While doubles play has long been a recreational favorite in the pickleball community, pickleball singles is emerging as a fast-paced, dynamic alternative.
In addition to being a fun 1 v 1 battle, singles demands a different set of shots, skills and strategies that will grow your overall pickleball game.
And it is an intense workout that will burn calories and get you in shape fast!
In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive deep into the world of pickleball singles, exploring the rules, scoring, and everything you need to play and enjoy this awesome version of the greatest sport on earth :)
Why Play Pickleball Singles?
While sharing may of the same rules as doubles, pickleball requires different shot-making and strategy than it's 4 person counterpart.
For example, strong serves, deep returns, and good drives are much more important in singles than doubles, so by playing singles these areas of your game will improve which will ultimately help your pickleball doubles game).
Singles also requires a lot of movement so it will get you in fantastic cardiovascular shape.
And did we mention it's just as much fun as it's doubles cousin?
Pickleball Rules Singles
Pickleball singles follows most of the same rules as doubles, but it has a few quirks that are important to understand.
Let's start by exploring these key rules that govern this dynamic game.
Are Singles Pickleball Rules Different Than Doubles?
In pickleball, the core rules are the same whether you're playing singles or doubles.
Moreover, the fundamental two-bounce rule and kitchen rules apply to both singles and doubles.
The main distinction in pickleball singles is in serving and specifically how the server's score influences which side of the court they serve from on their serve turn. We'll dive into this in just a moment.
Do You Use the Whole Court in Pickleball Singles?
Yes, in singles pickleball, the entire court is utilized. This is what makes the game so fast-paced and physically demanding as players have to cover the entire court area.
As an example, try doing this for an hour over the course of 5 or 6 games!
Players have more ground to cover compared to doubles, making it a fantastic workout for those seeking an intense physical challenge.
If standard singles seems like too much, there is a variant of singles pickleball known as "skinny" singles" which uses only half of the court.
If you're curious about the rules and nuances of skinny singles, check out our skinny singles guide that breaks down the rules of this fun alternative.
Singles Pickleball Scoring Rules
Understanding how scoring works in singles pickleball is crucial to enjoying your games.
Scoring is usually the same as in doubles - games are played to 11 points, with a requirement to win by 2 points.
Some formats may extend the winning point total to 15, and rally scoring can go up to 21 (see our rally scoring post for more details).
Most notably, as in doubles, points can only be scored when serving.
If you are new to pickleball or don't yet know exactly how scoring works, here's a guide with scoring rules, examples, and even videos to help you get started.
Pickleball Singles Serve Rules
Serving in singles pickleball follows specific guidelines:
- Players serve from the right (even) side if their score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, etc.) and from the left (odd) side if their score is odd (1, 3, 5, etc.).
- Serves are always diagonal or crosscourt to the opponent, and a ball hitting the boundary lines are considered "in".
- Serves that land in the kitchen (or touch the kitchen line) are considered faults.
- "Let" serves, those that hit the net but land in the correct side of the court, are playable.
How Many Serves Do You Get in Singles Pickleball?
In singles pickleball, you are allowed only one serve attempt per point. This is different from tennis where servers get 2 serve attempts per point. You continue serving as long as you win points. Once you lose a rally, a side-out occur and it is your opponent's turn to serve.
Pickleball Singles Kitchen Rules
The kitchen rules in singles pickleball mirror those in doubles play:
- Players cannot touch the kitchen or its lines while volleying the ball out of the air.
- Players can stand in the kitchen and hit the ball if the ball has first bounced in or near the kitchen.
Pickleball Singles Strategy
As in doubles, singles has its own set of strategies that can give you an advantage on the court.
In singles the goal is to get to the net as quickly as possible, so when returning serve your goal should be to get to the net immediately after the serve return. Once there, use volleys to move your opponent around the court.
When serving, try to hit deep serves that prevent your opponent from easily getting to the net. If they do get to the net, low drives or good dinks are good options for putting pressure on your opponent as you also try to work your way to the net.
For a full rundown on pickleball singles strategies, try this guide (written by a pro player) that has the 6 strategies to use to improve your singles game.
Frequently Asked Questions - Pickleball Singles Rules
Are singles pickleball rules different than doubles?
No, the basic rules of pickleball remain the same for singles and doubles. Kitchen rules, the 2 bounce rule, and scoring are the same. The differences between the 2 sports revolve around serving. In singles, the server's score determines where they serve from on their serve turn. If the server's score is even or 0, the server serves from the right/even side of the court, and if their score is odd they serve from the left/odd side of the court.
How many serves do you get in singles pickleball?
In singles pickleball, you get only one serve attempt per point, and you continue serving as long as you win points. Once a side-out occurs, the serve turn switches to the other player.
What is the pickleball singles court size?
The pickleball singles court size is the same as the doubles court, measuring 20 feet by 44 feet.
Do you use the whole court in singles pickleball?
Yes, singles pickleball uses the entire court, so players must cover more area compared to doubles.
Do you serve twice in singles pickleball?
Pickleball is different than tennis in that servers only get 1 attempt per point. If the player misses the serve in singles than it is a sideout and the opponent's turn to serve. If the server wins the point, he or she gets another serve attempt to start the next rally/point.