I realize most people play doubles, however more and more I am being asked to focus on pickleball singles strategy by students. Today begins a three-part series focusing on singles strategies.
As I watched singles matches at Nationals this year, I noted that the strategies utilized varied a bit by the skill level of the players. However, I have identified three singles strategies that work at every level.
Pickleball Singles Strategy #1: Open Space
The most basic strategy is to hit the ball where your opponent is not. I think we all know that…however, how do you accomplish this? I believe it all starts with a good deep serve or service return. Though there is value in this for doubles as well, I think it is even more important in singles. In fact, I believe it is okay to go for more on your serve to create more opportunities in the point. A good deep serve could cause your opponent to not be able to approach the net or even hit it in the net. Yes, it is possible that you will miss a serve … but that is okay from time to time if you are executing a strategy to be aggressive.
Pickleball Singles Strategy: Corner to Corner
Likewise, when playing singles you want to attack the return of serve whenever possible. You want to have the time you need to move forward without being passed. When you hit a deep return, you can exploit an easy pattern to go to the open space that we call “corner to corner”. Corner to corner is simply hitting the ball from one corner to the other, causing your opponent to move from one side of the court to the other along the baseline.
If I am returning from the right side of the court, I will start by returning down the line. Most often, this shot will be hit to my opponent’s backhand. After this, I will hit to their forehand … to the other sideline. I am looking for:
- Either a short ball that I can attack which takes time away from my opponent, or
- A ball I can hit behind them as they are running to the opposite side anticipating where I will hit next. This shot, when well executed, typically results in a winner.
Strategy Key: Set Up
When moving the ball in different directions the most important thing is how you set up for your shot. You don’t want to rush through any shot you hit. Take the time to move around the ball. Use proper footwork to create space away from your body so that you can achieve both depth and placement. You often have more time than you think to execute this singles strategy.