Skip to content
Home » Pickleball vs. Tennis

Pickleball vs. Tennis

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, table tennis, and badminton. The court is an abbreviation of a tennis court and net, and the game itself combines rules from a variety of racquet sports. It can be played as singles or doubles, but more commonly played as doubles. The first time you ever watch a pickleball match, you can’t help but immediately think to yourself, ” That looks a lot like tennis! “

Many people are just curious as to the differences between these great two sports as many who have played tennis all their lives are now playing pickleball. Once you dive in and begin to play pickleball, you soon realize they both may optically appear similar, but the differences between pickleball and tennis are actually quite substantial. 

Pickleball popularity

Doubles Pickleball Game
Pickleball is set to explode in 2022 and beyond as its popularity continues to rise

What is the origin of pickleball? Pickleball got its start on Bainbridge Island near Seattle 50 years ago when two dads who were looking to do something outdoors with their kids decided to make use of an old badminton court. They didn’t have badminton rackets, so they improvised with Ping-Pong paddles and a Wiffle ball and lowered the net to 36 inches. The following weekend, another friend joined in and they came up with rules. 

Pickleball is no longer played with Ping-Pong paddles and the sport has since exploded in popularity and is the fastest growing sport in the USA. The competitive scene is getting bigger every year can now be found all over the world. USA Pickleball Association membership increased 84% in the last 36 months. And according to the USAPA, more than a quarter of the 3,000-plus places to play pickleball in the country are less than a year old.

Why the surge in interest in the sport over the years? For one thing, pickleball is one of the few sports that allows anyone of any athleticism and experience to play. You don’t have to be an ex-Tennis player to enjoy the sport as it is easy to pick up and requires minimal cost-friendly equipment. 

Pickleball and tennis players have debated for years about which sport is better. Some people swear by pickleball, while others who play tennis believe that is the only true option. So, what’s the verdict? Well, it really depends on your preferences as an athlete. Both Pickleball and Tennis are great racquet sports and can provide a lot of fun competition so if you love a great cardiovascular workout and you enjoy spending time in the sun, then either sport will do the trick. 

Pickleball vs Tennis:

Some of the biggest differences are the playing surfaces (court size), ball speed, scoring system, equipment used, and rule differences. Tennis is a more power-based sport, while pickleball is a slower-paced game that requires more strategic play. And unlike tennis, the official rules in pickleball are less strict making it a more casual option and due to the size differences between pickleball courts and tennis courts and with pickleball, you might not have to cover as much ground so you can play all day!


In pickleball, you serve underhand, the balls have less bounce, there’s no doubles alley (singles and doubles are played on the same-size court) and there is a 7-foot no-volley zone, popularly called “the kitchen,” extending from the net. The ball can be hit in this area only after it has bounced. Pickleball is best played in pairs; however, you can play singles or doubles with tennis.

One big difference is that in pickleball, unlike tennis, you can only score on your serve. The receiving team can’t score. In tennis you play games and games lead to sets, matches usually played to 2 out of 3 sets. In pickleball, games are played to 11 points, with a team needing to win by a 2-point difference.  

And unlike other racquet sports, Pickleball players must serve underhand and get only one chance. A returned serve must bounce before anyone on the serving team can hit and win a point doesn’t count for the returning side, it simply gives them a side-out.

Shot selection

Angled shots: Since the pickleball playing surface is much shorter, the shots need to be more precise and well-timed. Playing on a pickleball court allows you to hit angled shots with precision. If you loved angled shots in tennis, you’ll love executing them in pickleball as it’s more challenging. 

Lob shots: If you’re familiar with hitting lob shots in tennis, you’ll certainly enjoy hitting those while playing pickleball. Since the pickleball court is smaller, you have to be precise and cheeky at the same time. 

Tennis Balls vs. Pickleball Balls

The common tennis ball is fluorescent yellow and has a fibrous felt covering most of its surface. A pickleball is a smooth plastic ball very similar to a whiffle ball, as it has holes, which makes it very lightweight. They are roughly 73-75 mm in diameter, weigh between .78 and .935 ounces, and are generally bright fluorescent yellow. Due to their airiness, a whiffle ball bounces low rather than the tennis balls, which go high and far. The larger pickleball moves slower which leads to more bounces per rally, making for an overall faster game of pickleball vs. tennis. The USAPA has tested and approved a number of outdoor and indoor balls for official tournament play.

How fast does the Pickleball ball go?

A pickleball can typically go about 40 to 60 mph, while a tennis ball is traveling at around 70 to 90 mph. Pickleball encourages the players to move closer to the net so you can attempt half volleys and command the proceedings. However, this practice doesn’t work in tennis as the court size is larger. We’ve seen the likes of Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal chipping the ball over their opponent’s heads and win points by putting them in a difficult position. Power: Pickleball is more of shot placement rather than power. 

Tennis court vs. Pickleball court

Pickleball courts are about one-quarter the size of tennis courts. Pickleball is played on a smaller court (20′ x 44′ for both singles and doubles) than tennis courts and unlike tennis where you can volley from anywhere, in pickleball, a non-volley zone extends 7′ back from the net on each side, commonly called “the kitchen”. Tennis courts are rectangular as well, 78 feet long and 27 feet wide. 

This means that in tennis there is more room for players to run and hit the ball, while in pickleball the court is smaller which can lead to a faster game overall. In fact, one thing many players tout about the game is the ability for older and younger players to play together competitively, especially doubles, where there’s less court to cover. 

The Pickleball net vs. the Tennis net

The nets, for Pickleball, are slightly shorter than in tennis. A pickleball net measures 3 feet at the center of the court, whereas a tennis net measures 3 feet, 6 inches. The nets are also narrower because the courts aren’t as wide as in tennis.

Pickleball Paddles vs. Tennis Racquets

One of the most noticeable differences you are sure to notice between the two sports is the actual racquet or paddle.

Tennis Racquets – are typically made from fiberglass and graphite which makes them lighter but still strong and powerful for good strokes with the striking surface made of a woven string, made of natural or synthetic gut material. They are larger than pickleball paddles measuring about 12 inches across and typically, weigh around 10.6 ounces.

Pickleball paddles – A pickleball paddle looks like a hybrid between a ping pong paddle and a tennis racket. It is smaller, lighter, and has a solid head. The main body of a pickleball paddle consists of two parts – a face and a core unlike a tennis racquet the weight balance more towards the handle which results in less strain on your arm so beginners will find it more forgiving.

The paddle typically weighs around 7.5 ounces and is roughly 7-8.25 inches across and 15-17 inches in length. Depending on your skill level and budget pickleball paddles are constructed from a variety of high-tech materials and range in cost from $50-$200 each. 

What does it mean for a ball to be “unreturnable” in pickleball?  

Pickleball rules dictate that a player cannot hit the ball back across the net in order to return it to their opponent. This is different from tennis, where players are able to put spin on the ball in order to make it more difficult for their opponent to return. 

Is tennis or pickleball easier?

It is easier to say that tennis is more difficult because players are required to hit the ball over the net in a single bounce. This makes for many side spins, which can be harder to predict or return.

Will playing pickleball ruin my tennis game?

There is no evidence that playing pickleball will ruin your tennis game. In fact, the games are quite different and can be enjoyed by people of all skill levels.

How long is a typical pickleball game?

A typical game of pickleball lasts around 20 to 30 minutes.  

What is a pickleball drill?

The “Around the World” drill involves hitting a ball around a circle of players who try to hit it back. This develops hand-eye coordination and court awareness. Practicing this can help you avoid being distracted by your opponent’s movement on the opposite side of the net. It also helps you learn to return shots that are out of your typical reach. For more drills and ways to improve your skills, check out this blog post!

How to find pickleball courts near you? You can find pickleball courts near you by using this map.  Pickleball drills are an excellent way to improve your skills and up your game.