Simple Singles Pickleball Rules – How to Play Singles Pickleball


Singles pickleball rules are simple to learn. Playing pickleball is always fun no matter which way you play. Singles or doubles both scratch a different pickleball itch. Singles pickleball is similar to doubles pickleball with the main difference being only one player to a side.  This changes the strategy and increases the intensity of playing pickleball. 

Read on to understand the singles pickleball rules or feel free to jump ahead using these handy links. Pickle on!

Singles Pickleball Is Fun for All

Playing singles pickleball is great for developing your serve and volley game.  For this reason, it can be quite a workout as you cover the entire pickleball court on your own.  The rally’s can be long and epic, which is fantastic fun when you are battling a similarly skilled opponent. It can also get a little lonely by yourself. A partner to help and encourage you throughout the game is useful. But improving your singles game will benefit your pickleball game in the long run.

What Are the Rules for Singles Pickleball?

The basic rules for Pickleball are simple and can be found in this post on Pickleball for beginners. The rules for singles pickleball build on these concepts and are pretty simple to follow.

  • In singles pickleball each player only serves once. 
  • The first serve for each side starts on the right side
  • Before each serve, the server should call out the score by saying his or her score first, then the opposing players score.
  • If the server wins the point, the server will switch sides of the court.
  • If the receiver wins the rally, neither player will switch sides.  A side out is called.  This means the receiver can now serve and attempt to score a point.
singles pickleball rules - player positions - odds and evens
Pickleball player positions is decided by the score of the server – it’s all about odds and evens

What Are the Player Positions for Singles Pickleball

The first serve always starts on the right hand side of the pickleball court.  If the server wins the point, they will switch sides and then serve from the other side of the pickleball court.

The server will always serve diagonally and will keep the serve until the opponent wins the rally or the server commits a fault.  A side out is called and the opponent will now serve and be able to score a point.

It’s important to keep track of service when playing singles pickleball.  The server must serve from the correct side of the court and it must align with the score.  This can get confusing when you start playing pickleball, but after a few games it does get easier as you get into the flow of the game.  A simple rule of thumb is:

  • If the server’s score is even (0,2,4,6,8,18), then the service must be from the right hand side of the court, and servce to the receivers even/right hand side of the pickleball court.
  • If the server’s score is off (1,3,5,7,9), then the service must be from the odd/left hand side of the court to the odd/left hand side of the pickleball court.

If you are playing competition pickleball, if a server in singles pickleball is in the wrong position, they can lose a point and a fault will occur.  It’s important to learn these rules but it’s not unusual for scoring and positions to get forgotten during local games played for fun.        

Singles Pickleball Strategy for Beginners

Singles pickleball is a different beast to doubles pickleball as the strategy is similar to tennis.  There is more emphasis on the serve and volley dynamic and there is more ground to cover.  Unlike doubles pickleball, you can’t just pick a side and sit back and wait for the ball to come to you.  You have to work harder to cover the court and win the rally.

The singles pickleball game requires more technique across all aspects of the game.  And it is more physically demanding.  It is important to focus on the following four areas of your game:

  • Serving game – In singles pickleball, a powerful serve with the ability to go short or long will help win more points and give you an advantage over your opponent.
  • Return of Serve – A powerful return of serve is important, so that you can set yourself up for the point.  Based on that return, you can position yourself at the non-volley zone (the kitchen) or the baseline and be ready to shut down your opponent.
  • Move into the Non-Volley Zone:  Moving to the non-volley zone (the kitchen) is crucial, as this is where you can really command your singles pickleball match.  Building confidence to move to the non-volley zone and winning points from this position is fundamental in improving your pickleball game. 
  • Ball placement – Singles pickleball is all about using the open court.  To take advantage of the court you need strong skills in ball placement.  Whether you are at the Non-Volley Zone, serving or at the baseline, you will win or lose based on your ball placement skill. 

Final Thoughts

Pickleball is like any game. As a beginner, your goal should be to focus on the basics. Hitting the ball, returning the ball and serving, as highlighted on these pickleball rules that fit on a napkin. Get those right, then you can utilise your singles game and really learn the rules and strategies above to really improve.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the game. The rules and strategy will come naturally.

If you found this post useful or interesting, drop a comment below and let us know.

Pickle On!

The Aussie Pickleball Bros.

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