Pickleball vs. Tennis: Similarities and Differences

Pickleball vs. Tennis: Similarities and Differences - Fresh Pickle Designs

Pickleball, an intriguing hybrid of badminton, tennis, and table tennis, has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. It is played on a court similar to a doubles badminton court, using paddles and a plastic ball with holes, and borrows elements from tennis including the net and scoring mechanism. Let's review a detailed comparison of pickleball and tennis, understanding their similarities, differences, and unique quirks that set them apart as individual sports.

Pickleball and Tennis Similarities of Each Sport


The equipment required is fairly similar for both sports. Players need a racquet in tennis or a paddle in pickleball, both of which are used to strike a ball over the net. The balls used in both sports are lightweight, and while a tennis ball is fuzz-covered and air-filled, a pickleball is perforated with holes. Despite these slight differences, the swinging motion and hand-eye coordination required to hit the ball is quite similar in both games, making it easy for players to adapt from one sport to the other.

Court Structure:

Both pickleball and tennis courts have a rectangular shape with markings to indicate service boxes and baseline areas. The net divides the court into two halves, and players must serve from behind the baseline. However, the size of the courts differs, with a tennis court being significantly larger. This similarity in court structure provides a familiar environment for tennis players trying out pickleball, helping to make the transition between the two sports much easier.

Scoring System:

In both sports, the scoring system is somewhat similar. In pickleball, like tennis, the server is the only person who can score points. Pickleball games are typically played to 11, 15, or 21 points, with the player or team needing to win by at least two points. It mirrors the need to win by two games in a tennis set, reinforcing the competitive spirit inherent in both sports

Service Rules:

In both pickleball and tennis, the server must serve from behind the baseline and the serve must land in the opponent's service box. Additionally, in both sports, the serve is diagonal, starting from the right-hand side (the deuce court in tennis).

Doubles Play:

Both pickleball and tennis can be played in a doubles format, which adds a layer of strategy and teamwork to the game. In doubles play, communication and coordination between partners become essential. Players need to be constantly aware of their partner's position and the overall game situation to make effective plays. This similarity in play format further illustrates the kinship between these two racquet (or paddle) sports, making the switch from one to another a less daunting proposition for enthusiasts.

Pickleball and Tennis Differences of Each Sport


Tennis is played with strung tennis racquets and felt-covered tennis balls with a rubber core, while pickleball is played with solid pickleball paddles and a perforated plastic ball, similar to a wiffle ball. The pickleball paddle is smaller than a tennis racquet but larger than a ping pong paddle.

Court Size:


A standard pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court. A pickleball court measures 20x44 feet, which is about a quarter of the size of a tennis court. This smaller size makes the game less physically demanding.


What truly sets pickleball apart from tennis are its unique rules around serving and

scoring, as well as the 'non-volley zone', or 'kitchen', which is a seven-foot zone on both sides of the net where volleying is prohibited. These unique aspects add a distinctive flavor to the sport, making it an exciting alternative to traditional racket sports.

Serving Rules:

In tennis, players most commonly use an overhand serve and do not typically let the ball bounce on a serve attempt. Unlike tennis, in pickleball, the serve must be underhand and the ball needs to bounce once on each side before volleys (hitting the ball before it bounces) are allowed.

Scoring System:

While pickleball and tennis both require the server to score, the counting system is different. Tennis uses a unique scoring system (love, 15, 30, 40, game), whereas pickleball uses standard numerical scoring (1,2,3, etc).

Net Height:

The net in pickleball is lower than in tennis. A pickleball net is set at 34 inches at the center, whereas a tennis net is 36 inches at the center and 42 inches at the posts.

Common questions from individuals evaluating Pickleball as a new sport

Why do they call the game Pickleball?

The origins of the name 'pickleball' are often a subject of debate. One popular theory relates the story of the game's inventors, who had a dog named Pickles. Allegedly, Pickles enjoyed chasing the wiffle balls during the game, thus leading to the name 'pickleball.'

However, one of the game's co-founders, Barney McCallum, refuted this theory, stating that the sport was named after the term 'pickle boat,' which refers to the last boat to return with its catch in fishing parlance. The game being a mix of different sports, it was thought to be akin to the pickle boat, which was filled with the 'leftovers' from all other boats.

What sports is Pickleball most similar to?

Pickleball shares distinct similarities with several other racquet sports such as tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. The court dimensions and layout closely resemble that of a badminton court, while the net and scoring rules are a hybrid of tennis and ping-pong.

The game often appeals to players familiar with these sports, offering a unique blend of elements that require both physical agility and strategic thinking.

Why is Pickleball so popular?

Pickleball's rising popularity can be attributed to several factors. The game is easy to learn and play, making it a hit among people of all ages and skill levels. It's less physically demanding than sports like tennis or badminton, making it a viable choice for older adults and those seeking a fun, low-impact form of exercise.

The equipment required is minimal and affordable, further boosting its appeal. Additionally, the social aspect of pickleball, which often involves doubles play and fosters a sense of community, cannot be underestimated in contributing to its widespread popularity.

Is Pickleball great exercise?

Absolutely! Pickleball is an excellent form of exercise that caters to all fitness levels. It combines elements of cardio, agility, and balance. The game involves brisk movements which help increase heart rate, improving cardiovascular health. The quick side-to-side actions develop agility and enhance coordination skills. Regular play can also promote weight loss, build muscle strength, and boost overall endurance.

Aside from physical benefits, pickleball also enhances mental acuity as it necessitates strategic planning and quick decision-making. So, whether you're looking for a fun, social activity or a new way to get fit, pickleball can be a fantastic choice.

Can you play pickleball on a tennis court?

Yes, you can play pickleball on a tennis court. In fact, it's quite common for pickleball to be played on modified tennis courts. The court is marked out to match the smaller dimensions of a standard pickleball court, typically using temporary lines or tape.

The net in tennis is slightly higher than that used in pickleball, so adjustments may need to be made to ensure it aligns with the standardized pickleball height. Therefore, while a tennis court can be easily adapted for a game of pickleball, players must ensure they adhere to the correct measurements and specifications for an authentic gameplay experience.

Common questions about Pickleball from Tennis players

Is Pickleball an easier sport?

Pickleball is often perceived as an easier sport than tennis, particularly for beginners or those seeking a less strenuous activity. This predominantly stems from the smaller court size, lighter paddles, and slower-moving ball, which collectively make pickleball more accessible and less physically demanding. Despite these differences, pickleball can still offer a significant physical workout and requires a strategic approach to succeed.

Moreover, the social and community aspect of pickleball creates a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, which can make the game feel easier and more enjoyable to many. Nonetheless, like any sport, the level of difficulty in pickleball can vary greatly depending on the skill and fitness level of the players involved.

What is the main strategy difference between pickleball and tennis?

The fundamental strategy difference between pickleball and tennis lies in their respective playing styles and game tactics. In tennis, power and speed are essential, with players often aiming to hit the ball with high velocity and precision, either to keep their opponent at the back of the court or to make them run along the baseline. On the other hand, pickleball favors placement over power.

The primary strategy in pickleball is to keep the ball low and force opponents to lift it, creating opportunities for tactical shots. The existence of the non-volley zone, or 'kitchen', also adds a unique strategic element to pickleball not found in tennis, requiring players to exhibit finesse and control when playing shots from this area.

Why is pickleball so noisy?

Pickleball's notorious reputation for being a noisy sport is primarily due to the materials and design of the game's equipment. The game is played with solid paddles usually made of wood, composite, or graphite, and a perforated plastic ball—similar to a wiffle ball. When struck with the paddle, the ball produces a distinct, loud "popping" sound that can be quite disruptive, especially in a confined space or quiet neighborhood.

Additionally, the nature of the game—which involves frequent, high-speed exchanges—exacerbates the noise level. Measures such as using quieter paddles or balls, implementing noise barriers, and setting suitable hours of play can be taken to mitigate the noise associated with the game.

Why is the pickleball serve underhanded?

The serve in pickleball is executed underhand to keep the gameplay fair and balanced. An underhand serve prevents the server from gaining an overly aggressive advantage at the start of the point, as it is harder to generate speed or spin compared to overhand serves used in tennis or volleyball.

This results in a serve that is easier for the receiver to return, promoting longer rallies and a more strategic, rather than power-driven, game. The specific rules of pickleball also dictate that the paddle must be moving in an upward motion when contacting the ball and the serve must be hit from below the waist, further enforcing this underhand serve technique.

Do you really exercise when playing pickleball?

Yes, indeed, pickleball provides a fantastic workout. The game involves a lot of movement, including running, lunging, and swift direction changes, all of which contribute to cardiovascular fitness. It helps to improve agility, balance and hand-eye coordination due to the quick volleys and strategic ball placements.

Additionally, the game can be quite intense when played at a higher level, increasing calorie burn. However, the lower impact nature of pickleball compared to sports like tennis or basketball, makes it more accessible for people of all ages or those with joint issues, while still providing a good dose of exercise.

Pickleball vs Tennis: Both are both great sports, but Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport for a reason

Pickleball is a dynamic and rapidly growing sport that offers numerous benefits.

It combines the strategic gameplay of traditional racket sports with an approachable underhand serve technique, making it an inclusive and accessible game for all ages and skill levels.

While providing a substantial workout, pickleball also fosters a sense of community, as it encourages players of different generations to come together and enjoy the sport. Its growth trajectory signals a promising future, where pickleball will continue to engage more enthusiasts and cement its position in the realm of popular sports.

Key differences: pickleball requires less court space, making it a more feasible option for city dwellers and those with limited recreational space. It also requires less physical strength and stamina, making it a perfect choice for beginners, elderly players, or those recovering from injuries who are looking for a lower impact sport. Yet, it doesn't compromise on the fun and competitive spirit, making gameplay exciting and engaging.

Additional major differences between tennis and Pickleball: Pickleball requires a paddle and a perforated ball - is also less expensive and more durable than tennis rackets and balls, further lowering the barriers to entry. Pickleball requires players to serve underhand, it has the unique "kitchen rule" with its unique volley zone.