Singles

It’s hard to estimate, but best-guessers trend towards believing that 90% of pickleball matches are doubles matches. This may be off, but reality is that very few singles matches are played on open courts, especially during peak hours in busy clubs. By design the organized play on busy courts is almost always doubles play in order to maximize the utilization of the court space (4 people vs. 2). Some tournaments do offer singles play, and the larger “open-age” (“Open”) tournaments trend towards having singles brackets as well as doubles. And it is huge fun to watch! And play! Hey, perhaps the only medal AJ ever will win at the Nationals, he got a few years ago when he (nearsightedly, probably) entered age-group singles at Buckeye and wound  up on the right side of a miracle draw and made it through five rounds until Mark Friedenberg put him out of his misery…but that dumped him unceremoniously into the Bronze match. All good, as we like to say.

But…how does singles pickleball differ from doubles? Markedly, actually. In doubles, the game is played at the net. In singles, something like Tennis singles, it’s more of a baseline, side-to-side game. Rules of thumb? Get back to the middle of the court at the baseline, hit to the opposite direction from where your opponent is, and when you get him or her racing for a backhand, charge the net near the middle on their side and expect almost anything coming back. For those of you who watch either Open Tennis or pro-level table-tennis, it’s sorta a combination of the two.

There are a few books that will help you both in terms of your mental game overall and in terms of tennis singles strategy, which you can then apply to singles pickleball. There are also some great videos out there. We will link those shortly.

The real benefit of singles pickleball as far as we are concerned, however, is that it does four things for your doubles game. One, you learn to get stuff that you didn’t know you could and this translates into a willingness to try much harder on the doubles courts for balls you previously might have let go by. Second, it teaches you to hit good ground strokes, half-volleys and to place your put-aways, especially those troublesome overheads that somehow wind up in the net today. Third, half-court singles, played against one person with the understanding that every ball has to go to that person’s half court or you lose the rally, is a great placement drill in and of itself. And, lastly, played often enough, singles improves your fitness, which helps a tournament player’s endurance moving through large brackets in long doubles tournaments. Again, it’s all good, and it’s all pickleball. Try it, you might like it.

2 Comments

  • Mickey
    June 11, 2019

    We need to promote singles on a 16X44 Court.

  • RICHARD JOHNSON
    May 29, 2019

    So funny, 90% doubles! When I started playing pball in WA state around 1974, singles was “the game”, just like it has always been in tennis. Doubles was when you had several people with different abilities or we were feeling particularly lazy and focused on our beer consumption. Now I’m 61 and still love singles, it is just so much more fun, you have the whole court to work with (passing shots!), no partner to worry about, and not so much dinky dink. I too have to play mostly doubles for all the reasons you mention (court space), and most people i play with in the local club have never even played it. When asked if they want to play singles, the common refrain is “are you kidding, that’s way too hard”. I can barely find a tournament that has singles in it these days.

    I took a lesson from Kyle Yates about 2 years ago. When I told him i wanted to work on singles, he said you have to be kidding, “I only play singles for money!” This from a then 21 year old whippet who could run all day–he sure ran me around that day. All I can say is, Try Singles, you might just like not having a partner sometimes, and you won’t have to go to the gym afterward to get a good workout in.

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