In recent years, the sports world has seen a surge in the popularity of pickleball, often drawing comparisons to tennis. While both are racquet sports enjoyed by millions around the globe, they have distinct differences that set them apart. Whether you’re new to these games or a seasoned player, understanding these differences can enhance your appreciation and performance in each sport.

History and Origin Of Pickleball:

Origin of Tennis:

Tennis boasts a rich history dating back to the 12th century in France, where it was initially played with the hand and called “jeu de paume.” Over time, racquets were introduced, and the game evolved into modern tennis as we know it today. The first lawn tennis club was established in 1874, and the sport quickly spread across Europe and America.

Origin of Pickleball:

Pickleball, on the other hand, is a relatively young sport. It was invented in 1965 by three fathers – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum – in Bainbridge Island, Washington. They created the game to entertain their families, using a combination of badminton, tennis, and table tennis rules.

Basic Rules and Gameplay:

Tennis Rules and Gameplay:

Tennis is played on a rectangular court with a net in the middle. Players use racquets to hit a felt-covered rubber ball over the net, aiming to land it within the opponent’s court. Points are scored when the opponent fails to return the ball within the court boundaries. Tennis can be played in singles (one player per side) or doubles (two players per side).

Pickleball Rules and Gameplay:

Pickleball is played on a smaller court (20 feet by 44 feet) with a lower net. Players use solid paddles and a perforated plastic ball (similar to a wiffle ball). The game can also be played in singles or doubles. Points are scored only by the serving team, and games are typically played to 11 points, with a win by 2.

Equipment: Racquets, Paddles, and Balls:

Pickleball vs. Tennis Racquets:

One of the most noticeable differences between pickleball and tennis is the equipment used. Tennis racquets are more considerable, typically 27 to 29 inches long, and are strung with a network of strings that provide a large hitting surface. On the other hand, pickleball paddles are smaller, usually around 15 to 16 inches in length, and are made of solid materials such as wood, composite, or graphite, with no strings.

Pickleball vs. Tennis Balls:

The balls used in pickleball and tennis are also quite different. Tennis balls are more significant, heavier, and made of rubber with a felt covering. They are pressurized to create bounce and are typically yellow or green. Pickleball balls are smaller, lighter, and made of plastic with holes resembling a wiffle ball. They come in various colors, but the most common are yellow and white.

Court Dimensions and Layout:

Tennis Court Dimensions:

A standard tennis court measures 78 feet long and 27 feet wide for singles matches, extending to 36 feet for doubles. The net is 3.5 feet high at the posts and 3 feet at the center.

Pickleball Court Dimensions:

Pickleball courts are significantly smaller, measuring 20 feet by 44 feet for both singles and doubles. The net is lower, at 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches at the center.

Net Heights and Dimensions:

Net Height:

The tennis net stands at 36 inches (91.4 cm) at the posts and 34 inches (86.4 cm) in the center. Pickleball nets are slightly lower, with a height of 36 inches (91.4 cm) at the posts but only 34 inches (86.4 cm) at the center. This lower net height in pickleball contributes to a different playing dynamic, especially regarding volleys and net play.

Net Dimensions:

The width of a tennis net is more comprehensive than a pickleball net, stretching across the full width of the tennis court. Pickleball nets are narrower, corresponding to the smaller court dimensions, making the game more compact and fast-paced.

Gameplay and Rules:

Serving Differences:

Tennis serves are typically overhead, allowing for powerful, fast serves that can reach speeds of over 100 mph. Players serve diagonally from behind the baseline, and the ball must land in the opponent’s service box. Pickleball serves, in contrast, are underhand and must be made from behind the baseline, hitting the ball below the waist. The serve is also made diagonally, but it must clear the non-volley zone (or kitchen) and land in the opponent’s service area.

Scoring Systems:

Tennis scoring uses a unique system with points progressing from 0 (love) to 15, 30, 40, and game. Matches are typically played in best-of-three or best-of-five sets, each comprising six games. Pickleball scoring, however, is more straightforward and similar to badminton. Games are usually played to 11 points, and a player or team must win by two points. Only the serving side can score points.

Rally and Volley Rules:

In tennis, players can volley (hit the ball before it bounces) from anywhere on the court. However, in pickleball, volleying is restricted to areas outside the non-volley zone, a 7-foot area on either side of the net. This rule adds a strategic element to pickleball, as players must be cautious about stepping into the non-volley zone to avoid faults.

Footwear: Pickleball vs. Tennis Shoes:

Design and Support:

Tennis shoes are designed for lateral support, stability, and durability to withstand the rigors of running and quick directional changes on the court. They often have reinforced toe caps and thicker outsoles. Pickleball shoes are similar but tend to be lighter and more flexible. They offer good grip and support, emphasizing comfort for extended play on hard surfaces.

Court Surface Compatibility:

The choice of footwear can also depend on the court surface. Tennis shoes are available in different styles for hard, clay, and grass courts. Pickleball shoes are generally designed for hard surfaces, as this is the most common playing surface for the sport.

Playing Techniques and Strategies:

Tennis Techniques and Strategies:

Tennis involves a variety of strokes, including serves, volleys, groundstrokes, and smashes. Strategies revolve around baseline play, net play, and powerful serves.

Pickleball Techniques and Strategies:

Pickleball focuses on dinks, volleys, and the third shot drop. Strategies often involve precision placement and soft shots rather than power.

Physical Demands:

Physical Demands of Tennis:

Tennis is physically demanding, requiring stamina, agility, and strength. Matches can last several hours, especially in professional settings.

Physical Demands of Pickleball:

Pickleball is less physically demanding than tennis, making it more accessible to a broader age range. However, it still requires agility and quick reflexes.

Why Pickleball is Gaining Popularity?

Accessibility and Learning Curve:

Pickleball is often seen as more accessible than tennis, particularly for beginners and older adults. The smaller court size and underhand serve make it easier to pick up and play. The game’s slower pace and strategic elements also appeal to a wide range of players, making it a popular choice for recreational sports enthusiasts.

Community and Social Aspects:

Pickleball has a vital community aspect, with many local clubs and social events centered around the sport. Its inclusive nature encourages participation from people of all ages and skill levels, fostering a sense of camaraderie among players.

Variations of the Game:

Paddle Tennis vs. Pickleball:

Paddle tennis is similar to tennis and pickleball but has unique features. The court size is closer to a pickleball court, and players use solid paddles similar to pickleball paddles. However, paddle tennis balls are depressurized tennis balls, making the game a hybrid of the two sports. The rules also differ, with no non-volley zone and a different scoring system.

Platform Tennis:

Platform tennis is another variant that combines elements of tennis and pickleball. It is played on a smaller, elevated court enclosed by screens, allowing the ball to be played off the walls. Players use solid paddles and a spongy ball, and the game is typically played outdoors in cold weather.

Beach Tennis vs. Pickleball:

Beach tennis is played on a sand court with a net similar to volleyball. Players use paddles and a depressurized tennis ball. Due to the unstable playing surface, the game focuses on agility and quick reflexes. Pickleball, by contrast, is primarily played on hard surfaces with a different style of paddle and ball, emphasizing precision and control.

Common Terminology:

Common Tennis Terms:

  • Ace: A serve that the opponent cannot touch.
  • Deuce: A tied score of 40-40.
  • Love: A score of zero.

Common Pickleball Terms:

  • Dink: A soft shot that lands in the opponent’s non-volley zone.
  • Kitchen: The non-volley zone near the net.
  • Fault: Any action that stops play because of a rule violation.

Differences in Game Formats?

Singles and Doubles in Tennis:

Tennis is played in singles and doubles formats, with court width and strategy differences.

Singles and Doubles in Pickleball:

Pickleball also offers singles and doubles play, with the same court size for both formats. Doubles play is more common and emphasizes teamwork.

Popular Events and Tournaments:

Major Tennis Tournaments:

  • Wimbledon
  • US Open
  • French Open
  • Australian Open

Major Pickleball Tournaments:

  • US Open Pickleball Championships
  • National Pickleball Championship
  • Tournament of Champions

Accessibility and Inclusivity:

Accessibility of Tennis:

Tennis courts are widely available, but the sport can be expensive due to equipment and club memberships.

Accessibility of Pickleball:

Pickleball is more affordable and accessible, with many public parks adding pickleball courts. The sport’s lower physical demand makes it inclusive for various age groups.


In summary, while pickleball and tennis share some similarities, they are distinct sports with unique histories, rules, equipment, and play styles. Pickleball’s social and accessible nature makes it appealing to many, while tennis remains a physically demanding sport with a rich competitive history. Whether you prefer the fast-paced, strategic game of tennis or the fun, inclusive environment of pickleball, both sports offer excellent benefits and enjoyment.


What’s the difference between a pickleball and a tennis ball?

A pickleball is a lightweight, perforated plastic ball, while a tennis ball is a pressurized, felt-covered rubber ball.

Can you use tennis shoes for pickleball?

Yes, but pickleball shoes are specifically designed for the sport, offering better grip and support for the quick lateral movements typical in pickleball.

How do the nets differ in pickleball and tennis?

The pickleball net is lower, measuring 36 inches at the sides and 34 inches at the center, compared to the tennis net, which is 42 inches at the posts and 36 inches at the center.

Are the rules of pickleball and tennis similar?

While both sports involve hitting a ball over a net, the rules and gameplay are different, particularly in scoring, court size, and types of shots.

Why is pickleball becoming so popular?

Pickleball’s popularity is growing due to its accessibility, lower physical demands, and social nature, making it enjoyable for various ages and skill levels.

Similar Posts