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Being an experienced doubles player doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll excel in a singles game, and vice versa. Yes, both modes of playing share pretty much the same basic skills, but you’re in for a surprise if you try to alter between the two without proper strategy.
Singles pickleball demands twice the speed and power that doubles pickleball requires, as you have twice the court space to cover without a teammate.
For example, doubles pickleball relies on finesse and proper court placement. So, you can’t go into either format expecting to do well without a strategy. That’s what this article is all about.
Today, we cover some of the most effective playing strategies for singles and doubles pickleball, so you ought to stick around and start taking notes.
Pickleball Singles Strategies
Since singles pickleball is all about speed and power, the most important aspects you need to focus on are serving, returning, shot variance, mobility, and observation.
When trying to master your serves, the first thing to learn is how to hit the ball properly. If you’re starting the game, your serve should be firm and aimed deep into the field.
Following your first serve, you want to keep your opponent in their toes by switching the direction of your serves. One valuable skill that can help you overwhelm and eventually beat your opponent is learning how to spin the ball. Make sure you use a paddle that’s suitable for spinning.
When you’re serving the ball, be sure you’re at the center line or close to it so that you maintain an ideal position for return shots.
If you hit the ball from the back of the court, the opponent can simply return the ball just over the net, which will lead you to sprint forward quickly to catch the ball.
You do that enough times, your stamina will be depleted fast, and your opponent will get the best of you. So, it’s better to situate yourself near the center line for easy access to the area near the net.
Now that you’re aware of how your serving should be, what can you do to improve your game as far as return shots? First and foremost, you need to know where and how to aim, which is an essential part of the shot strategy.
Knowing how to aim automatically boosts your skill level and gives you an advantage over the opponent pickleball player.
For return shots, your aim should be toward the corners. This will keep your opponent running from corner to corner until you catch them off guard with a surprise shot.
Like you, your opponent will probably be situated near the center line in a singles game. Don’t make it easy for them by returning their shots in the middle. Aim deep in the corners.
This strategy is effective in a singles pickleball game, but in a doubles game, you want to do the complete opposite by aiming the returns right in the center where both opponents are split apart. More on that shortly.
You should also learn how to execute a drop shot. A drop shot is a soft shot that you strike off a ball bounce from deep in your end court. Your goal is to land the ball in the opponent’s non-volley zone, somewhere close to the net. This will allow you to follow the shot to the non-volley area line. The drop shot is effective in both modes of pickleball playing.
We already mentioned that you should be situated near the center line so that you can access all returns without having to sprint all over the court.
To be more specific, however, it’s highly advised that you remain somewhere near the back end of one-third of the pickleball court.
Of course, your opponent is going to try and get you to move away from that specific part of the field. The key is to always reposition yourself.
While maintaining your position near the center line, don’t be too rigid to move. You need to stay mobile in order to cover left and right-aimed returns.
To avoid rigid responses, try to stay on the balls of your feet, which is the area between the toes and the arch where the bones (metatarsals) are found.
What you need to avoid is being flat-footed on the court because it’ll hinder your ability to adjust to incoming shorts within the required frame of time.
An integral part of winning a pickleball match is being able to spot and exploit your opponent’s shortcomings. This entails developing spot-on observation skills.
For instance, if your opposition doesn’t have that great of a backhand shot, send shots their way that will force them to use their backhand. Don’t make it easy for them by allowing them to use their forehand. At the same time, you want to play to your strengths to walk out as the winner.
If the opposition isn’t doing a good job covering one of the corners or if they’re not situated near the center line, send a hailstorm of returns right where they’re not able to respond properly.
Pickleball Doubles Strategies
Most of the aspects discussed in the previous section remain intact when in a doubles game of pickleball. However, you need to make slight variations to accommodate the pickleball doubles format.
To develop a strong pickleball strategy with your partner, it’s important to work on three aspects: placement, movement, and communication. Let’s go over each one.
If you and your partner are the serving team, you both need to be situated behind the baseline for optimal serving. When serving, consider your opponents’ weaknesses. If their backshot isn’t that great, execute the serve in a way that exploits their weakness.
If you and your teammate are the receiving team, you also need to be situated at or close to the baseline. However, be ready to move forward into the court for short returns. It’s advised that either you or your mate stay at the non-volley area line on your respective side of the court.
Please bear in mind that, in most cases, the team that makes less unforced errors are typically the winning team. Matches are usually won or lost because of errors, not earned points. This is important to remember when trying to formulate pickleball doubles strategies with your partner.
In a game of doubles, you and your teammate must move together in unison. When and where to move is typically determined by the team member that hits the ball.
When one partner hits the ball and storms towards the non-volley area, the other partner ought to move forward as well, but not beforehand.
The point is not to leave any separation between you and your mate so that your opponents don’t view it as an inviting gap for shots.
After the third shot, which is the return of the serve’s return, the serving team needs to move to the non-volley zone line together to eliminate any gaps.
Figuring out your movement after the third shot is by far one of the most important pickleball doubles strategies. The third shot is struck by the second member of the serving team.
Doubles pickleball is a team effort, so you must get in the habit of communicating with your partner with every shot. This is especially true if you’re playing against competitors you’ve never played with before. Words and phrases like “Mine,” “Yours,” and “I Go” should be uttered for communication.
You and your partner must determine which one of you will take lobs. Ideally, the faster partner should be responsible for lobs. You must also determine who is going to be responsive for the shots aimed at the middle of the court where you and your mate are separated.
If you’re going to alternate places with your teammate for an incoming shot, you should utter “Switch” so that your mate knows what to do. If your opponents hit a ball high and you’re certain it’s going out of the court, utter “No” or “Out” so that your mate doesn’t attempt to return the shot. Efficient communication is one of the most important pickleball strategies in a doubles game.
You and your teammate should complement each other on good plays to boost confidence. Last but not least, before entering a match, your playing strategy and shot selection must be discussed.
Final Thoughts on Pickleball Strategy
No matter your preference, the singles and doubles strategies covered in this article are going to be of tremendous help.
Reading the article isn’t enough, though; you must practice on a regular basis to ingrain these strategies into your playing style. So get out there and try them out today!