As a pickleball instructor, my students often ask me different ways they can play when there are only 2 people. While doing drills is vital to improvement, most people prefer to play rec games. Of course full court singles is an option, but is often seen as daunting and intimidating.
Skinny singles to the rescue!
Skinny singles is everything great in pickleball in a compact package. There are plenty of opportunities to dink, drill, drive, serve, and work on your footwork. When I play singles I like to make different goals for myself each time, like at this point I’m only doing 3rd shot drops and dinking. Now I am driving every ball. This time I will 3rd shot drive, 5th shot drop.
Before a single’s point I often chant to myself, “rush the net, rush the net,” to focus on my goal.
Strategizing before a point is helpful, yet it’s important to also be flexible if things don’t end up going according to plan.
It is also a great way to work on serve accuracy as well as mixing up serves. Typically when I serve, I aim deep and to the backhand. My return of serve is deep and also usually to the backhand and this allows me time to rush the net. While playing any form of singles, it’s a great opportunity to try different serves or aim at a different spot since you are serving more frequently than in doubles.
Skinny singles is a fun way to mix up play with only 2 players. It is also a great workout and a way to challenge yourself to incorporate different skills and shot selections.
What happens if you have 3 players? With 3 players, you can play different variations of “Canadian Doubles” or 2 vs 1. The 2 players on the same side of the net play points out vs the player who is alone on one side, and the ball is hit to the solo player’s side. Each player keeps their own personal score and the serve rotates.
I like when I am the solo player because it allows me to create different strategies against the 2 players. I might try to create a gap between the players by continuing to draw one player wider and wider before hitting a shot down the middle. Another idea is to dink to both players, alternating shot placement, patiently searching for a weakness and also trying to win the battle of patience.
Having a smaller group of players also lowers your risk of contracting Covid-19, which despite various states and cities opening up, doesn’t mean the disease went away. From what I have seen, the players that have returned to pickleball have decided to not wear masks and from the group photos, they choose not to social distance. I hope at the very least, everyone is sanitizing their hands frequently.
No matter the number of players available to play, it is possible to have a fun and fulfilled pickleball experience, not to mention a great workout. See you on the court!
“Five people with passion can do better than fifty people with mere desire or interest.”
~ Israelmore Ayivor
PPR-Certified Teaching Pro
Melissa is a 5.0 tournament player, teaching pro, and devoted mother with a serious passion for pickleball. Follow her foray through the Picklesphere as she writes about all the things we love about this sport, including strategy, the mental game, training, drills, diet and more.