When comparing pickleball, paddleball and padel, it’s not uncommon for people to mistakenly assume that they’re the same game. Given the lack of understanding surrounding these relatively new racket sports, it comes as no surprise that people may get confused.
However, it’s important to recognise that each of these sports has its own distinct set of rules and characteristics that set them apart from one another.
To help you navigate through these differences and avoid confusion, we have prepared this article as a guide to distinguish between these sports. Continue reading as we break down the 5 key differences and provide clarity on the unique aspects of pickleball, paddleball and padel!
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a unique sport that brings together elements from various popular sports such as tennis, table tennis and badminton. It provides a fun and accessible option for people of all ages and skill levels to engage in a recreational or competitive activity.
Pickleball can be played with either two or four players, making it suitable for both singles and doubles matches. The game can be played both indoors and outdoors, on a court that is similar in size to a badminton court.
What is Paddleball?
Also known as paddle tennis, paddleball is one of the most popular racket sports in the United States (USA) today. It shares some similarities with pickleball but has its own unique characteristics and variations.
This sport is played on a court that is smaller than a traditional tennis court, with dimensions similar to a badminton court. The court is divided by a net and players use paddles, which are solid paddles with perforations, to hit a pressurised tennis ball.
There are two main variants of paddleball that you should be aware of:
- One-wall paddleball
- Four-wall paddleball
One-wall paddleball is a variant of paddleball that is played on a court with a single wall. The court layout typically consists of a front wall, floor and two side walls. This creates a three-sided playing area where players hit the ball against the front wall, while aiming to prevent their opponent from returning it successfully.
This variation of paddleball requires strategic shot placement and quick reflexes due to the limited court space and rebound strategies.
As its name suggests, four-wall paddleball takes place in an enclosed court with four walls.
The court’s design resembles that of a squash or racquetball court, with a front wall, two side walls and a back wall. The players use paddles to hit the ball against the walls, aiming to keep the ball in play and outmanoeuvre their opponents. This variant adds an additional layer of strategy and skill as players utilise the walls to create challenging shots and angles.
What is Padel?
Padel is a sport that draws inspiration from tennis. It features a specially designed ball that closely resembles a regular tennis ball but with softer texture. This unique characteristic results in slower gameplay, making it easier for players to strike and control the ball effectively.
One of the main advantages of playing padel is the enclosed court, where there are no concerns about hitting the ball out of bounds. Furthermore, the Padel court stands out for its significantly smaller size, measuring approximately one-third of a standard tennis court.
In this scale-down area, players are challenged to adapt their tactics by relying on precise ball placement and skillful shot execution to overcome their opponents.
Differences Between Pickleball, Paddleball and Padel
Now that you know more about the sports, let’s highlight their 5 key differences:
- Origins and history
- Popularity and global reach
- Equipment needed to play the sport
- Type and size of the court
- Gameplay and scoring system
For your convenience, we’ve also created a summary table for easier comparison.
|Founded in 1965, USA
|Founded in 1915, USA
|Founded in 1969, Mexico
|Over 8.9 billion players globally
|One of the most popular sports in the USA
|Over 25 million players worldwide
|Pickleball paddles and pickleballs
|Paddle tennis paddles and rubber balls
|Padel paddles and softer versions of tennis balls
|Court Size and Type
|Open court about the same size as a badminton court
|Open court for one-wall paddleball and enclosed court for four-wall paddleball
Court varies in size; typically smaller than a tennis court
|Enclosed court about one-third the size of a standard tennis court
|Gameplay and Scoring System
|Teams alternate serving and scoring points, with the server being the only one who can score
Each game is played to 11 points, with a minimum margin of 2 points to win
|Players hit the ball against the wall, scoring points when it bounces twice on the opposite side, hits an opponent, or hits the fencing
Each game is played to a predetermined number of points (15, 21 or 25), with a minimum margin of 2 points to win
|Players serve and score points when the ball bounces twice on the opposite side, hits an opponent, or the opposing team hits the fencing or another object
Similar scoring system as tennis, with a minimum margin of 2 points to win
1. Origins and History
Thanks to an innovative experiment, pickleball was first introduced in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum. These three individuals utilised table tennis paddles and perforated plastic balls to create a new sport in an old badminton court. After refining the game and establishing its rules, pickleball quickly gained popularity and has since become a unique sport that blends elements from tennis, table tennis and badminton.
Paddleball, on the other hand, traces its roots back to 1915 when Frank Peer Beal, an official from New York City, introduced the sport. Paddleball has steadily risen in popularity and is now considered one of the fastest-growing racket sports in the United States. Similar to pickleball, paddleball shares similarities with its gameplay and appeals to players across the country.
Padel, introduced by Mexican inventor Enrique Corcuera in 1969, brings a unique twist to the world of racket sports. Unlike the traditional one-on-one format of tennis, padel is played in teams of two. This team-oriented gameplay not only encourages camaraderie but also reduces the distance players need to cover on the court, making it a less physically demanding sport.
2. Popularity and Global Reach
Pickleball has emerged as the fastest growing sport in the United States, experiencing a remarkable growth rate of nearly 40% between 2019 and 2021. Although it initially gained popularity among older individuals, the sport has witnessed a steady rise in participation across various age groups.
Paddleball, with its numerous variations and diverse names, makes it challenging to quantify its entire player base accurately. Nevertheless, it’s evident that paddleball has been steadily gaining popularity over the years.
Lastly, padel has garnered a massive following, with over 25 million people playing the sport worldwide. In Europe, padel has become particularly popular in countries such as Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.
When it comes to equipment, pickleball is played with pickleball paddles that feature a solid hitting surface and a comfortable grip. The use of specialised balls with unique hole patterns adds an element of control and allows players to impart spin on their shots. This combination of paddles and specialised balls in pickleball provides a distinct blend of power and accuracy.
On the other hand, paddleball utilises paddle tennis paddles, which are solid and durable, designed to withstand the faster-paced nature of the game. Specially designed rubber balls provide the necessary bounce and responsiveness for players to generate speed and spin in their shots.
In contrast, padel employs padel paddles, which are perforated with holes and typically constructed with composite materials to offer a balance of control and power. The softer versions of tennis balls used in padel allow for more controlled shots, contributing to a gameplay style that emphasises precision, touch and strategic shot execution.
4. Court Size and Type
Pickleball is played on an open court with a net, featuring a court size that is comparable to a standard badminton court. The court is divided by a net, with each side having its own kitchen and service areas.
This scaled-down size creates a more intimate playing environment, enabling players to closely engage with the game and adapt their tactics accordingly.
When it comes to paddleball, the court size can vary depending on whether it is one-wall or four-wall paddleball. Typically, the courts are smaller than a traditional tennis court, creating a compact playing environment that encourages fast-paced and dynamic gameplay.
One-wall paddleball is played in an open area, while four-wall paddleball is usually played in an enclosed court. The enclosed nature of the four-wall court adds an additional layer of strategy and challenge as players must navigate the enclosed space.
Four-wall paddleball is often the more popular variation, and is known for its larger court size:
Meanwhile, the padel court is notably smaller, measuring approximately one-third the size of a standard tennis court. This scaled-down dimension creates a unique and strategic playing environment, where players must employ precise ball placement, astute shot selection and skillful execution to overcome their opponents.
5. Gameplay and Scoring System
In pickleball, the game starts with one team serving and the other team receiving. The serving team must hit the ball underhanded and diagonally cross-court, ensuring it clears the kitchen. The receiving team must allow the ball to bounce once before returning it.
Points can only be scored by the serving team, and a player continues to serve until they commit a fault. The game is typically played to 11 points, with a 2-point margin required to win.
Whereas for paddleball, the objective is to hit the ball against the front wall, aiming for it to bounce twice on the opponent’s side without being returned. The server must hit the ball underhanded, ensuring it first strikes the front wall and then rebounds into the opponent’s side.
Points are scored when the ball bounces twice on the opposite side, strikes an opponent or the opposing team hits the fencing or another fixture before returning the ball. The first team to reach a predetermined number of points (such as 15, 21, or 25) wins the game, with a 2-point margin required for victory.
In padel, the game starts with an underhand serve from one side of the court to the diagonal service box on the opposite side. The served ball must bounce on the serving side, and players must let it bounce once before hitting it back.
Points are scored when the ball bounces twice on the opposite side, hits an opponent or the opposing team hits the fencing or another fixture before returning the ball. Games or sets have a similar scoring system to tennis and must be won by a 2-point margin.
FAQs About Pickleball, Paddleball and Padel
Yes, pickleball is highly suitable for beginners and those with limited racket sport experience. The sport is designed to be accessible and easy to learn, with simplified rules and a slower pace compared to other racket sports. It provides a smooth transition for newcomers and allows them to quickly grasp the fundamentals of the game.
Yes, these sports are incredibly inclusive and suitable for both children and older adults.
Compared to more competitive racket sports like badminton and tennis, pickleball, paddleball and padel offer an equally enjoyable experience with less physical exertion.
This makes them highly appealing to individuals of all ages, including children and senior adults, who may prefer a less strenuous but still engaging activity.
Across pickleball, paddleball and padel, several common skills are essential for success in these sports. Some key ones include:
- Positioning and situational awareness
- Shot placement, serve and return
- Quick reflexes and agility
Many tennis players have successfully made the transition to playing pickleball. Here are some valuable tips to help you navigate the adjustment:
- Adapt your swing: In pickleball, the swing is shorter and more compact compared to tennis. Focus on adapting your swing technique to generate control and power in your pickleball shots.
- Modify your footwork: Footwork in pickleball differs from tennis due to the smaller court size. Adjust to the reduced court dimensions by emphasising shorter and more precise steps, enabling you to cover the court effectively and respond quickly to shots.
- Embrace the volley game: Pickleball involves more volleying than tennis. Improve your reflexes and hand-eye coordination to react swiftly at the net. Practise your volleys to gain confidence and capitalise on opportunities.
- Master dink shots: Dinks are an essential aspect of pickleball strategy. Hone your ability to execute delicate and precise dink shots, allowing you to control the pace and placement of the ball effectively.