If you are new to pickleball, you might be wondering what the rules are, and whether they differ when you are playing doubles vs singles.
We will go through everything you need to know about the rules of singles in this article, and go over which rules remain the same no matter what.
So, if you have been wanting to play a game or two, you are in the right place! By the end of this, you should know all the rules to be aware of, so you can get on the court.
What Are The Rules For Pickleball Singles?
First, we will go through the rules that are different in a singles pickleball game vs a double. This includes the scoring, player positioning, and strategies.
After that, we will cover the rules that remain the same no matter which game you are playing, like the serving rules, non-volley zones, line call rules, and dead balls and faults.
The scoring system for singles pickleball games will be different to that of doubles, because there is no third number involved.
There is no server number one or two, so every score in a singles game will be made up of two numbers – with the first being the server’s score, and the second being the score of the receiver.
For example, a score in a singles pickleball game might look something like this: 10-8, where the 10 is the server’s score, and the 8 is the receiver’s score.
This makes understanding the scores easier, so this may be a welcome change!
In a singles pickleball game, the first serve will always begin on the right-hand/even side of the court. If the person who is serving wins that point, they will keep the serve and then switch to the opposite side of the court.
Serves will always be done diagonally/crosscourt, and the server will keep the serve up to the point where they commit a fault or their opponent wins the rally. When this happens, there will be a side out, and the opponent will begin to serve.
It’s important to note that in singles, each player only has one serve!
Of course, since you are going to be the only one on your side in a singles pickleball game, you will need to introduce a different strategy. This is going to be the biggest difference, and one that you will need to consider before you hop in the court.
With no one else to rely on, you need to be responsible for every shot on your side of the court, and you will be moving a lot more. Sometimes you will need to race to get the ball!
There are a couple of things that you should practice before you jump into a singles game. Without knowing the below things, you could find it very difficult to compete against an opponent on your own:
- Passing shots and angles
- Placement and the fundamentals
- Move in to the non-volley zone line
- Deep and big serves
- Deep and big returns of the serve
These are all essential skills to develop in any pickleball game, but they become more important than ever in a singles pickleball game.
Which Rules Remain The Same In A Doubles Game?
Thankfully, you do not need to go and relearn everything about pickleball, because a lot of the rules will be staying the same whether you are in a doubles or singles game. So, let’s go over everything that stays the same.
Serving rules will stay the same no matter what. There are three important rules of serving to follow:
- Underhanded or Backhanded Serving – all serves in pickleball are either underhanded or backhanded, unlike in tennis. Official pickleball rules state that the paddle had to come into contact with the ball below the navel to be a legal serve(see also: What Counts As A Legal Pickleball Serve?).
- Crosscourt Serve – all serves will be done crosscourt, much like in tennis.
- Feet Placement – at least one foot must be on the ground when serving, and it must be behind the baseline. No jumping is allowed while serving, unlike in tennis.
In case you didn’t know, a volley is a shot where a player hits a ball in the air without allowing the ball to bounce.
Simply put, you can’t volley when you are in the no-volley zone. This includes if your foot is in the zone, you are leaning into the zone, or anything else where you might not think you are directly in the zone. You can’t even drop something in the no-volley zone.
Line Call Rules
This essentially relates to when the ball is on our out the line, which determines if it is still in play or not. These rules will stay the same in every pickleball game, and they will be called by whoever is playing the game (unless you have a referee or line judges).
If there is a disagreement, players can simply replay the point to solve the issue.
Dead Ball And Faults
Both of these are going to remain the same, and are a crucial part of a pickleball game, as they will impact many games. Take a look below.
About Dead Balls
A deal ball is simply a ball that is not in play anymore and cannot be used to continue a game. This can be caused by:
- A fault – any fault of the game
- A valid hinder – something that hinders the game, like something rolling onto the court
- Ball comes into contact with a permanent object – if the ball comes into contact with a fence, bench, or another permanent object
What Can Cause A Fault?
There are dozens of reasons for a fault, but we will only go through a handful of them here. Some faults may seem trivial, but they can have a big impact on gameplay, so should always be taken into consideration when in a game.
Some of the most common faults include:
- Pickleball hits the net
- Violation of a serving rule
- A live pickleball is stopped
- Pickleball out of bounds on your side
- Allowing the pickleball to bounce twice
- No bounce after the serve and the return serve
- Hitting the pickleball between the net/net post or under the net
- Allowing the pickleball to contact anything besides the paddle or wrist
- Your items or apparel comes into contact with your opponent’s net system, net posts, or court side
To find a full list of pickleball faults, check out this post.
If you were worried about heading onto the court in a singles game – fear not! Many of the rules stay the same, but the ones that do change make sense for the same.
You don’t need to worry about dealing with rules that don’t seem to make any sense, which makes everything a lot easier.
Hopefully this article has been helpful, and you now feel confident enough to head out and play a singles pickleball (see also: How To Play Pickleball Singles)game. If you do, why not let us know how it went?