The rules for pickleball singles: How to play pickleball with 2 people

The rules for pickleball singles: How to play pickleball with 2 people


By Jaclyn Brandt

On: 02/14/2024

Although doubles pickleball is the more popular form you will see being played at pickleball courts across the United States, singles pickleball is a game you should also learn. Although the rules are mostly the same as doubles pickleball, there are a few small variations. Here are the rules for pickleball singles.

The rules of pickleball singles

The singles pickleball rules here are the variations from doubles pickleball. All other rules are the same. You can find those rules here.

The most significant changes between singles and doubles pickleball is that in singles pickleball, you only need to remember two numbers (instead of three) when calling the score, and each side only has one serve.

What is the difference between singles pickleball and doubles pickleball?

Although the rules of singles pickleball are the same to doubles, there are a few small differences. The most obvious difference is that in singles, you are playing with only two people instead of four. But beyond that, there are two main differences:

  • Serving: In doubles, each player gets a chance to serve, which means there will be two people on each side of the court to serve. In singles, the serve is lost as soon as each player loses the serve.

    • First-server exception: Because there is only one server per side, there is also no “first server exception,” the rule where, during the first serve of the game, only one server on the first serving team is allowed to serve

  • Scoring: Because you do not have two servers, you will not announce the third number in your score. For example, in doubles, a score would be something like: 3-2-2. In singles, that same score would be: 3-2.

Player positions & serving sequences

In singles pickleball, there is only one player on each side of the court — and each player is responsible for covering their entire side of the court (except in “skinny singles”). Although a pickleball doesn’t look that large at first glance, you will get quite the workout when you play singles pickleball.

The serve in singles pickleball is the same as doubles pickleball in that the server will serve crosscourt/diagonally, and the ball must bounce once in their opponent’s zone before being returned by their opponent. The server must then let the serve return bounce once before returning it.

  • The server should serve from the right side of the net during the first serve of the game, as well as when their score is even (0, 2, 4, etc.).

  • The server should serve from the left side of the net when their score is odd (1, 3, 5, etc.).

  • Each player will continue to serve until they cause a fault, and every time they win a point they will switch sides of the court.

  • The server must serve from the correct position:

    • The server must stay behind the baseline while serving.

    • The server must have at least one foot on the ground/floor behind the baseline when serving.

    • The server must stay within the imaginary extensions of the sideline and centerline when serving.

  • There is no first-server exception in singles pickleball, which is a rule in doubles pickleball that only allowed one server on the first serving team to serve before the second team serves (instead of two). Because there is only one server on each side in singles pickleball, the exception no longer applies.

Any position or serving errors will result in a fault, and therefore a loss of serve.

Side-outs 

A fault caused by a single player who has served will result in a side out/loss of serve and the serve will be awarded to their opponent. No point will be awarded to either player.

A fault caused by a non-serving player will result in a point for the server.

Scoring

A singles player may only score when they have served in that rally.

The way to call a score in singles pickleball is 1. The server’s score, and 2. The receiver’s score. Example: “1 - 3 or “one - three.”

Just like in doubles pickleball, most games are played to 11 points, and the winner must win by two points.

Pickleball singles court dimensions

The pickleball court for singles is the same size as the court for doubles pickleball. The standard pickleball court dimensions are:

  • 20 feet (wide) x 44 feet (long).

  • Each side of the court is 20 feet (wide) x 22 feet (long).

  • The kitchen is 20 feet (wide) x 7 feet from the net toward the baseline.

  • The net is 22 feet from each baseline, and can be up to 22.5 feet wide.

    • The net should be 16 feet wide at the sidelines and 14 feet wide at the center.

Skinny singles

Pickleball skinny singles is a game that also has only one player on each side of the court, but utilizes only part of the court. In skinny singles pickleball, each person will only play on one half of their side of the court, and that side is constantly changing, based on your score.

Learning the rules of pickleball singles

If you only have two people at your next pickleball game, singles pickleball is a fun variant to learn, and it’s a great workout because you are now responsible for covering your entire side of the court.

If you already know the rules of doubles pickleball, it is an easy transition to two players instead of four. There are just a few small rule changes you need to learn, but once you do, it opens up your pickleball world to an entirely new game.

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