Singles Pickleball Strategy


While most pickleball players prefer doubles with its longer rallies, social interactions and lower physical demands, singles can be exhilarating and give you a great workout in a short amount of time. Singles also improves your stamina and technique for doubles. Most players will burn as many calories in 20 minutes of singles as in 3 hours of doubles.  Here are six basic tips for playing singles:

1.  Return and advance to the kitchen line. The player who gets to the net first will likely win the point. Unlike tennis, the small pickleball court and smooth, hard paddles and balls make passing very difficult. As players and paddles improve this may change, but the current level of singles favors a return and volley strategy.

2.  Hit deep serves and returns.  Most singles points involve only four or fewer hits: a serve, return, passing shot and volley. A deep, hard serve usually forces a weak return. This sets the server up to pass the player approaching the net. A deep, hard return, especially to the backhand, gives the returner time to advance to the kitchen line and makes it difficult to hit an effective passing shot. Practice hitting serves and returns within three feet of the baseline and to the backhand side.

3.  Hit to the corners.  While hitting to the center between the two opponents is often the best shot in doubles, in singles, hitting deep to the corners keeps your opponent moving. Aim for about one foot inside the line.

4. Use the kitchen. When faced with a difficult passing shot, try hitting a 3rd shot dink to the backhand as you would in doubles. This can neutralize the attacker. A well-placed shot to the kitchen line is typically better than a wild attempt at a passing shot. Players with superior ground-strokes often fall prey to cagey pickleball players who effectively employ this shot into the non-volley zone followed by an approach and kitchen exchange.

5.  Attack and volley!  While retreating may be effective at times in doubles, in singles it is not. Get to the kitchen line and force your opponent to attempt a passing shot. To hit effective volleys, stay low, punch the ball (rather than swinging), watch the ball strike your paddle, and enjoy running your opponent all over the court! Use both deep and drop volleys.

6.  Run around your backhand and hit forehands. Many of the best singles players position themselves to hit forehands whenever possible. This requires great footwork. With a few exceptions (including switch hitters), most of us have stronger forehands than backhands.

Here are Scott Moore’s (2014 Nationals Champion Open Senior Singles) suggestions for singles strategy.

Finally, more players are effectively employing their aggressive singles strokes into their doubles play. Scott Moore is a great example of this.  So while you are waiting for that 3rd and 4th player to show up, grab your paddles and enjoy an exhausting game of singles.  And remember to hydrate!

by Glen Peterson

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