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Pickleball Singles (1v1): 2 Players (Rules, Strategies, Benefits,…)

If you have played a doubles game of Pickleball and are wondering if it can be played only between two players, known that the basics of the game are about the same. The fundamental difference though would be in the change of tactics. Read on to find more about playing Pickleball with 2 players.

Pickleball can be played by two players (in a singles format). This sport can be played in both a doubles or singles format. However, singles is more demanding than doubles as it relies heavily on a player’s speed and power. You’ll be running around on twice the amount of court on your own, so expect to be pushed to the limit of your fitness level.

Let’s find out more about what it takes to play a singles Pickleball game.

Pickleball Singles: More Physically Demanding

Keep in mind that beating your opponents by playing smarter in a doubles match will not work with a fit opponent in a singles match. Improving on your current fitness level will make it easier to sprint across the width of the court without struggling to catch your breath. To be able to keep up with the physical and mental demands of playing a singles game, you can step up your current doubles exercise routine by lengthening your cardio sessions.

Practice lateral exercises and quick starts and stops, running drills like “ladder sprints” where you go back and forth, stopping to bend and touch each line of the court, and shifting direction each time. If that’s too difficult, just sprinting the full length of the court can really help build your stamina for singles matches.

Pickleball Singles Basic Rules

Pickleball is played on a court similar to that of a badminton court, which means that an existing badminton court can be used or converted into a pickleball court. Also, it is quite common for people to play on a tennis court by setting up a small net, as well as the lines on one side of the court.

Below are the basic rules that are followed in playing a Pickleball singles match. Keep in mind that the rules are pretty much the same for both singles and doubles.

Who serves first?

  • A game usually starts with a coin toss to determine the side who will serve first.


  • The ball should be served diagonally, cross-court style. All serves must be done without a bounce, in an underhand stroke, with both feet behind the back line and the paddle below the waist.
  • The serve must clear the net, land on the opponent’s diagonal playing side, and should not land on the non-volley zone.
  • There are no second serves; the only exception when the serve is repeated is when the ball hits the net and, then, lands on the proper side (a.k.a. let).
  • When the score is even, the server must stand on the right side, and when the score is odd, on the left side.

Double Bounce Rule

  • After the serve, on the first two shots, both sides must let the ball bounce before hitting it. In other words, the returning side must let the ball bounce, and subsequently, the serving side must let it bounce as well.
  • After those two shots, players are allowed to hit the ball in the air or on a bounce. Just don’t hit a volley when you’re in the kitchen.
  • It helps points last longer.

The Non-Volley Zone (a.k.a. the kitchen)

  • It is a 7-feet zone on each side of the net.
  • This prevents a player from performing a smash shot.
  • As the name implies, players are not allowed to hit the ball in the air while standing in the non-volley zone.
  • Volleys, or in the air shots, are allowed outside the kitchen.

The serving side only scores points during the game.

If the returning player wins the point, she does not score one but instead gets to serve on the next point.

The service side will continue to alternate until one of the players reaches the score of 11, 15, or 21, depending on what was agreed before the start of the game. The player that reaches these points with a clear two-point lead will be declared the winner of the match.

Scoring System in Pickleball Singles

Essentially, the scoring system of a singles game is the same as to a doubles match. The server’s score is the basis of where (what side) a player performs the serve. Even number scores mean that the server must serve at the right side of the court while odd number scores indicate that the server must perform his serve at the left side of the court.

A player is declared the winner when she reaches either 11, 15, or 21 with a two-point lead. Points are awarded to a serving player when her opponent makes a fault.

These are some situations that are considered faults.

  • Hitting the ball outside the court boundaries – the rule is, even, if the ball is 1% on the line, it’s 100% in!
  • Inability to return the ball.
  • The ball goes into the net and doesn’t go over.
  • The ball bounces twice on the opponent’s court.
  • Doing a volley shot inside the non-volley zone (the kitchen)
  • The ball is hit in the air before the “double bounce rule.” In other words, hitting a volley before a groundstroke (bounce shot) has occurred on each side of the court.
  • Missing the serve.
  • Stepping on or inside the baseline without completing your serve.

Differences Between Singles and Doubles

The objective of both singles and doubles in Pickleball is to score more points than your opponent to win the game. However, the major differences between these two formats are in the number of players in each game, as well as that on certain occasions, the size of the court differs.

In a typical doubles Pickleball game, there are two teams of two players each. While in a singles game, only 2 players are facing each other, but the scoring rule remains the same. However, the singles match also differs from the doubles as the players only need to call out two numbers rather than three.

As mentioned before, another difference is that doubles matches are always played in a full-court, while a singles match could be played in a full-court, as well as on a half-court. But don’t be fooled by this half-court thing, it can still be quite physically demanding.

Pickleball Skinny Singles (Half Court Singles)

There will be times when you don’t have enough players for a doubles game. So, in times when you find yourself short by one player or two, consider the sister game of Singles – “Skinny Singles.”

Pickleball Singles tournaments are played by very fit players who compete using the full width of the court for one-on-one games. However, a new approach of play is gaining the interest of average players. In Skinny Singles, two players use half of the court to play.

Check the following YouTube clip to get a better understanding of how a Pickleball Skinny singles game works.

Video Source: CJ Johnson / YouTube

It could be played in different ways:

  • Keep the point on one side of the court. Any ball that lands on the other half of the court is considering a fault. Another distinct difference is to change sides after even and odd serves, but still keep playing on one side of the court.
  • Cross court play. Each player must hit the ball diagonally for the entire duration of a point. Failing to hit a ball diagonally into the appropriate court is considered a fault.
  • Hitting a serve diagonally, and then moving to play on the receiver’s half of the court for all remaining of the point.
  • As long as a restriction of the area of play is clearly established, any similar variation of your own choosing and design is acceptable.
  • Scoring a game in five, seven, etc. or any number up to eleven can be played. as long as the main benefit of this version of the game is fulfilled —accuracy

Pickleball Sick Trx Singles

Pickleball Sick trx singles does not limit play to just half of the court. This game exactly mimics playing a doubles game. Going around the post is allowed here. Playing this kind of game provides an intense workout in the shortest amount of time.

Below, is a clip of this type of singles:

Video Source: Pickleball Magazine / YouTube

Strategies in Playing Pickleball Singles

If you’re a doubles player looking to start playing some singles, you must be aware of the different strategies that apply when playing singles. As an all-around pickleball player, you need to consider what works for singles and doubles and understand the different tactics used.

These are some strategies that might give you a head start in your next singles game.

  • Work on hitting hit deep serves and returns, as it’ll allow you to position yourself better from the beginning of the point.
  • A player who gets to the net first will have a better chance of winning the point. A singles game requires a return and volley strategy.
  • As for most players, your forehand is usually more powerful and effective than your backhand. Therefore, try to hit forehands whenever you can, even if it requires you to move around your backhand. Keep in mind that this will require practice and quick feet.
  • Try to hit angle shots, as well as close the corners shots. This will keep your opponent moving side to side and all over the court. Also, it will give a better chance to place win the point on your next shot.
  • Use your dink shots cleverly. This close to the net into the kitchen shots are a great way to neutralize your opponent during difficult points.

Benefits of Playing Pickleball Singles

Since singles in Pickleball demands more physical exertion from the player and, arguably, better hand-eye coordination, we’ve listed a few key benefits of playing this type of game.


When you play in an area restricted to half the court (in the case of skinny singles), your margin of error gets drastically reduced.


This is an important skill to acquire and improve, as passing shots to your opponent are done in a controlled manner. This does not mean that Pickleball skinny singles is a slow game; it can be more intense than doubles. Besides, playing this will eventually pay off towards your doubles game.

Cardio benefits

Since you have only yourself to depend on to win, you take responsibility for every ball. There is no partner to rely on, so you are continually moving. As a result, you get a great workout.

To sum up

In Pickleball, there is not much of a difference between singles and doubles when it comes to scoring. The main differences are in strategies and tactics used when playing a singles game. However, given the differences, singles matches are very much reliant on the fitness level of the player. This translates to a more intense workout, as well as a need for more consistent and accurate shots.