Key Differences Between Tennis And Pickleball

It is safe to say Pickleball is similar to tennis. Both sports are played on a court with a net that the ball is volleyed over. Tennis and pickleball have a very similar scheme and design to the actual way you play them. The two sports are family friendly, competitive, skill based and can get very intense, even amongst friends. Tennis obviously has been around considerably longer and has a more storied history while pickleball is still gaining popularity as the sport grows. The origin of each game is vastly different and even the culture surrounding both sports are not quite the same. We will highlight the similarities and differences in each sport to find where they are the same and what sets them apart from each other.

Court Dimensions

The first comparison for tennis and pickleball is the court size. Believe it or not you can fit four pickleball courts into one tennis court. Tennis court dimensions are 60 feet wide and 120 feet long. Pickleball courts are only 20 feet wide and just 44 feet long. Pickleball was actually invented using a badminton court in the late 1960’s.

A pickleball court really does look like a mini tennis court. Pickleball court dimensions stay the same whether playing singles or doubles whereas tennis expands their court zones for a doubles match. It is worthy to note most pickleball games are actually played as doubles. One more little nugget about what sets a pickleball court apart from tennis is the zone known as “The Kitchen”. This zone is a 7 seven foot section of the court that starts at the net and is a no volley zone. For a player to stand that close to the net and just crush incoming balls would be too easy of a way to score points.

Net Height

A similar feature of both tennis and pickleball is the fact both sports use a net in the middle of the court. The aim of both games is to get the ball over the court to the opposing player. The difference with each sports net is the height. Tennis sets their net at 42 inches with a center sag of 36 inches. Pickleball on the other hand sets their net at 36 inches with a small center sag of only 34 inches in the middle. Pickleball nets are not nearly as wide as a tennis net which accounts for less sag in the middle.

Racquets And Balls

Just like the court size a tennis racquet is much bigger than a pickleball racquet or better known as a paddle. Picture a pickleball paddle being closer related to a ping pong paddle more so than a tennis racquet. The tennis racquet is approximately twice the size of a pickleball paddle. Tennis racquets have a longer handle and are round with tightly tuned strings while a pickleball

paddle is shorter plus more square and usually solid. As pickleball has progressed so has the material used in their paddle which is made of different composite materials like nomex, aluminum and polymer plastic materials.

Another key difference in the equipment used in tennis and pickleball is the actual ball that is used for each sport. Most of us know what a tennis ball looks like, a bright colored rubber ball with a soft and fuzzy outside. The ball used in pickleball is more like a plastic wiffleball with holes in it. Tennis balls travel much faster and are hit with more precision than a pickleball. Tennis balls also have a lot more bounce to them than pickleballs have.

Rules Of The Game

First off is the serve of pickleball versus tennis. There are no overhand serves allowed in pickleball. A player must serve underhand, and it is very rare that any point will be scored off a serve in pickleball. In tennis a player tries very hard to score off their first serve with what is known as an ace.

In pickleball only the player or team serving can score points. In tennis the player receiving a serve is able to still score points by forcing an error from the serving side player. In pickleball a serve is not allowed to land in the no volley zone otherwise known as the kitchen. There is a little rule in pickleball called the 10 second rule where once the score is called out the serving side has 10 seconds to serve or they are called for a fault and lose their serve. One similarity with tennis and pickleball is the ball can only bounce once on each side of the net.

Scoring in tennis is based on the 15, 30, 40 format as their set up to win games to try and win a set all for a goal to win the match. Pickleball plays games that go to 11, 15 or 21 points with the rule that a player must win by 2 points. A tennis match will usually last longer than an average game of pickleball due the layout of the scoring system.

Court Surface

Many famous tennis tournaments all have different surfaces like the grass at England’s Wimbledon, the hard top of the New York’s U.S. Open or even the clay surface of the French Open. The different surfaces for these tournaments present unique challenges for the players. Some players do well with the speed of the court in the U.S. Open and sometimes the grass of Wimbledon can affect the outcome of a game depending on the weather. Pickleball is typically played on a harder surface. Basketball and volleyball courts are a good option to set up a pickleball court upon. Pickleball can be played on indoor and outdoor courts depending on the region of the country and weather issues. There are custom courts made specifically just for pickleball.

All For Fun

Pickleball and tennis are both great activities for the family or a group of friends looking for some competitive fun. There are aspects both games have in common and some differences that separate the two sports. There is no reason you cannot participate in both tennis and pickleball. If you happen to already have a tennis court at home, there are ways to convert part of the larger tennis court into multiple pickleball courts to accommodate simultaneous games so nobody has to wait to play. The overall goal is to stay active with friends and family no matter which sport you want to play. By doing the two different sports you will never get bored and get better at both along the way.

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