Singles Vs. Doubles Pickleball: Key Differences


While singles and doubles pickleball have a lot in common, there are a few key differences in rules, strategies, and scoring. 
Singles Vs. Doubles Pickleball: Key Differences

Pickleball is one of the best and most inclusive sports out there. And similarly to tennis, it can be played with a doubles team (two on two) or as singles (one on one).

New To The Game? Check outHow To Play Pickleball: A Beginners Guide

Doubles pickleball is the traditional and most popular way to play the sport, but playing singles can also be a lot of fun and a great workout due to having to cover the entire court on your own

While singles and doubles pickleball have a lot in common, there are a few key differences in rules, strategies, and scoring. 

When first starting to learn pickleball, it’s best to find an experienced player to teach you and help you learn the rules if possible, but you can certainly learn on your own, too.

This singles vs. doubles pickleball guide will help you determine which form of gameplay is best for you to start with, as well as some strategies to use for each – but whatever you choose, we’re sure you’ll have a great time!

What Are The Main Differences Between Doubles and Singles Pickleball?

As mentioned above, there are a few key differences between singles and doubles – mostly regarding the rules of serving and the strategies required to play.  

In doubles pickleball, after the first serve of the game, each team will always get at least two serves (one from each player.)

The score is called out as three separate numbers before each serve; the first is the serving team’s score, the second is the receiving team’s score, and the third number determines if the server is the first or second player to serve on their team. 

Where singles scoring differs is that each player only has one serve, so there is no need to call out the third number. A singles serve is always done from the right side when the server’s score is even and from the left side when the server’s score is odd.

So in singles pickleball, the first number called is the server’s score, and the second number is the receiver’s score; no other call-outs are required. 

Having two players on each side of the court means that less sprinting is needed to defend your side and different strategies can be employed, but you’ll have to work as a team to cover ground and stay out of each other’s way. 

Why Choose Singles Pickleball?

The first and most obvious reason to choose singles play over doubles is whether or not you have four people available. If you only have one or two other people to play with, singles pickleball is the best option, although you could play “Canadian” style (two on one) if you only have three players available. 

Singles pickleball is often used by beginner players to help them get acclimated to the game and to practice their shots. We’ve found that many brand-new players feel more comfortable learning the sport without the added pressure of having a teammate. In addition, you get added reps on the ball because there’s nobody to split the shots with. 

Singles pickleball is also an incredible workout, as it requires much more movement and energy from players due to having to cover the entire court alone – there’s no one backing you up, so you regularly have to quickly change directions and hustle to get to return shots. 

Why Choose Doubles Pickleball?

Pickleball was originally designed for doubles play, and it is still the more popular way to play today. Doubles pickleball requires less running but more hand-eye quickness since most of the back-and-forth action happens close to the net and comes back faster. 

Most pick-up games, social play, and tournaments are played as doubles, so if you plan to join the community and participate in public pickleball events, it’s a good idea to be familiar with doubles gameplay. 

Doubles pickleball is much easier on the body as it doesn’t require nearly as much sprinting, cutting, or backpedaling. When you have two players defending your courtside, you can set up and guard angles in a way that will allow you to reach almost any shot within a step or two. 

Doubles pickleball is also a great social environment as you can build camaraderie and chemistry with your teammate. 

Strategies To Use For Singles Pickleball 

Singles pickleball strategy is a good deal different from doubles strategies. Every shot is up to you to return, as you are the only player on your side. In singles, there’s a chess-like game that is played between the two players where every shot is a strategic move – but any given shot will also require a significant output of energy to get to. 

Here are some helpful strategies and tips for singles pickleball play:

  • Positioning and accurate placement – Since you are alone on the court, positioning and accurate placement are essential in singles pickleball. You won’t have a partner backing you up, so you need to make sure that you don’t find yourself setting up your opponent for an easy shot while you are out of position for a manageable return. Practice your accuracy and work on understanding the best defensive angles, so you are prepared to dominate the singles court.
  • Deep serves – A consistent deep serve will help you a lot in singles pickleball. You should use the deep serve to keep your opponent at their baseline longer, setting you up for a better third shot opportunity.
  • Returning deep serves – Returning deep serves is also important so that you can get up to the kitchen line and guard your court’s angles. The best deep serve returns are usually directed toward a back corner so that you can have enough time to get into position.
  • Working the kitchen line – It’s especially important to cut off your opponent’s angles on a singles pickleball court. The best way to cut off your opponent’s angles is to work your way up to the kitchen line as quickly as possible. Make sure to keep track of where the ball is so that you can position yourself in the best spot for a quick return.
  • Finding open court to attack – Singles pickleball is all about finding the open court to attack. Think ahead with each shot and try to force your opponent to one side of the court so you can target the open area on your next shot – a good open court shot will either win you the rally or force your opponent to burn energy getting to the ball. 

Strategies To Use For Doubles Pickleball 

Playing pickleball with a partner requires a shared rhythm and clear communication. In order to succeed, you need to understand your partner’s strengths and weaknesses, and you need to trust them to have your back. You also need to be able to move as a team and move independently. The best way to improve as a pickleball team is to practice and play together. But if you’re able to learn and implement some of these strategies, the sky’s the limit!

Here are some helpful strategies and tips for doubles pickleball play:

  • Serve deep – Just like in singles pickleball, a consistent deep serve will help you win more points in doubles play. You should use the deep serve to push your opponents back to their baseline, setting your team up for a better third shot drop opportunity.
  • Get to the kitchen line as soon as possible after the return of serve –  quickly getting up to the kitchen line will always be one of the most important strategies in doubles pickleball. With two of you at the line, there will be nearly zero shots that your opponents can fire that your team can’t reach. 
  • Master the drop shot – The drop shot is a tough shot to master, but it’s one of the most critical shots in the game. Drop shots are often used on the serving team’s second shot, the third shot of the game, which is why it’s often referred to as the “third shot drop.” Use the drop shot to win points and to give your team the time to get up to the kitchen line. 
  • Keep your opponents at their baseline as much as possible – As much as possible, you want to force the opposing team to their baseline, making it harder for them to hit kill shots and giving them less defensive court coverage.
  • Move in unison with your partner – As a team, it’s essential to work together to have the best chances of defending your court and hitting good attack shots. That’s why you should learn to move in unison with your partner. If one player has to push wide to get to a ball, their partner should move in that direction with them to cover the ground they left open. Understanding where you should be in relation to your partner is a huge advantage on the court. 
  • Communication with your partner – Like any team sport, communication goes a long way. Call out shots and make sure to be clear about who should take each ball that comes down the middle. Almost as important as verbal communication is body language; if you play with a particular partner often enough, you should learn their body language and be able to understand their moves and intentions as they make them.
  • Stay out of no man’s land – There are really two main spots on the court that you should be positioned at most times: the baseline and the kitchen line. The in-between area is called the no man’s land. There are some situations that call for players to be in no man’s land, but you should try to get into the habit of playing the majority of your games at the two key positions.
  • Be patient – More points are actually lost on errors in pickleball than they are won on great shots. That’s why it’s so important to be patient and let your shots develop. If a ball isn’t in an ideal position to smash it over the net, try to let it bounce and place it in a good spot. Many errors are avoided by patience. Be patient.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Serve From Either Side In Singles Pickleball?

In singles pickleball, the server’s score will determine which side they have to serve on. When the serving player’s score is an even number, they should serve from the right side, and when it is an odd number, they should serve from the left side.

Can Teammates Switch Sides In Pickleball?

Yes, but only after the serve has been hit. For those familiar with volleyball, the rules are similar to sliding positions after a serve. There are many strategies involved with switching sides with your partner; it is often done to get each player in their strongest position. For example, if one player has a stronger forehand than the other, they may choose to switch to get that player to their forehand side, or if there is a right and left handed teammate, they would likely switch to get to their dominant side. 


Whether you have just one person to play with or dozens, there’s a pickleball option for you! Pickleball is an awesome way to get out and be active – it can be a fun pastime or a competitive sport – it’s all what you make it to be. So whether you choose singles pickleball or doubles, there’s a lot of fun to be had (and some great exercise too!) So get out and have a good time on the court. You won’t regret it. 

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All Drive No Drop Team

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