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Pickleball Doubles and Singles: What’s the Difference?

by Trey Sizemore | Last Updated:   September 13, 2020

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Just as with tennis, you can play pickleball as a doubles team as well as an individual.  To do so, all you need is a partner, an understanding of the few basic rule changes, and a cheery attitude. If you’re new and unfamiliar with any of the rules of pickleball, we recommend starting your research with single-player guides. At the end of the day, though, you’ll have fun regardless of how you start playing. 

While playing pickleball solo requires just one additional player, playing pickleball with a partner has its own unique set of benefits, including: 

With that in mind, let’s discuss all you need to know to take you (singles) and maybe your partner (doubles) from beginner(s) to winner(s). 

What’s Different?

As previously mentioned, there are a few key rules differences when you bring two additional players onto the court. While these additional players bring opportunity for different strategies and improved court coverage, the critical rule changes center primarily around the acts of serving and scoring. 

Scoring

Keeping track of the score and the correct server can be one of the more challenging aspects of pickleball doubles. Don’t be too intimidated, though! We have all the tips and tricks to make sure you are able to stay on track.

For more detail on the specifics of scoring, you can reference our scoring article here.

When you start a pickleball doubles game, the serving player should announce three elements: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and the server’s number (either one or two depending on who was chosen to serve first).  The first player to serve in the game will be server #2 and their partner will be server #1.  The first player to serve on the opposing team will be server #1 and their partner will be server #2.  Normally when the first server on a side loses their serve, their partner becomes the next server and when they lose their serve, it goes over to their opponents.  The exception to this is the first server of the game.  Once they lose their serve, the opponents immediately become the serving team.  

If a serving team scores, players from the serving team switch places (odd and even sides of the court), not the receiving team. They are not allowed to change or switch sides. The server then continues to serve until a rally is lost. At that point, the partner will serve. When a point is lost to the receiving team, the serve switches to the other team. 

Serving

Besides the elements discussed in the scoring section and switching around the court, pickleball serving is pretty similar. Serving must still be done underhand, below the waist, and hit the opposite side of the server. There are, however, a few key serving strategies:

Choosing Your Game: Doubles or Singles?

When it comes down to it, there truly are more similarities than differences between pickleball singles and doubles. If you already play singles pickleball, the transition will be no trouble at all. In fact, doubles are typically less physically demanding. The attire, equipment, and training exercises, though, remain constant. If you are new to the sport and are looking for a fun, easygoing activity to do with friends or like-minded individuals, we suggest starting out with pickleball doubles. 

In Summary

Whether you are looking to play by yourself or with a partner, pickleball is the perfect way to get out and be active. The option to play with a partner allows for more players to come together with their community and participate in a relaxed environment.  

The best thing, in our opinion, is the low barrier of entry to playing. A bored family originally found the sport on a summer afternoon who had some spare sports equipment, so we bet you can get out there on the court with what you have. 

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Trey Sizemore is the founder of pickleballhut.com, and the host of the 'Dinking Out Loud' podcast. Trey has been playing pickleball for several years and loves helping others discover this great game and improve their skills. Trey has launched several online resources with the goal of helping players of all levels improve their game through multi-format instruction.