Tips for Better Singles Play
- Stay close to the center line when you serve, so you can reach the returned shot with fewer steps. Face your opponent and watch his paddle angle and the ball, so you'll know where it's headed.
- Singles pickleball is a lot like singles tennis, in that you should keep your feet moving. Don't get caught flat-footed, and you'll be able to get to the shots more easily.
- I watched a Kyle Yates video where he said his technique in singles was to hit mostly forehands (that's always good advice) and long drives as hard as he could. I don't think that will work for everyone, but it won him the gold. Deep, hard serves are more difficult to return and may help you on your way to the non-volley zone, if your opponent's return is weak. Same for the return of service—send it deep and hard, and hopefully you can gain the net or at least try for a good passing shot.
- Regarding hitting forehand: many singles players seem to win by having that good footwork and the agility to "run around" their backhand, allowing them to hit forehand instead. Yet I heard one retired tennis coach take umbrage with that, insisting players should work on their backhands, as that was ultimately a lot easier. It's true that you usually hit harder with a forehand stroke, so when power is called for, stick to forehand when possible.
- When you're in the back court, hit deep to the corners, not down the middle—just opposite of typical doubles strategy. Keep your opponent running side to side, which he should find the most difficult.
- Try not to get stuck in mid court, where your opponent can send shots to your feet. If you can't get to the net, stay in the back third of the court until you can, or hit a split step if you get caught, grounding yourself for a good return, and then hustle toward the net again.
- Get to the non-volley zone, just as in doubles. That's where your power is. From there, volley your opponent's returns and, again, hit toward the corners to keep him moving and ultimately to put away the shot. You can use a hard drive, if he's in the back court, or a drop volley to get to the net (add underspin/backspin to the ball to make it tougher for him to return it). Don't use a drop shot if your opponent is deep—you want to keep him away from the net. Keep pounding him with long drives to the back court.
- If your opponent does get to the net, you can force him back with a lob (not commonly done anymore, because many players often smash it back for a put-away) or hit a passing shot. Which you use depends on your skill and your opponent's skill.
- Stay on the attack. Send shots to your opponent's backhand, as it's typically weaker.
Drills for Singles Play
This man also asked if I could suggest drills for singles. Here they are:
- Hit serves and returns so they land within two to three feet of the baseline. If practicing with a partner, send shots to your partner's backhand. Have your partner do the same for you.
- Practice drop volleys from the baseline, sending them to the sides rather than the center of the non-volley zone.
- Have a partner send shots to you at the baseline, aiming for the corners. Concentrate on your footwork and staying mobile between the shots.
- All target practice drills are good.