Different Ways to Play Skinny Singles

First of all, what is skinny singles? This is the most accepted definition of the game: Skinny singles is a form of singles in pickleball that divides the playing court in half, making it easier to cover ground while still playing one vs. one. It can be played by splitting the court in half along the centerline or by making the playable area the diagonal service courts. Oddly enough, skinny doubles play more like doubles than it does conventional singles. And that’s because you’re responsible for half the court like you might be in many situations of doubles.

The bold text is the reason I started playing skinny singles – to practice doubles techniques. My wife and I started playing “straight on.” That means that we played one half of the court hitting straight ahead.


Oh, the line call arguments we had when it came to dinking in the center!

I played in a tournament three or four years ago (before skinny singles was recognized by USAPA) and won a gold medal. How? By lobbing off a dink. The game was played straight on, as shown in the diagram.


However, because we weren’t really serving (you never serve straight ahead) my wife and I changed the game so that we served crosscourt based on our scores, like regular singles.


Of course, USAPA had to get involved and has come up with its own set of rules. You can read them at this link: https://usapickleball.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Approved-Instructions-plus-Examples-and-Tips-20220808.pdf

If you read this document, then you will see that the game will progress as follows:

The score is 0-0. Assume that the server wins the first point. The game will now be played as shown below (score is 1-0):

Here is my problem with this approach – you are now playing a ground stroke game, not a game in which the server is serving as he or she would in a real game. Yes, you still have a control game, but it is not realistic from a serving or receiving point of view.


This is my suggestion for a better way to play. This is based on a video (we cannot remember who posted it) my wife found on YouTube.

When the score for both players is odd or even, the game is played cross court. Assume that both players have odd scores, such as 3-3, or 3-1, 5-3, 7-9, etc.). The game would be plated as shown below.

If both players’ scores are even, then it would be played just as it would be of the score was 0-0.

Here is the twist in the game—when one player has an odd score, and the other has an even score, the return of serve is down the line, not crosscourt.

Assume that the score is 2-1, where the server has 2 points. The serve would be crosscourt, just as it would normally be. However, the receiver will return straight ahead and the game then proceeds straight ahead.

If one player had an even score and one player has an odd score, the game is played as shown below (server has an odd score).

Why is this better (in my opinion)? It is more realistic from the serving point of view, and it varies the return of serve. It also makes the server think a bit more strategically where to place the serve. In the example above where I am the server, I will stand more to the middle and serve down the middle so I can get into position to play the ball after it is returned. It is a more realistic game if you are practicing doubles techniques.

The other advantage to this game is that it gives the returner the opportunity to practice different returns of serve. In the example above, if I were the receiver, I would try to hit a deep, soft serve down the line, thereby giving me the chance to get to the net.


My wife and I decided to try stacking yesterday. We are both right-handed, so, because she is a better player than I am, I played the “Even” court, and she played the “odd” court.

So, assume that the score is 1-0 (or any odd score where the Even player will be serving). The Even player will move to the odd court to serve. After the serve, the Even player will move to the even court. Most likely, the returned will return to the even court for several reasons.

Serving from the odd court and moving to the even court is how the skinny singles game would be played as I described it when the scores are odd/even, so this skinny singles game is applicable to stacking.

Try all of these and see which one you like the best.