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Pickleball vs Tennis: 10 Differences You Must Know About

If you’ve ever wondered about the differences between pickleball and tennis, then you’ve come to the right place. 

Pickleball, a newcomer on the sports scene, artfully fuses aspects from tennis, badminton and ping pong. It takes place on a smaller court with paddle-like rackets and a lightweight ball, creating a dynamic sport that requires precision and agility.

In contrast, we have the timeless classic known as tennis. Renowned for its elegance and intensity, tennis unfolds on a more spacious court with conventional rackets. The focal point lies in potent shots and well-thought-out strategic manoeuvres.

Whether it’s court dimensions, equipment, scoring systems or tactics during play, consider this your comprehensive guide to understanding the nuanced contrasts when it comes to pickleball vs tennis!

1. Type of Equipment

Pickleball:

When it comes to equipment, pickleball embraces lighter, solid pickleball paddles crafted from either wood or composite materials. On the ball front, pickleballs stand out due to their smaller size and construction from perforated plastic.

Pickleball Paddles

Tip!

Read our guide to discover the best pickleball paddles for tennis players!

Tennis:

Contemporary tennis involves players wielding a strung racket crafted from graphite or a composite mix of carbon fibre, kevlar, titanium, and fibreglass. The tennis ball, comparatively larger and covered in felt, delivers higher bounce. 

As a result, tennis leans towards delivering greater power and spin, while in contrast, pickleball places emphasis on precision and finesse.

2. Size, Shape and Layout of Court

Pickleball:

Pickleball courts adopt a more compact and rectangular configuration, measuring 13.4m in length and 6.1m in width. Within this area, a central dividing line splits the court into two halves, each featuring a service court that spans 3.05m by 4.57m.

Size of Pickleball Court

This unique court size injects a distinct rhythm into the game and prompts players to make strategic decisions that align with its dimensions.

Tennis:

On the other end of the spectrum, tennis courts take up larger rectangular spaces. Singles matches unfurl on courts measuring 23.77m in length and 8.23m in width. For doubles matches, the width stretches to 10.97m. 

This larger expanse sets the stage for a different kind of play, encouraging longer rallies and showcasing the players’ ability to cover ground efficiently.

3. Net Height

Pickleball:

Net Height

When it comes to net height, pickleball stands apart by featuring a shorter net compared to tennis. The net measures 0.91 metres at the sidelines and slightly less at 0.86 metres at the centre. This lower net height plays a pivotal role in shaping the fast-paced and ever-changing dynamics of pickleball. 

The emphasis here lies on deft net play and masterful precision in shot execution.

Tennis:

Contrasting pickleball, tennis boasts a taller net, reaching 0.91 metres at its centre. This elevated net height plays a crucial part in emphasising the significance of powerful groundstrokes and skillful court utilisation. 

It encourages players to strategise effectively in order to seize opportunities across the larger court dimensions.

4. Gameplay

Pickleball:

Pickleball brings together an exquisite fusion of precision and agility, making it an inviting sport for participants of all ages and fitness levels. Occupying a smaller court that’s roughly a quarter of the size of a tennis court, pickleball calls for quick reflexes and spot-on shot placement. Typically played in doubles, this format accentuates the social and collaborative aspects of the game.

The pickleball paddle, smaller and lighter compared to a tennis racket, encourages controlled shots and rapid exchanges at close quarters. The ball, akin to a wiffle ball, maintains a moderate pace, enabling players to indulge in prolonged rallies that prioritise finesse over sheer power. 

With the court’s dimensions and equipment’s characteristics, pickleball rallies often involve rapid-fire volleys near the net, where players exhibit their agility and delicate touch.

If you’re looking to elevate your pickleball game, here are 11 tips on how to become a pro pickleball player!

Tennis:

In contrast, tennis showcases a captivating dance between power and endurance. Unfolding on a larger court, the sport requires players to traverse more ground, resulting in extended rallies and calculated positioning. With a bigger tennis racket, players can generate significant speed and spin on the ball, giving rise to formidable serves, groundstrokes, and net strategies.

Tennis enthusiasts can opt for either singles or doubles play, providing a choice between individual prowess and collaborative teamwork. The tennis ball, comparatively heavier than its pickleball counterpart, zooms at a brisker pace, demanding quick reflexes and on-the-fly decision-making. The augmented court dimensions also demand players to exhibit heightened stamina and resilience over the course of a match.

5. Serving

Pickleball:

When it comes to serving in pickleball, finesse and precision are key players. Positioned behind the baseline, players opt for an underhand swing motion for their serve. The serve must successfully clear the non-volley zone, often dubbed the “kitchen,” and land diagonally across the court. 

This delicate placement kickstarts rallies with strategic precision, setting the stage for well-placed shots and swift net volleys. It’s important to note that a player only gets one attempt per point to make their serve count.

Tennis:

In tennis, serving takes on a different persona, combining power and spin for an added edge. Serving from behind the baseline, players employ an overhand motion, generating speed and spin that results in unpredictable ball trajectories. The served ball must sail over the net and within the confines of the opponent’s service box. Tennis serves often reach remarkable speeds, with professionals regularly delivering serves exceeding 120 mph. 

Players are granted two chances—known as the first and second serve—per point. This dual opportunity approach promotes strategic diversity and fuels calculated aggression.

6. Double Bounce Rule

Pickleball:

One of the standout distinctions between pickleball and tennis lies in the double bounce rule exclusive to pickleball. This rule dictates that, after serving, the serving team must let the ball bounce once on their side of the court before striking it. 

Similarly, the receiving team also adheres to this rule, permitting the ball to bounce once on their side before opting for a volley (hitting the ball before it bounces). This two-bounce guideline infuses a distinctive rhythm and strategy into pickleball, resulting in shorter rallies and a heightened emphasis on net play.

Tennis: 

Unlike pickleball, tennis operates without a double bounce rule. Following a serve, players possess the liberty to either hit the ball before it bounces or allow it to bounce once on their side before returning it. 

This absence of the double bounce rule contributes to longer rallies in tennis and grants players a broader array of shot possibilities.

7. No-Volley Zone

Pickleball:

Within the pickleball court lies a designated non-volley zone, often referred to as the “kitchen.” Extending 2.13m from the net on both sides, this area holds a unique rule: volleys (hitting the ball before it bounces) are prohibited within the non-volley zone, except for instances where the ball has already bounced. 

This rule serves to balance the game, preventing excessive net domination and promoting a dynamic blend of volleys and groundstrokes that add nuance to each play.

Tennis: 

In tennis, you won’t find a No-Volley Zone. Players possess the freedom to execute volleys at any point on the court, including near the net. This flexibility empowers tennis players to advance to the net, applying pressure on their opponents. 

Whether aiming for commanding volleys or well-placed drop shots, this manoeuvring can lead to swift points and shifts in momentum during the match.

8. Scoring System

Pickleball:

Pickleball adopts a refreshingly straightforward scoring system that encourages continuous action and swift point accumulation. In this game, only the serving team has the chance to score points. 

With matches typically played to 11 points, teams must secure victory by a lead of two points. The serving team gains a point with every won rally, and serving alternates between teams after each point. Should the serving team make a fault, such as hitting the ball into the net or out of bounds, the opposing team seizes the serve and the opportunity to accumulate points. 

Often played as the best of three games, pickleball matches tend to be faster due to the rally-based scoring system.

Tennis:

Tennis showcases a more intricate scoring system that interweaves points, games and sets. Points are accrued in increments of 15, 30, 40 and ultimately game, with a player needing to secure a minimum of four points and lead by a margin of two to claim a game. 

To secure a set, a player must triumph in at least six games and, once more, lead by a margin of two. If games are tied at 6-6, a tiebreaker comes into play to determine the set winner. In the tiebreaker, the first player or team to reach seven points and maintain a two-point lead emerges victorious. 

Matches are usually played as the best of three sets (for women) or the best of five sets (for men) during Grand Slam tournaments.

9. Game Duration

Pickleball:

Pickleball distinguishes itself with its relatively concise game duration, attributed to its smaller court size and the rally-based scoring system. A typical pickleball match can conclude within a span of 20 to 30 minutes, rendering it an appealing choice for individuals seeking dynamic recreational engagement or those constrained by time limitations.

Tennis: 

Tennis, in contrast, encompasses a broader spectrum of match durations. A standard set’s length varies from 20 minutes to well over an hour, contingent upon factors like players’ competitiveness, the number of games contested, and the tempo of the match. 

Grand Slam matches, featuring up to five sets, exhibit a range from swift one-hour bouts to extended multiple-hour clashes, contingent upon the level of competition and the closely contested nature of the showdown.

10. Accessibility

Pickleball:

Pickleball takes the lead in terms of accessibility, primarily owing to its lower-impact characteristics. The reduced court size results in less ground to cover, providing players the chance to enjoy the game without extensive running. This quality renders it a fantastic option for individuals with limited mobility, beginners, or those seeking a more gentle form of exercise utilising lighter equipment. The underhand serve in pickleball further minimises strain on the shoulder and elbow, mitigating the risk of overuse injuries.

Moreover, pickleball’s affordability significantly contributes to its accessibility. Both the paddles and the distinctive whiffle-style pickleballs are not only cost-effective but also widely accessible.

What’s more, you can conveniently discover numerous playing venues nearby, making it easier to engage in the game.

Pickleball Accessibility

Tennis:

While offering its own array of advantages, tennis might be perceived as comparatively less accessible due to its higher-impact nature, pricier equipment, and potentially steeper learning curve. 

The overhand serve in tennis places added demands on the shoulder and arm, potentially leading to increased strain, particularly for those new to the sport.

FAQs About Pickleball vs Tennis

Pickleball is known for its shorter rallies, precise ball placement, and emphasis on strategic net play. The game's doubles format encourages teamwork and quick reflexes at the net.

Meanwhile, tennis involves longer rallies, faster-paced gameplay, and a wider variety of shots and strokes. The singles format allows players to cover the entire court and execute powerful groundstrokes.

Yes, transitioning from playing tennis to pickleball, or vice versa, is possible and can be a smooth process for many players. Both sports share some similarities in terms of racket skills and court awareness, which can help facilitate the transition.

While some of your tennis skills, such as hand-eye coordination and court awareness, will be transferable to pickleball, you may need to learn new techniques specific to the sport. Pickleball requires different shot-making strategies, softer touch, and precise ball placement due to the slower ball speed and smaller court size.

In pickleball, there are 4 main types of grips. Players commonly use a continental grip or an eastern backhand grip, which differs from the grips used in tennis. Practise adjusting your grip to maintain control and comfortably execute different shots in pickleball.

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Kuan
Kuan
Playing video games and taking naps are two of Kuan's favourite activities. He also has interests in space exploration and philosophy. When he was a kid, he had dreams of becoming an astronaut.

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