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The Must-Know Pickleball Singles Rules For Beginners: Learn Singles Pickleball Rules

Lots of us play doubles pickleball and know the pickleball rules of doubles.

But what if there are not enough players to have a game of doubles (I know, how could that be? It’s so popular!).

Maybe you’re in the middle of the desert with your buddy, a net, two paddles, and a ball. In that case, you need to know how to play singles pickleball.

Pickleball singles is a sport that has quickly become popular among players of all ages. It is an engaging game with rules that beginners and experienced pickleball players can easily learn and understand.

This article will provide five must-know rules for playing pickleball singles, giving newcomers to the sport or those looking to improve their skills a comprehensive understanding of the essential regulations. These guidelines are designed to enable participants in pickleball singles to hone their abilities while having fun, allowing them to develop camaraderie on the court and grow in their knowledge of this exciting sport.

By learning these fundamental rules, they will gain insight into how best to play singles pickleball and enjoy the experience even more.

1. Singles Scoring System For Pickleball

Pickleball singles is a competitive game of strategy and skill that pits one player against another. It is an exciting sport enjoyed by people of all ages, from professionals to beginners. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), it is now the fastest-growing sport in America, with over 3 million players estimated nationwide.

In pickleball singles rules, each side serves two points consecutively before switching service courts. The serving order remains the same throughout the match. However, it may be changed upon agreement between players or teams at any time during play.

Scoring works the same as in doubles play; games are played up to 11 points, with a win being earned by the first player/team to reach 11 points with at least a 2-point advantage over their opponent(s). If the score is even at 10 points, they continue playing until one side has a definite lead of 2 points, just like in a doubles game.

You can only score points if you are serving. If there is a side out, the other player gets to serve. If you score a point when serving, you keep serving until there is a side out or the end of the game.

Singles pickleball rules and regulations.
Singles pickleball rules and regulations.

2. Serve Regulations For Singles Pickleball

In Pickleball singles, serving is a critical skill that must be mastered to win matches.

Before beginning service, players should ensure they stand within the designated area and behind the baseline. You can have one foot hovering over the line, but the other has to be fully behind it.

The server then needs to use an appropriate underhand serving technique (same as in both singles and doubles) for the pickleball game to begin.

After making contact with the paddle, the ball must travel over the net, land on the opponent’s side of the court, and bounce in the diagonally opposite service box, the same as in doubles.

Serving correctly also puts pressure on your opponent by forcing them into defensive positions, which can lead to points being scored if executed properly.

It is important for beginner players to practice these skills regularly to become comfortable when serving during competitive match-play situations.

Knowing proper serving techniques and return strategies can give beginners an edge over more experienced players and help them achieve success in pickleball singles matches.

Pickleball court layout.
Pickleball court layout.

3. Court Dimensions

After understanding the serving regulations, it is important to consider court dimensions.

The pickleball court for singles play is smaller than that used in doubles play and measures 20 feet by 44 feet with a 7-foot non-volley zone at each end.

This area includes two side alleys measuring 4 feet on either side of the court, extending from the back boundary line out to the non-volley zone (NVZ).

The NVZ lines must be clearly marked to be easily visible while playing.

When serving, players should aim to hit their shots from different court angles.

Utilizing various angles can create an advantage against your competition when returning volleys and give you time to recover during long rallies.

When hitting serves, utilize a forehand grip or an eastern backhand grip, depending on which angle you would like to serve to.

Using these grips will help control where the ball goes and provide consistency throughout your game.

You can play "Skinny Singles" by cutting the court (and running area) in half.
You can play “Skinny Singles” by cutting the court (and running area) in half.

4. What Is “Skinny Singles”?

Skinny Singles represents a distinctive twist on the widely-enjoyed sport of pickleball. By cutting the court in half, the game facilitates ease of movement while preserving the one-on-one dynamic. The court division can either be straight down the middle or leverage the diagonal service courts. Pick a side of the pickleball court and play. House rules or a coin flip decides the first serve from the serving team in a singles game.

Curiously, Skinny Singles shares more traits with doubles play than traditional singles. In this format, each player is responsible for their own half of the court, echoing the shared responsibilities found in conventional doubles matches.

When it comes to the serving routine, Skinny Singles mirrors the usual singles pickleball setup. The server keeps serving until a fault happens, at which point a “side out” is declared – a term in pickleball that signifies the transfer of serving privileges to the opponent.

This contrasts with doubles play, where the serving baton is passed to the partner, and the second server after a point is lost.

Although Skinny Singles may not be a staple of professional tournaments, it shines as an ideal pick for casual play or for honing specific skills.

The true beauty of pickleball lies in its adaptability. It caters to various playing styles, from team-based games with a partner to solo drill sessions for individual skill enhancement, and Skinny Singles for those seeking a more laid-back duel with a friend or a targeted practice to refine certain aspects of their game.

Stay behind the baseline out of bounds when serving. Keep the ball in play in the same doubles court unless you're playing Skinny Singles.
Stay behind the baseline out of bounds when serving. Keep the ball in play in the same doubles court unless you’re playing Skinny Singles.

5. Out-Of-Bounds Protocol and Footwork

Out-of-bounds protocol is a crucial part of pickleball singles rules. It states that if the ball strikes any object, including the net itself, or touches an area outside the court boundaries before bouncing in-bounds on the opponent’s side, then it is out, and the point goes to your opponent.

You play the same out-of-bounds rules as doubles pickleball unless you’re playing Skinny Singles, then the out-of-bounds lines are the agreed-upon court boundaries.

To decrease the chances of hitting balls out during matches, players should practice footwork and warm-up drills before playing their match. Furthermore, when executing shots with power, ensure you know where you are standing and how far away from the boundary lines you are located.

When facing difficult shots such as lobs or overheads, ensure that your feet remain inside the court; this will give you more time to prepare for these types of shots and prevent them from going out. Additionally, try not to hit too close to the boundary lines; instead, aim for deeper parts of your opponent’s court, increasing your chance of winning each rally.

Knowing proper footwork can help reduce errors due to incorrect positioning while hitting powerful shots or tricky serves. Therefore, by focusing on improving one’s technique through regular practice and reinforcing good habits during games, players can avoid costly mistakes caused by poor judgement resulting in points lost because of going out.


It is essential for pickleball singles players to understand the rules to maximize their skill level.

The scoring system, service regulations, court dimensions, rally continuation, and out-of-bounds protocol are five must-know rules that all beginners should know.

Once these basics have been mastered, players can begin to focus on developing a winning strategy and perfecting their gameplay.

A solid knowledge of the game’s fundamental rules sets the foundation for success in pickleball singles matches: from precise serves to accurately judging out-of-bounds calls.

Dedication and understanding of the official ruleset allow any beginner to become a masterful player with time and practice.

How do you like playing singles? Better or less fun than doubles? Let us know in the comments below.

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