Pickleball vs Tennis – Popularity, Equipment & Differences

Tennis v Pickleball comparison

If you are looking to understand the comparison between pickleball and tennis, along with its differences, similarities and the multiple other things which sets them on the kind of pedestal we put them as the sports we love, then here’s a brilliant guide to look into.

So, let’s dig right into this…

What is more popular, Tennis or Pickleball?

The obvious answer to this is tennis. Tennis is one of the most popular individual sports of all times, all around the world. It’s played by over 60 million people, children, men and women, and if you think of football, baseball and cricket, tennis is right up there with these world popular sports.

So where does Pickleball fit in? Well, it’s not yet in the top ten of sports, but it is a very popular sport for people who want something similar to tennis but don’t have access to a tennis court, don’t have a lot of time on their hands, and prefer something not so hard on the body. It’s also fantastic for people who want to play a game that is similar to tennis but also just have fun!

Pickleball is quite loud, quite competitive, and quite – funky!

A Pickleball court is smaller than a Tennis court. Pickleball courts are 44 feet x 20 feet. Tennis courts are 78 feet x 36 feet. Given that a Pickleball court is much smaller, it makes sense to think that Pickleball is the easier game. It’s also a game where the serve is underhand, which immediately lets you know that the game is easier than tennis.

If you are a tennis player, you can play Pickleball. That does not mean you have to be able to play tennis to play Pickleball, but it does help you.

Let’s compare the two sports in a few different ways.

Are Tennis players good at Pickleball?

Yes, they are. Like any sport, if you have played something similar then it is going to be easy for you to pick up.

Many tennis players choose Pickleball because they want to play a similar game to tennis where they can have fun and not worry as much about the competition.

Many choose Pickleball because mostly doubles is played, the game is really quick and because of the fun factor. When people say is Pickleball like tennis, pickleball is similar to tennis in that the same forehand, backhand, volley and lob shots are used, with a bit more wrist action, but the court is different, the rule are different and the serve is different.

One of the examples of an ex-tennis player doing well in pickleball is Kaitlyn Christian, who makes our list of the best 10 pickleball players ever here.

Can Pickleball hurt your Tennis game?

The jury is out on this one. If you are a serious tennis player, as in going for major national or world tournaments, then you should only concentrate on tennis.

If you are playing for exercise and fun, then we don’t think you have to worry too much. Pickleball does have a lot more wrist action and a paddle is used as well as plastic ball with a very different bounce.

It does mean you return balls differently, you may well do more ‘scooping’ in pickleball than in tennis, but most human bodies are pretty incredible. As long as you are not playing competitively, you can swap between tennis and pickleball.

It may take a game or so to get back into the (literal) swing of things, but you will get back to it! Think of all the tennis players who also play squash or racketball and tennis. There are a lot which means even if you are worried and thinking will pickleball hurt my tennis game, it’s unlikely if you practice both.

And of course, you can always choose to favour one.

Is Pickleball tougher than Tennis?

Once you have learned how to play either game (find our pickleball rules guide here), they are both fairly seamless. You need to follow the rules, you need to learn the basic shots and then you need to practice. It’s a good idea to bear in mind that while pickleball is similar to tennis, the rules, speed and court are pretty different.

So while pickleball is similar to tennis and tennis is probably the harder to play, strategically and competitively, it is pretty hard to compare the two sports.

The one thing that does make pickleball easier is the underhand serve. Tennis players must use an overhand serve to be competitive (of course there are a few like Nick Kyrgios who might surprise their opponents with an underarm one) and many tennis players struggle with the service more than anything. Also, pickleball is on a smaller court and mostly doubles is played.

Is the same equipment used for Pickleball and Tennis?

Apart from the sports attire, totally different equipment is used.

Pickleball and tennis shoes are the same which means that pickleball and tennis clothing is the same. But the rackets are completely different – Pickleball uses a paddle – and the balls are completely different.

A Pickleball is smaller and lighter and does not have the same bounce as a tennis ball. When you play pickleball at a sports club, and many have pickleball courts as well as tennis courts, you can sometimes hire the pickleball paddles.

We suggest that if you are going to be playing regularly, buy your own pickleball paddle. In the same way tennis players have their favourite rackets, Pickleballers have their favorite paddles. And if you want to understand where and how to buy your pickleball equipment, get our ultimate guide to all possible options here.

Who can play Pickleball and Tennis?

The game can be played by anyone young enough to hold a paddle and old enough to run around a court.

It’s a game that is great fun for all ages and while many older players choose Pickleball because tennis has been a bit hard on their bodies over time, it is not only older players that play the sport.

Many younger players are choosing Pickleball because it is an accessible sport. Tennis is also played by people of all ages but it caters more to the younger players given its physical nature.

Can we play Pickleball on a Tennis court?

Many people ask is pickleball similar to tennis and can we play on a tennis court? The answer to this is no and yes.

The courts are different so unless a club has a shared tennis / pickleball court (using different colors for the lines) you do need to play on a pickleball court. There are many pickleball courts all over America, at sports clubs, at schools and colleges, sometimes near a holiday centre or the beach. A Pickleball court has a net that is 34 inches in the middle.

A tennis court is 36 inches. A Pickleball court comes with the net and your sports club would usually have the net at the right height for you. If not, and you are wondering how do you lower a tennis net for Pickleball, you just move it down 2 inches!

So, to summarize the Rules of Tennis v Pickleball?

Pickleball

Tennis

The serve must be an underhand motion

The serve can be an overhand action

Contact with the ball can only be made below the hips

Contact with the ball can only be made from anywhere

Server must stand behind the baseline; no foot faults are acceptable

Server must stand behind the baseline; no foot faults are acceptable

If the ball touches the net and goes in, it is a let and point’s to
be replayed

If the ball touches the net and goes in, it is a let and point’s to
be replayed

There is only one serve per point

If the first serve goes out, the server has another serve

The receiver must play the first shot off-the-bounce

The receiver can return the serve without a bounce

There is a no-volley zone (called kitchen)

Players can volley from anywhere on their side of the court

Points are scored only on serve

Points can be scored on serve and return

You can also look to play pickleball on clay courts these days, much like tennis.

Stan Boone

I am the editor of Racket Sports World. I love my tennis, pickleball and most of the other racket sports played around the world and started this blog as my way to help other racquet sports fans even as I learn, explore and improve by connecting with them. Tweet at https://twitter.com/StanBooneTennis.

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