Imagine you’re on the pickleball court and you’ve just been invited to join a doubles game. As you step onto the court, you start to wonder how the rules differ from playing singles. Will the court dimensions change? Can you serve in a different way? In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between doubles and singles rules in pickleball, so you can feel confident and ready to dominate the doubles game.

How Do Doubles Rules Differ From Singles Rules In Pickleball

Court Size and Dimensions

Court size for doubles

In doubles pickleball, the court size is the same as for singles. The dimensions of the pickleball court are 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, with the net positioned at the center, dividing the court into two equal halves. Each half is further divided into two sections, the non-volley zone (NVZ) and the rest of the court. The NVZ extends 7 feet from the net on both sides and runs parallel to it.

Court size for singles

For singles pickleball, the court size is slightly different from doubles. The dimensions of the singles pickleball court are 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, just like in doubles. However, the NVZ in singles extends only from the centerline to the baseline, creating a smaller playing area compared to doubles. This modified court size allows for more focused gameplay and quicker movements.

Dimensions of the court

To give you a clearer picture, imagine standing on the base-, center-, and sideline. The court extends 10 feet on each side of the base-, center-, and sideline. Standing at the non-volley line, you would be standing 7 feet from the net. This clear division of the court ensures that each player knows their boundaries and positioning, leading to efficient gameplay.


Order of serving

In doubles pickleball, the serving order is determined at the beginning of the game and follows a rotating pattern. The team that wins the coin toss or the initial serve gets to choose whether they want to serve or receive. Once the serving team loses their point, the serve rotates to their opponents. The serving team continues to serve until they commit a fault, allowing the receiving team to take their turn.

Number of serves

Each player on the serving team gets one chance to serve before it rotates to their partner. This means that in doubles, there are generally two serves per side before the serve goes to the other team. The number of serves, however, can depend on the specific pickleball rules being followed. It’s important to clarify the rules before playing to avoid any confusion.

Fault rules for serving

There are specific fault rules that must be followed during the serving phase in pickleball. The server must stand behind the baseline and within the sideline while serving. They must hit the ball underhanded, keeping at least one foot on the ground until contact is made. If the serve does not land in the diagonal court of the opposing team, it is considered out. Other fault rules include stepping on or into the NVZ during the serve or volleying the ball before it bounces.

How Do Doubles Rules Differ From Singles Rules In Pickleball

Play Area

Player positioning

In doubles pickleball, player positioning is crucial to ensure efficient court coverage and effective teamwork. At the start of every point, each team generally positions themselves in a side-by-side formation. One player extends closer to the centerline, while their partner takes a slightly wider position towards the sideline. This positioning allows players to defend against both cross-court and sideline shots, creating a strong defensive stance.

Strategy and shot selection

Pickleball is not just about hitting the ball back and forth; it requires strategic shot selection. A successful doubles pickleball player should focus on shot placement, aiming to hit the ball where their opponents are not. This could mean aiming for the sidelines, placing shots deep in the court, or directing shots towards the feet of opponents to limit their mobility. Good shot selection can help control the pace of the game and force errors from the opposing team.

Scoring System

Point system

In doubles pickleball, the scoring system follows the traditional rally scoring system. This means that points can be scored by either team, regardless of which team is serving. Each time a team wins a rally, they are awarded one point. The team that reaches 11 points first (with a two-point margin) wins the game. However, if both teams reach 10 points, the game continues until one team achieves a two-point lead.

Rotation of serve

After winning a rally, the serving team scores a point and retains the service. However, the team members switch positions, meaning the person who served previously now becomes the receiver. This rotation ensures that each player has an opportunity to serve during the game, eliminating any potential advantage.

Winning points

Points can be won in multiple ways during a game of doubles pickleball. If the ball bounces twice on the opposing team’s side, goes out of bounds, or is hit into the net, a point is awarded to the opposing team. Additionally, if the serving team commits a fault during the serve, such as stepping into the NVZ or hitting the ball out of bounds, a point is awarded to the receiving team.

How Do Doubles Rules Differ From Singles Rules In Pickleball


Verbal communication

Clear and effective communication is vital in doubles pickleball. Verbal communication plays a significant role in coordinating with your partner on the court. By calling out shots you plan to make, strategies you want to employ, or simply providing encouragement, you can ensure that you and your partner are on the same page. Clear communication can help avoid confusion and improve your teamwork.

Non-verbal communication

While verbal communication is important, non-verbal communication also plays a crucial role in doubles pickleball. Non-verbal cues like hand signals, eye contact, positioning, and body language can convey important information to your partner without the need for words. For example, a quick glance towards a specific area of the court can indicate where you want your partner to position themselves. These non-verbal cues allow for quick decision-making and streamlined gameplay.


Number of paddles

In doubles pickleball, each player is typically equipped with their own paddle. This means that a team consists of two players, each with their own paddle. Having your own paddle allows players to choose a paddle that suits their playing style and preferences, leading to better performance on the court.

Singles-specific equipment

While doubles pickleball generally involves each player having their own paddle, singles also follows the same equipment requirements. Each player in singles pickleball is equipped with a paddle specifically chosen for their playing style and personal preference. However, in singles, players may prioritize different paddle characteristics that suit their individual gameplay needs.

Doubles-specific equipment

In addition to the standard equipment used in both singles and doubles pickleball, there are some doubles-specific equipment considerations. Using a good quality, durable pickleball, designed specifically for doubles play, is crucial in doubles pickleball. These pickleballs are designed to withstand the demands of aggressive play and provide optimal performance on the court. Additionally, having proper footwear with good traction can enhance your movement and agility during doubles play.

How Do Doubles Rules Differ From Singles Rules In Pickleball

Strategies and Tactics

Working as a team

One of the key aspects of doubles pickleball is the ability to work seamlessly as a team. Effective teamwork involves coordinating shots, covering the court strategically, and communicating effectively. Understanding your partner’s strengths and weaknesses and capitalizing on them can give you a competitive edge. Trusting your partner’s decisions and supporting each other throughout the game are also important factors in successful doubles play.

Covering the court

In doubles pickleball, court coverage is a crucial element of strategy. As a team, you should aim to cover as much of the court as possible to limit your opponents’ shot options. Communication between partners is essential to ensure that both sides of the court are adequately covered. By anticipating shots and moving efficiently, you can effectively defend against your opponents’ attacks and maintain control of the game.

Setting up plays

Strategic shot placement can help set up plays in doubles pickleball. By intentionally placing shots to specific areas of the court, you can create opportunities for your partner to follow up with a winning shot. This may involve aiming for an opening in your opponents’ defense, forcing them into a difficult position, or setting up a shot that takes advantage of their weaknesses. Working in sync with your partner and having a shared understanding of the game plan can maximize your chances of success.

Doubles Serving

Cross-court serving

Cross-court serving is a common strategy used in doubles pickleball. By serving diagonally across the court, you can aim to exploit your opponents’ weaker side or force them into a defensive position. Cross-court serves can also create angles that are harder for your opponents to return, giving you an advantage in the rally. However, it’s important to vary your serves to keep your opponents guessing and prevent them from anticipating your shots.

Stacking system

The stacking system is a serving strategy used in doubles pickleball to gain a tactical advantage. In this system, both players on the serving team stand on the same side of the court, typically the right side. This allows the server to have a wider angle for serving, making it more challenging for the receiver to return the ball effectively. After the serve, players can switch back to the regular side-by-side position to cover the court efficiently.

How Do Doubles Rules Differ From Singles Rules In Pickleball

Doubles Return of Serve

Return position

The return position in doubles pickleball varies depending on the serving strategy used by the opposing team. If your opponents are using a regular side-by-side serve, you should position yourself between your partner and the sideline, slightly behind the non-volley line. This allows you to cover the majority of the court and quickly react to shots. If your opponents are using the stacking system, you may need to adjust your positioning to account for the wider angles of the serve.

Communication between partners

Effective communication between partners is crucial during the return of serve in doubles pickleball. By calling out shots, signals, or strategies, you can coordinate with your partner and ensure that you both understand the plan for the return. Clear communication can also help prevent any confusion or collisions between partners during the fast-paced action of the return of serve.


Determining who hits the ball

In doubles pickleball, decision-making on who hits the ball can be fluid and dynamic. Typically, the player who is better positioned and has a higher chance of successfully returning the shot will take the shot. As the ball is in play, quick decision-making between partners is crucial to avoid confusion and maximize the team’s chances of success. Trusting each other’s judgment and having a shared understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses helps make split-second decisions on the court.

Handling out-of-bounds shots

When a shot goes out of bounds in doubles pickleball, it’s crucial to make the right decision regarding the ball’s location. If the ball lands outside the boundaries of the court, it is considered out and the team that hit the shot loses the point. However, if the ball lands on the line, it is considered in, and the play continues. Making accurate judgments on whether a shot is in or out, and communicating clearly with your partner, can help you make informed decisions during the game.

In summary, doubles pickleball differs from singles pickleball in various aspects, including court size, serving rules, communication, strategies, and equipment considerations. Understanding these differences and implementing effective tactics can enhance teamwork and performance in doubles pickleball. By mastering the unique elements of doubles play, you can elevate your game and enjoy the thrilling experience of playing with a partner.

By CallieSports

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