How to play pickleball singles? - Pickleball By Pros

A common singles pickleball dilemma

Let me explain a common pickleball singles dilemma.  After you serve, you may be thinking, “The court looks huge, I will just hit the ball into the most open part of the court.” But you glance up and quickly see a problem. Your opponent followed their return into the net and is already at the kitchen line.  Suddenly, the court just got a lot smaller, and to make matters worse; you are feeling intense pressure and likely rushed. When faced with this pressure, you may experience a fight-or-flight response and make a rash split second decision just to survive.  So how does one deal with this dilemma successfully?

Mind Control

What can we do to counter this chain of events from happening?  Mind Control.  I’m not talking about controlling your opponent’s mind but controlling the thoughts occurring inside of your brain.  You must work to keep the facts of the game at the top of your mind.  What is certain is the net height, court size, and most importantly, the kitchen’s dimensions, do not change!  No one can change or control those factors.  Instead, you must focus on the three things that do physically change: your opponent’s court position, your court position and the position of the ball in the court.

Next time you watch the top professionals, take notice that it seems like they know where the next ball is going before their opponent even hits it?  How can that be, can they read minds?  Well, in reality, kinda of…let me explain how.

Anticipation thru visualization

Anticipation is defined as the visualization of a future event or state.  It’s this visualization that becomes the magic you see when watching the world’s best professionals. It derives from a combination of experience, knowledge of opponent, risk management, and, most importantly, the dynamic positions of both the ball and the opponent. This type of skill takes a lot of time on the courts to master, but with a few minutes of training you will see the benefits immediately . You can improve your anticipation through active visualization. And even better, you already know how to do it.  Try this…think about a friend that you play with every week.  You will likely immediately see in your mind’s eye how he or she hits their favorite shots.  Now, repeat this before every match and take a moment to visualize how your opponent will likely hit their shots and you’ll be anticipating their shots in no time.  It works, trust us but you have to make the effort for a few moments prior to playing.  Visualize shot preferences and tendencies before they happen and your brain will anticipate them later when you need them most!

Physical movement and shot selection

You may be thinking, this mindset stuff is great but I still have to move quickly into the right position.  Pickleball singles involves more dynamic movement, and that can be intimidating at first.  But the secret is if you can control your mind, you can control shot selection, and if you can control your shot selection, you can control your movement.

When you feel pressured or rushed, think of this simple concept.  If I can make my opponent move, it will give me more time for me to move. This notion completely counters the typical, instinctive mindset of “I feel rushed and pressured; I need to make my opponent feel more rushed and pressured.”

But how do I make my opponent move?  First, eliminate all of your “singles only shots” and free your mind all of your preconceived notions about the singles game.  Play your typical doubles game, but play it from the middle of the court instead of the middle of your side. Pay attention to your movement and learn which positions and situations frustrate your opponent the most and execute those shots until they stop working.  If you find yourself rushed or out of position, don’t kill yourself running after the ball in a panic, trying to make up for it. Stop, make a mental note to correct your position on the next point, and feel the difference it makes. You will eventually build good habits and learn how to play singles in a controlled way that you enjoy.


Visualization of your opponent’s shots prior to playing will allow you to anticipate their shots more quickly.  This will improve your shot selection and allow your movement to become controlled and require far less effort.   Give it a try, build good habits and have a blast on the courts!  Join our team today and take your game to the next level by viewing our vast instructional video library and monthly chats directly with our professional team.  Click here to learn more.


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