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Pickleball vs Tennis

Tennis is the original racket sport, and millions of people all over the world enjoy playing it in both a professional and leisurely capacity. However, off the back of this incredible sport, many other games have been created.

Most commonly, we think about things like badminton and squash when asked to come up with games that relate to tennis. But there are other games that might not be quite as popular but certainly have a growing culture around the world.

Pickleball is one of these games and is rapidly growing in popularity, particularly in North America, where it was first founded in the 1960s.

But are these two sports essentially the same thing or is there a clear difference between them? In this article, we are going to be looking at how closely related these sports are and at the subtle differences that may not be obvious on the first inspection.

How Are Pickleball And Tennis Similar?

Pickleball and tennis are similar in some ways - and these are the things that would confuse people who were not familiar with either sport.

Both games use similar equipment - a ball being one, although the balls are different with a pickleball ball being plastic, hollow and full of holes.

Additionally, these are both racket sports so the equipment used to hit the ball is slightly similar, only in tennis a stringed racket is used whereas pickleball players use a solid paddle.

The two games are played on an outdoor court that features a net in the middle, over which the ball is passed. But we should keep in mind that the tennis court is far bigger than that of pickleball. But we will look at this in a little more detail later.

Similarly to tennis, pickleball can be played by two or four players - when there are two players, this is known as a singles match, and a doubles match will use four players in two teams of two.

Pickleball vs Tennis

How Are Pickleball And Tennis Different?

One of the most interesting differences between these two sports is the audience and players to which they appeal.

Pickleball is a far younger sport in terms of when it was invented, but this game actually appeals more to older players. It is believed that as many as 68% of pickleball enthusiasts are over the age of 60,

In contrast, the average age of a tennis player is 27 years old; although viewers of the sport vary greatly between old and young.

Players and fans aside, there are several other differences between these games that demonstrate that whilst at first glance, they may appear the same, they are anything but.

The rules and play of each game are vastly different, and if you are a pro tennis player, you might be in for a shock when it comes to playing pickleball. Many people are under the impression that you could easily switch between the two without any training or education, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Tennis players are able to stand at the far end of the court and blast the ball back and forth - this is commonly what you will see in a tennis match.

But in pickleball, this type of play is impossible. This is largely down to the nature of the ball, and so players will stand on the kitchen line - something that does not appear in tennis. The kitchen, in pickleball, rather than being a place where food is prepared, is a play zone on the court where no volleys are permitted.

Standing at the kitchen line gives players a variety of advantages, these include:

Always being ready to receive a high ball.

To avoid being so far away from the opponent that the ball lands near your feet, making it much more difficult to return.

Being close to the net makes hitting the ball over it a lot easier.

Much of the differences in play are related to the size of the court. A tennis court is huge in comparison to a pickleball court, and this is one of the key differences. A pickleball court measures 20 feet across and 44 feet in length.

In contrast, a tennis court is an astonishing 78 feet long and 27 feet wide, although this goes up to 38 feet if it is a doubles match. So it is easy to see how the size would cause the gameplay to be vastly different.

Additionally, the type of equipment used in each game is not the same, although it may look like it is at first glance. In tennis, players hit the ball with a stringed racket which moves with the ball as it makes contact.

Alternatively, pickleball players use a solid paddle, and the ball simply bounces off this, making many shots much faster than those that you see in tennis and a lot more difficult to control.

A tennis ball is made from hollow rubber and has a lot of bounce to it - this is essential for the game. However, a pickleball ball is made from hollow plastic and has a lot of holes - it may resemble a dog toy more closely than a sports ball.

But it is designed this way for a reason - to prevent bounce. The holes are for airflow, but if you are playing outdoors, you will need a ball with smaller holes so that the wind will not blow it unnecessarily off course.

Now, whilst pickleball matches can be played with just two players, for the most part, you will rarely see anything other than a doubles match and the play will look very different from tennis.

Pickleball players tend to hit the ball straight ahead of them whereas tennis players will usually hit it to the side and this requires varying movements on the court, potentially making the game more physically demanding.


All racket sports took some inspiration from tennis - the grandfather of this type of sport, but that does not mean to say that all of these sports are the same.

Pickleball may look very similar to tennis on the surface, but when we look closer, it is easy to see how the two games are hugely different from one another. If you have been playing one for some time, it may be difficult to adjust to the rules and gameplay of the other.

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