When practicing and drilling on the pickleball courts, we’re all trying to find those drills that closely mimic the variety of shots that would be executed in a “real” game – dinks, drives, drops, serves and volleys – all while adding in a mental pressure component to the session. Skinny singles is the perfect drill that checks all these boxes.
What is Skinny Singles?
Skinny singles is a pickleball drill/game that is played using half-the-court with one other person.
Additionally, because you don’t have a partner when playing skinny singles, you will be the one hitting all the shots on your side – which means you will get twice the number of repetitions. That also means, however, that you will have nobody to blame but yourself if the game turns ugly. 😉
How Do you Play Skinny Singles?
Skinny singles is played and scored just like “regular” singles with one exception. In skinny singles, you can only hit the ball cross-court into your opponent’s half-of-the-court – the same half into which the ball was served. If the ball isn’t hit cross-court into the appropriate half (the appropriate half depends on the score of the game) then it’s a fault.
Here’s an example. Assume the first server begins serving from the even side at 0-0. The serve is hit cross-court into the opponent’s even side. This is where the game of skinny singles gets unique. All subsequent shots (the return-of-serve, drops, volleys, etc.) in skinny singles must be hit “cross-court” – from the even side to the even side when the server’s score is an even number and from the odd side to the odd side when the server’s score is an odd number.
Why Does Skinny Singles Mimic the Shots & Strategies of Doubles?
Because the width of the court is cut in half, resulting in each player covering only approximately 10 feet, the shots and strategies utilized in skinny singles are very similar to that of doubles. The effectiveness of hitting hard-driving passing shots is sharply minimized. Rather, drop shots will be frequently used. Dinks will be common. Skinny singles truly plays very similar to doubles.
As an added bonus, you will also get the opportunity to work on serves and returns when playing skinny singles.
What about Around-the-Post (ATP) Shots?
When playing skinny singles cross-court, one modification to the game that is frequently implemented is to allow ATP shots – even if the ATP does not go cross-court into the appropriate half of your opponent’s court. Leveraging this modification to the rule helps reinforce the concept that hitting sharp cross-court dinks may not be the preferred shot selection and, consequently, may result in easy, rally-ending ATPs for your opponent.
Across from Each Other (Down-the-Line) Skinny Singles
The traditional method of playing skinny singles is to serve cross-court and play cross-court into the half-of-the-court in which the serve was hit. However, to practice “down-the-line” drop shots and volleys, the game is often modified such that each player is positioned on the side of their court according to their own score.
This means that if the score is 2-2, for example, both the server and return-of-server will be positioned on their even sides and rallies are played cross-court from even side to even side. However, if the score is 3-2, then the server will be positioned on the odd side and return-of-server will be positioned on the even side. This results in the rally being played straight across from each other (and not cross-court).
If it seems strange to be serving straight across – and you just can’t do it – feel free to serve cross-court and then have the server immediately slide over.
Skinny singles is a great drill/game when there are only two people available to play. It will closely mimic the shots and strategies of doubles. It’s also a great warm-up drill to use with your partner before playing a tournament match. See you on the courts. Keep drilling!