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Pickleball Singles: A Detailed Strategy Guide To Level Up Your Game In A One-Man Match

man playing pickleball in court

Last Updated: May 14, 2024

Sometimes in a one-man game, you have to count on yourself to make it through.

That’s why...

It’s essential to know how to play Pickleball singles and employ helpful schemes to dominate it. With the right combination of physical abilities, decision-making, and knowledge of the game, you can have your way towards countless victories.

So whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player, keep your head up and read on. I will cover the best pickleball singles strategy to level up your game and help you enhance your performance on the court.

Important Pickleball Rules For Singles Match

Before heading to the strategies, you must first work on giving yourself more edge in the game. It would be helpful for you to know first how to play to grasp the tactics fully.

First among the many things you should know is that you can only score when you are serving.

It might be confusing to some players more familiar with the rules of other racquet games, but it’s pretty easy to remember.

And as per the pickleball singles rules, you are going to serve until you commit a fault. Meaning that either the ball goes out, hits the net, or touches the no-volley zone in the middle.

How do you toss a serve, though? 

Well, unlike in doubles, you need to serve according to whether your score is an odd or even number. An even-numbered score means you’ll serve from the right side, while an odd-numbered score requires you to fire from the left side.

But to win the game, you have to chip in a score of 11 and win by two points. So the only sure way to achieve this pickleball singles scoring output is by playing the game regularly and learning more great strategies through practice.

Eight Pickleball Singles Strategies To Remember

1. Serve The Ball Deep

senior man in bright red shirt preparing to serve pickleball

Push it deep into the back of the court and aim for the opponent's weaknesses. Always keep this in mind as you launch a shot to the other side.

Aiming for this opening forces your adversary to move, delaying their arrival in the middle near the net.

Moreover, a deep shot also makes timing more complex and may help you take advantage of your opponent's weaknesses, thus opening up opportunities.

It's these kinds of chances that you should look forward to as you go on to add to your score.

And if you're wondering why you shouldn't hit it slowly and weakly. Well, those kinds of serves open up a chance for the enemy to return the ball quickly, hence putting you under pressure.

So when in doubt, serve it deep and allow yourself to have one powerful shot.

2. A Proper Return Fire

Losing is not an option; thus, you have to prepare your body and mind in setting up great returns.

What are the ways to achieve this? First, you can hit the shot with the intent of causing trouble by making them run, aiming at the sidelines, or yet again, their weakness

Limiting your opponent’s avenues of fire for a third or follow-up shot will also help assert control of the round.

Not only that, but it could also crack your opposition’s defense, creating unexpected attacks on their strong side.

But you’ve got to think two steps ahead, so after your return, prepare for defense and preferably run into the middle area near the net. Yes, the middle near the net again.

And at this point, you’re probably wondering just how vital that area is, so let’s jump on to our next pickleball singles strategy.

3. The Middle Ground

man kneeling near net hitting a pickleball ball

Approaching near the net may be risky at times, but it is advantageous in attempting to intercept enemy returns early on. Aside from that, you can also prey on great angles that will undoubtedly make life more difficult for your enemy.

To reduce the risk, you have to make sure that you’ve made a deep and hard to return shot.

It also helps to be aggressive when you finally switch and attempt to dominate in the middle.

Remember, though, that the flaw of this singles pickleball playing strategy is that you have no one to cover your back unlike in pickleball doubles strategy. Therefore, players with a long wingspan and elongated paddles will get more from this tactic as their reach allows for better defense. 

4. Activate Your Drive

It is finally time to smack the ball into the other side of the court! 😉

Drives are an excellent option for a third shot, using power to rip through an enemy defense that’s only starting to set up. Again, a move of this caliber will allow you to grab some points at flashing speed.

To maximize your drive, hit the ball at an angle that puts it in a straight line path towards the opposite court. 

A straight shot is going to whip through the court fast, forcing your opponent to run and reducing reaction time.

However, if you’re not in the best set-up to fire off a drive, we still have another excellent option for a third shot.

5. Drop Shots

Are you left in trouble position-wise? Still unable to build your defense? Well, a good strategy is to use the drop shot.

Good use of this shot will allow you to get into a position to respond adequately. But you still have to be careful in using this.

Never use the drop when the opponent is at the back, as it will allow them to take advantage of this for an open shot. Also, start preparing to hustle for a point as your enemy may be capable of sending some dinks and drops in your direction. 

6. Keep Your Eyes Open

Court awareness is crucial in singles matches, with surprising angles being of utmost importance within the playing field.

The ability to see possible angles and exploits can allow you to seize control of the game and benefit from your adversary’s mistakes.

Additionally, being cautious of an opponent’s position helps create openings for returns that may vary from dinks, drops, and drives.

7. Take Advantage Of The Backhand

senior man hitting a pickleball using backhand

Seize every bit of things that can give you an edge. In Pickleball, forcing your adversary into using their backhand may allow you to get a commanding opportunity.

It is no secret that all players have a more potent forehand. Thus, forcing them into using their backhand will undoubtedly lead to a weaker shot.

A good counter is actively finding the best position to set up for a forehand attack.

Also, training your backhand won’t hurt and will provide you with a better advantage as you advance your skill level.

8. Have A Soft Game

Remember the shots we’ve been talking about a few moments ago? It’s now their time to shine!

Although usually seen as for advanced and top 10 pickleball players, it will undoubtedly help beginners slow the pacing and attack with well-placed shots.

The weapons traditionally used for this kind of move are well-timed dinks and drops.

Having this in your arsenal of strategies will make you an unpredictable player on the court. Thus, allowing you to be at the helm of the game, slowly gaining score.

Pointers For Improvement

Aside from these tactics, some pointers may further help in elevating your game, making it more exciting.

The first is that singles match usually features great power and speed to overwhelm the enemy. So it is only necessary to enhance skills and repeat drills to improve them.

Singles matches are also physically draining. Therefore, conditioning exercises will help improve your stamina, helping you last longer in the court.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Serve When Playing Pickleball Singles?

It would be best to serve the ball deep while aiming for the opponent's weaknesses whenever you're in a match. You also have to note the Pickleball singles rules, stating that you have to be changing sides depending on your score.

Here are some pointers that you should remember on how to serve in pickleball:

How To Score When Playing Pickleball Singles?

As confusing as it may seem, you have to remember that you’re only gaining points once you are the one serving the ball. So if you win a rally with your opponent serving, the ball only changes sides, with you having the opportunity to score.

Can You Spike The Ball In Pickleball?

Since there are no Pickleball Singles rules preventing you from doing this, it's okay to spike the ball in a pickleball game. Spikes or overhead smashes are more prevalent in plays that involve a lob shot, with advanced players taking advantage of this.

How Many Serves Do You Get In Pickleball Singles?

For serves, you are only getting one attempt in getting it to the other side of the court. So be careful not to have it land on the outside, into the net, and in the no-volley zone, more commonly known as the Kitchen area.

Final Thoughts

As intimidating as Pickleball Singles may be, it is a fun game mode that can bring out the best from you both physically and tactically.

The different strategies emphasize the importance of serving, receiving, and continuing the rally through various shots. But, aside from that, it also gives us a tactical approach to getting an edge in the court.

So once you step into the Pickleball court, don’t be afraid to show off some pickleball singles strategy in your quest for victories.

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