Perhaps you’ve had days when only three players are available. Three-player pickleball is called “Australian.” If anyone knows why it’s called ‘Australian,’ please leave a comment below.
There are several variations of Australian. A common one is for the best player to remain on one side of the court, facing two opponents. The opponents must always return the ball into the half of the court in which the single player is standing. The single player can return the ball anywhere.
The single player will win more rallies because it takes some extra skill to place the ball in only half the court, and because the single player doesn’t have to move very much to cover all necessary territory.
A particularly skilled, energetic or crazy player may choose to cover the entire court.
The single player will typically get only one serve. That means that they can continue serving while winning each rally, but if a rally is lost, it goes to the opponent in the right-hand court. Just like ordinary doubles pickleball, that opponent serves until a rally is lost, then the serve goes to the other opponent. So, to partially make up for the advantage of playing only half-court, the single player gets only the one serve.
If all the players are nearly equal in skill, there might be some resentment if one always opposes the other two. That may happen even if a game is being played to 7 or 11 points before rotating so someone else is the single player.
Therefore another variation is ‘Two-Failure Australian.’ The way that works is that the single player can remain the single player only until s/he has lost two rallies. At that point, everyone rotates clockwise, so someone else gets a chance as the single player. The single player serves every rally.
Most often, score is not kept. If the players do want to keep score, just like doubles pickleball, it is a three-part score. However, the score starts with the single player’s score, then the opponent in the right court (from their perspective), and finally the opponent in the left court. So, score is kept clockwise from the server.
Another variation is even more confusing. That is a four-part score. The single player says their own score first, then the player clockwise (in the right side court), then the player in the left court, and finally ‘one’ or ‘two’ depending on whether s/he has had zero failures, or one failure so far.