka the odd side, or the ad side in tennis) of the court.
If you are a tennis player this will take some getting used to!
Since this can be confusing let’s look at an example:
The game starts at 0-0. Being an even number, both players are on their own right, or even, side. This means they will be ‘cross court’ from one another.
The server scores, putting the score to 1 (server) - 0 (returner).
The scorer is now on an odd number, and switches from the right/even side to the left/odd side of the court. The returner, however, still has an even (0) score, so he or she stays on the right/even side of their court.
Now, both players are facing each other ‘down the line.’
The returner wins a sideout, then loses a sideout on his serve, and the original server serves and scores again, making the score 2-0.
Now both players' scores are even again, so the server moves back to the even side of the court and they are once again cross court from each other.
This pattern will continue, with players lining up on the right side if their score is even and left side if their score is odd, until someone gets to 11 with a 2 point lead.
Scoring in skinny singles can be tricky but after this article and a few practice games you will get the hang of it!
Skinny Singles Pickleball Strategy
Skinny singles pickleball strategy is very similar to doubles pickleball strategy. The goals for both are:
- To hit returns and get to the net if returning
- To hit good 3rd shots and get to the net if serving
Once at the net, each player must try to out-dink and out-smart their opponent!
It’s also important to treat skinny singles like a real game and play like you would against your biggest rival.
More points are lost than won in pickleball, so the keys to being successful in skinny singles are to be patient, be smart, and minimize the number of errors you make.
Serving Strategy in Skinny Singles Pickleball
A good serve gives an advantage from the first shot, so here are a few tips when serving in skinny singles:
- Find your opponent's weakest side and serve to that side. Most players tend to have a weaker backhand, so start there. It helps to mix up your serves too so hit to their strong side from time to time!
- Practice serving deep to the back of their court.
A deep serve will force the opponent back, off their baseline, and make it harder for them to rush the net. A deep serve also has the advantage of making it more difficult for your opponent to return a deep shot to you.
Returning Strategy in Mini Singles Pickleball
- Returning can be more difficult than serving, so give yourself a wide margin of error. Since only half of the court is being used and your opponent will have a hard time putting a weak return away, a weak return is better than a missed return!
- Deep or high returns is a great strategy, but the key is to get the return in the court and move to the kitchen line at the net as quickly as possible.
Rush the Kitchen & Vary Your Dinks in Skinny Singles
The kitchen line is a powerful place to be in skinny singles pickleball.
Whether you are serving or returning, always try to be moving towards the kitchen area where you can take control of a point and win a rally.
Once at the kitchen, keep your dinks low and look for high balls to attack with volleys or overhead smashes.
It’s also great strategy to vary your dinks, placing some to the forehand of your opponent and some to their backhand.
This clip shows a well-played point by both players - they both get to the kitchen line, vary dink placement and speed, show great patience, and look for a ball to attack:
Summary: Skinny Singles Pickleball
To wrap, skinny singles pickleball is a fun game to be played with two players. It is a great way to practice doubles technique with a bit more repetitions, and less pressure than if you have a teammate relying on you.
When playing skinny singles, work on honing your serves, returns, third shots, dinks, and speed-ups, and remember to be patient, minimize mistakes, and have fun!
FAQs:1) What Does Skinny Singles Mean in Pickleball?
Skinny singles refers to a version of pickleball where 2 players play against one another, but only on ½ of the court. Because only ½ of the court is used (the other half is out of bounds), skinny singles resembles doubles pickleball with many of the same shots (e.g., dinks and 3rd shot drops) being very important. Skinny singles uses the same rules as pickleball, but it differs in that players change sides of the court they play from based on their score.
2) What are the Skinny Singles Pickleball Court Dimensions?
Skinny singles is played on a normal pickleball court, but only ½ of the court is used.
A normal pickleball court is 44 feet long (inclusive of lines) and 20 feet wide (inclusive of lines), so technically a skinny singles court is 44 feet long and only 10 feet wide.
3) Are There Skinny Singles Pickleball Tournaments?
There certainly are. Check out pickleballbrackets.com for tournaments in your area!
4) What is the Strategy in Pickleball Skinny Singles?
Similar to doubles, the goal is to rush the kitchen and to out-dink or otherwise out-play your opponent.
5) How do you Win Skinny Singles Pickleball?
The scoring rules are the same across pickleball. You need to get to 11 points, and have a lead of 2 points to win the match!