Skinny singles is a version of singles pickleball played on just half of the court. Skinny singles is often used as a training exercise, since it requires improved accuracy and forces players to take shots they may not normally take. Variations include cross-court skinny, down the line, combination, and slender singles.
How Do You Play Skinny Singles?
Playing skinny singles works very similarly to full-court singles, except that only half the court is used. There are three primary variations of skinny singles: in the first, you play cross-court, only using the even side of the court or the odd side of the court at any one time.
In the other, you play down the line: the server serves from the even side of the court into the odd side of the court, and so on.
Some people also play a combination of these two methods.
Skinny singles is approved by USA Pickleball for tournament play under the name “mini-singles.”
Cross-Court Skinny Singles
|Cross-Court Skinny Singles||Down the Line Skinny Singles||Combination|
|Serving position||Server starts from the right side||Server serves from the right side of the court||Server serves from the right side|
|Serving destination||Serves cross-court to opponent’s right side||Serves “down the line” to opponent’s left side||Serves cross-court to opponent’s right side|
|Area of court in play||Only the part of the court to the right of the centerline is in play||Only server’s right side and opponent’s left side are in play||Alternates between cross-court and down-the-line whenever possession changes|
Just as in a doubles game, the server will start from the even side (the right side), serving across the court to their opponent’s even side (right side of the court).
However, unlike in a singles game of pickleball, the whole court doesn’t then come into play. For that point, the only part of the court that is in play is the part to the right of the centerline.
On the next serve, you both swap to the odd side of the court and so on.
Down the Line Skinny Singles
In the other version of skinny singles, you play “down the line.” This means the serving player serves from the right side of the court, while the return of serve comes from the left side of the court.
Down the line skinny singles can be a great opportunity to develop new pickleball strategies (both singles strategy and doubles strategy). Playing down the line skinny singles forces you to take shots down the sideline rather than relying on cross-court shots.
Another exciting variation of skinny singles combines the two methods outlined above. It works like this:
- On the first point, Player A serves from the even side of their baseline. Player B receives from the odd side of their baseline. The point is played cross-court.
- Player A wins the point and moves to the odd side of the court. However, Player B, the losing player, remains on the even side. The next point is now played down the line.
- This format continues throughout the match, with a pickleball player only swapping sides on winning points.
This drill forces you to continuously evaluate and adapt your strategies depending on the point. It also brings all the types of shots you might be confronted with in regular singles into play.
Skinny Singles Pickleball Scoring
Skinny singles scoring works the same as in regular singles play, following the traditional pickleball rules.
- Player A serves, and Player B receives.
- If Player A wins the rally, they win a point and continue to serve.
- This continues until Player B wins a rally.
- When Player B wins, they do not win a point. Instead, the serve transfers to them, and they now have the opportunity to win points.
What are the benefits of Skinny Singles?
Playing a game of skinny singles forces you to hit shots you might sometimes avoid. If you hate hitting onto one side of the court, forcing yourself to play a game of down the line skinny singles makes you develop that skill.
Equally, if you struggle with your backhand, you could play a game of skinny singles that forces you to hit more backhand shots than forehand ones.
As well as developing specific pickleball strategies and skills, skinny singles also can help to improve your accuracy. Because you are hitting a much smaller target, your accuracy has to be spot on. You can’t get away with as many loose shots.
Skinny singles is a great tool to practice all the fundamental pickleball skills. All the same pickleball rules (such as the non-volley zone) apply. This means that as well as practicing specific skills, you also get to work on your basics, such as control of the pickleball paddle and proper execution of lobs and dinks.
What is Slender Singles?
|Skinny Singles||Slender Singles|
|Purpose||Mainly used for training and drills||Makes pickleball a better fit for players with mobility issues|
|Court width||10 feet instead of 20 feet||16 feet instead of 20 feet|
|Benefits||The smaller court forces players to hit shots they sometimes avoid||The court is 20% smaller than a regular pickleball court, meaning rallies can go on longer for players with mobility issues|
Slender singles is a variation of singles pickleball designed for older pickleball players or those with mobility issues.
Unlike skinny singles pickleball, it is used less as a pickleball drill, and more as a way to make the game easier and more enjoyable for those who struggle to get around a full-size court.
In skinny singles, you play to half the court, with only one side of the centerline considered ‘in’ at any one time.
In slender singles, you make the court permanently smaller by taking two feet off the width of the baseline at either side. This takes the width of the court from 20 feet to 16 feet.
This means the court is 20% smaller, giving you 20% less ground to cover, and meaning rallies can go on for longer for players who struggle to get to the corners.
3 Tips & Strategies to Master Skinny Singles
- Serve Deep: Just like in regular singles matches, you want to dominate the non-volley zone. Serving deep forces your opponent backward. It also gives you the opportunity to get to the kitchen line by the third shot, giving you an advantage.
- Move Your Opponent Around: Due to the smaller size of the court, it can be easy to forget one of the basics of pickleball: maneuvering your opponent. Conversely, because there is less room to hit winners, playing the angles and moving your opponent around their side of the court is even more important and requires clever thought and execution of pickleball strategies.
- Use the Length: A skinny singles court is much less wide than a traditional court, but it is the same length from baseline to net. Utilizing this longer playing space is key. Use your dinks to lure your opponent into the non-volley zone, and then hit the lob to force them backward.
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