SINGLES TIPS from Chris Mitchell (Pickleball in Eastbourne & SLAP) organiser of the SE Singles League and Singles Gold Medal winner in Madrid 2018 and Gillingham in 2017
In singles, the first 2 shots are very important.
THE SERVE should be hit hard and deep. If you can hit to backhand that’s even better but don’t risk missing your serve.
THE RETURN OF SERVE is the most critical shot and can set you up to win the point (or get whacked). You must return a fast low shot to the side or back of the court which will allow you to advance to the NVZ. You can try to put side spin on the ball but this will slow down the speed of the ball so make sure you hit it low and deep with spin.
Mix up your returns. Don’t always hit to backhand. The return short and wide to forehand is surprisingly successful (see fig1). Once at NVZ, your position will normally be either just left or right of the centre on the side of the ball giving you enough reach to protect the straight return (see fig 2). If your return of serve is short and central ish then stay back.
3RD SHOT ONWARDS
It’s all about hitting space and moving your opponent around. If you don’t, then you are setting them up to smash it past you.
If you get to the NVZ first and your opponent hits it high then hit a winning smash, if they hit a low shot you can take out of the air and you think they can’t make it to the NVZ then play a cushioned drop just over the net. If you think they can get there then keep them back with a deep hard shot and wait for your winner. If they start to move early then hit to the opposite direction.
Don’t be predictable.
If your opponent is first to NVZ and hits a hard deep shot that you can’t hit hard yourself then play a drop shot to the side they are not protecting (see fig 3). If successful then you can either go to NVZ or stay back. This depends on the ability of your opponent (and you) and how wide your drop shot is. Remember you will both be at NVZ and they will have the first shot. If they get to the NVZ first and don’t play a hard deep shot then you may be able to play an unstoppable passing shot. If you have time then run round to your forehand to hit it.
In short, Singles is about not letting your opponent whack it past you and when you get the chance to whack it past them, you take it. It’s much harder to hit a winner on the run so if you can constantly move them around the court you will win.