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If you’ve been a pickler for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with traditional pickleball singles. But if you’re looking to gain experience and confidence on the court, playing skinny singles is a great idea.
Skinny singles pickleball is playing pickleball on half of the court. Variations of skinny singles allow you to mix it up and not play on the same half of the court the whole time.
Here’s how to make skinny singles pickleball games work for you!
What Exactly Is Skinny Singles Pickleball?
Playing pickleball singles is challenging. If you want to limit the amount of running around on the court you do (or if you just want to mix things up a little), playing on half the court just might be your answer.
Playing on half of the pickleball court at a time is known as “skinny singles.” But often, you don’t just stay on the same half of the court the whole time. Depending on what variation you use, you may be playing diagonally across the net or straight across the net.
The best way to really understand how to play skinny singles is to learn the basic variations you can choose from.
Skinny Singles Pickleball Variations
The pickleball skinny singles rules are pretty similar to the rules of a regular singles game. But there are a few slightly different ways to play.
In order to understand each skinny singles strategy, you’ll need to know what the even side of the court is. This is the side of the court to your right when you stand at the baseline facing the net. The side of the court to your left is the odd side.
There are two more terms you should know: cross-court and down the line. When you hit or serve cross-court, you hit the ball diagonally over the net (into the service court diagonally across the net).
When you hit or serve down the line, you hit the ball into the service court directly across the net from you.
Skinny Singles Variation #1
This is a good variation to try if you prefer to not hit cross-court. It’s also great for mixing up your shot selections. Here’s how to play this version:
- The serving player serves from the even side.
- The other player stands on the odd side of their court (so they are standing across the court from the server).
- The game is played with each player hitting down the line.
- If you’d rather avoid serving straight down the line, you can also serve the ball cross-court and then move so the rest of the game is played down the line.
Skinny Singles Variation #2
If you’re used to playing doubles, you might like this variation, as it’s played cross-court. If you want to get better at playing doubles but only have one practice partner at the moment, playing skinny singles this way is a great way to train a little differently.
- The first player will serve cross-court from the even side of their court.
- On the return of serve, the second player must hit the ball back to the server’s even side.
- The next serve and the serve after that are determined by the score. If you have an even score, you serve from the even side. If you have an odd score, you serve from the odd side.
Skinny Singles Variation #3
This way of playing skinny singles combines the ways mentioned above. The court positioning can be slightly trickier to master. So if you’re new to skinny singles, you might want to start with one of the above variations before trying this one:
- Both the first server and the receiver start on the even sides of their respective courts.
- If the server wins a point, they move to their odd court. The opponent stays on the even side. The server then serves down the line (or directly across the net) to start out the next point.
- If the server continues to win points, they move between the odd side and the even side of the court for each point. Though they must hit to the opponent’s court each time, the opponent remains on the even side.
- Once the server loses a point, the opponent gets to serve. They serve from their current half of the court (the even side). They then play the point down the line.
- The game continues as described above: if the opponent wins a point, they move to the other half of the court and serve from there. The other player stays on their current half of the court until they win a point.
Sometimes, reading the rules can make a skinny singles game seem more complex than it is. This video offers you a quick visual introduction.
How Do the Rules Work?
The rules of skinny singles are pretty close to the rules of playing singles. The same non-volley zone rules apply, and you follow the same rules for faults, etc.
One important difference applies to court boundaries. Of course, in games using the entire court, a ball that lands outside of the court is considered out.
In skinny singles, if the ball lands outside of the half of the court where it’s supposed to land, it’s considered to be out.
As far as serving goes, the same rules apply as well. Each server only has one chance to serve. This is different from tennis, where each server gets two serve attempts.
How Does Scoring Work?
Usually, pickleball skinny singles players use rally scoring, meaning the player who wins a rally gets the point.
To win the game, one player needs to reach 11 points. However, to win, they must also have a two-point margin over their opponent. This scoring system is the same system used in regular pickleball singles or doubles.
Why Play Skinny Singles?
Skinny singles will help you to strategize on the pickleball court in new ways. Here are some of the benefits of playing on half the court:
- It can be less physically demanding
- It helps you master new shots
- It’s great practice for doubles
It Can Be Less Physically Demanding
Pickleball skinny singles isn’t necessarily easy. But when you’re limited to the appropriate half of your court, you don’t have to do as much running.
This is especially helpful if you’re rehabilitating an injury. But it has another benefit as well: when you’re stuck on one side of the court, you focus more on shot technique than on running to get to the ball.
It Helps You Master New Shots
While playing pickleball this way, you can work on all the shots you already know. But there’s a shot often used in skinny singles that you rarely see in traditional pickleball singles: ATP shots.
ATP stands for “around the post.” This shot goes around the net post but still makes it into your opponent’s service court. It’s hard for a lot of pickleball players to master, but it’s a useful shot to have in your arsenal.
If you tend to have some trouble aiming your shots precisely, skinny singles should help with that as well. In regular pickleball singles, the ball is still in play if it hits anywhere on the court. In skinny singles, you have to aim the ball in a much smaller area if you want it to remain in play!
It’s Great Practice for Doubles
If you start playing skinny singles, you may notice that it has a lot of similarities to a doubles game.
Doubles games usually have each player covering one-half of the court. So skinny singles is a mimic of a doubles game in that regard.
As a result, you’ll need to rely on shots that usually work in doubles. Drop shots and dinks typically work better than powerful drives.
Use Skinny Singles to Improve Your Game!
So now you how to play skinny singles pickleball! And while the rules might seem a little odd at first, playing on half the court has its advantages. Namely, it gives you practice using cross-court shots and other different shot techniques you might not otherwise use. If you’ve been looking for a fun way to improve your pickleball game, grab a friend (or make some new friends) and try out skinny singles!
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Skinny singles work like regular singles, except each player, covers only half of their court. Players often play cross-court, but that can vary based on the variation being used.
Skinny singles pickleball is when two players play singles, but the game is only played on half of the court. Often, both the server and the opponent hit cross-court for most of the game.
No. In singles pickleball, each player only gets one serve. This is different from tennis, where each player gets two serve attempts.
Yes, it can be. Playing singles is common. If you want to practice playing singles without needing to cover the whole court, you might want to try skinny singles.