How To Play Single Pickleball – A Deep Dive Into Your Next Obsession

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Fear not, fellow paddle enthusiast, we’ve got you! Our guide, brewed with experience, wisdom, and a hint of caffeine, is just the cure to teach you how to play single pickleball.

Serving is this easy!

Ready to ace the serves? We’ve got the golden rules. Baffled about scoring and faults? Get ready for some “Aha!” moments! Feel like a clumsy pup on the court? We’ll turn you into a graceful pickleball panther as you learn how to play single pickleball .

Eager to outsmart your opponent with clever strategies? Brace yourself, we’ve got the playbook. And those key shots! 

By the end of this article, you’ll be crafting a pickleball symphony that’ll have your opponents reeling. Let’s leap into the delightfully distinctive world of single pickleball!

#1 – Top 5 Service Rules for Singles Pickleball

How To Play Single Pickleball
  • Underhand Serve: The serve must be made underhand, and the paddle must be moving in an upward motion at contact. The highest point of the paddle head cannot be above the server’s wrist when the ball is struck.
  • Serve Area: The serve should land in the receiver’s diagonal court. If it lands out of bounds or in the non-volley zone, also known as the “kitchen,” it’s considered a fault.
  • Serving Sequence: In both singles and doubles, each player serves until they commit a fault. In singles, the player serves from the right court when their score is even, and from the left court when their score is odd.
  • Serve Position: The server must keep both feet behind the baseline until the ball is struck. Stepping on or over the line before striking the ball results in a fault.
  • Let Serve: If the ball touches the net (but does not touch the net posts or center base) and still lands in the service court, it’s a “let” and the serve can be done again. There’s no limit to the number of let serves a player can have.

#2 – Singles Pickleball Scoring and Faults

Scoring:

  • The Server Score First: In pickleball, the server announces their score first, followed by the receiver’s score. The server’s score is always announced first, even if it is lower than the receiver’s score.
  • Serve Scoring: Only the serving player can score points. If the server wins a rally, they earn a point. If the receiver wins the rally, they do not earn any points, but instead they become the new server.
  • Game Scoring: Typically, games are played to 11, 15 or 21 points. However, a player must win by at least a two-point margin. Therefore, if the game is tied at, say, 10-10 in an 11-point game, play will continue until one player leads by two points.

Faults:

  • Service Faults: A fault in service happens if the serve doesn’t land in the service court located diagonally opposite. This can also occur if the serve is hit out of the play area or strikes the net. Yet, if a serve touches the net but still lands in the correct service court, this is called a “let”, and the server can try again.
  • Non-Volley Zone Faults: Known as the “kitchen,” is the 7-foot zone on both sides of the net. Players cannot volley (hit the ball in the air without letting it bounce first) while standing in this zone. If a player steps into the non-volley zone and volleys the ball, it’s considered a fault. [1]

#3 Court Positioning and Movement in Singles Pickleball

  • The Ready Position: Stay in a ready position at all times, typically near the center of the court. This allows you to quickly reach any part of your side of the court and handle any shots from the opponent. The ready position involves a slight knee bend, weight on the balls of your feet, and paddle held in front of your body, ready to respond.
  • Moving to the Non-Volley Zone: Once the serve is received, aim to advance towards the non-volley zone (also known as the ‘kitchen’) as soon as possible. Dominating this zone is a key strategy in Pickleball. However, remember that you can’t volley (hit the ball without it bouncing) in this zone.
  • Side-to-Side Movement: When the ball is hit to one side of the court, move laterally towards it. Always aim to hit the ball in front of you whenever possible, rather than on your side or behind. After the shot, reposition yourself back to the center to cover the largest possible area.
  • Back-and-Forth Transition: Get good at moving back and forth between the baseline and the non-volley zone. There are times when you will be pushed back from the non-volley zone and you’ll need to retreat. Once the opportunity arises, you should quickly move forward to regain the non-volley zone position.
  • Effective Communication: Although this is a singles game, communication is still important. Interact with the referee and your opponent as needed, signaling clearly with hand gestures and body language to indicate serves, faults, and scores. Understanding and using the right signals helps avoid misunderstandings and maintains the flow of the game.

#4 – Singles Pickleball Strategy – Beginner

  • Master the Serve and Return: Practice a deep serve, aiming towards the baseline of your opponent’s court. A deep serve makes your opponent move backward, giving you the chance to seize the offensive. On the return, try to keep the ball low and aim it deep into the opponent’s court as well.
  • Control the Center: By controlling the center, you reduce the area you need to cover, and you can reach all corners of your opponent’s court more easily. Try to return to the center after each shot to be ready for the next.
  • Work on the Soft Game: Not every shot has to be hard and fast. A well-placed dink or drop shot can force your opponent to move forward, out of their comfort zone, giving you a chance to take control.
  • Improve your Fitness Level: Work on your stamina, agility, and speed to be able to keep up with the game and outlast your opponent.
  • Consistency is Key: Rather than always going for the kill shot, focus on keeping the ball in play. Many games are won by the player who makes the fewest unforced errors. 

#5 – Mastering Key Singles Pickleball Shots

  • Dink Shot: A soft shot that is intended to arc over the net and land within the non-volley zone or “kitchen”. It’s a tactical shot designed to put your opponents in a defensive position.
  • Volley: This is a shot hit in the air, without letting the ball bounce first. It can be an effective way to keep pressure on your opponents.
  • Overhead Smash: An aggressive shot usually used as a response to a high ball from your opponent. It’s like a tennis serve, but hit in the middle of a rally.
  • Third Shot Drop: A strategy shot that is designed to get you to the net. The goal is to hit a shot that forces your opponents to hit their next shot upward.
  • Drive: A fast, flat shot hit at your opponent. It’s typically used as a surprise tactic to keep your opponents on their toes.
  • Lob: A high, deep shot used to push your opponents back from the net, giving you time to advance or recover.
  • Bump: A soft shot that just clears the net and drops into the kitchen, making it impossible for your opponent to volley the ball.
  • Block: This is a defensive shot used to counter a hard-hit ball from your opponent. The key is to hold your paddle still and let the ball hit it, using your opponent’s power against them.

The Bottom Line

Great job reading this, future pickleball champs! Now, you know all the cool tricks, from serving like a pro to avoiding the tricky “kitchen” faults. You’ve learned to move like a ninja on the court and score points like a superstar. Remember, it’s not all about power – sometimes a sneaky soft shot can win you the game! Whether you’re hitting the ball high or low, fast or slow, the most important thing is to keep it in play and control the center of the court. Now, it’s time to wow your friends with your new pickleball skills. Get out there and have fun!

What to do next?

Pickleball rules might seem a bit hard to understand. But don’t worry, we got your back! We’ve written a bunch of fun and easy-to-understand pickleball rule blogs just for you. They’ll help you become a pickleball pro on the court. So, what are you waiting for? 

Be sure to check out this article on 11 Strategic Rules on How To Score Pickleball Efficiently

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Author

Ken Kochman is the founder and chief editor at mypickleballauthority.com. His aim? Very simple. Cut through all the hype and misleading advertisements so you can make the best decision for your pickleball needs based on your level of play.

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