The Difference Between Pickleball and Tennis

April 24, 2024

The Difference Between Pickleball and Tennis

An in-depth comparison of two popular racket sports, pickleball and tennis

If you’ve never played, pickleball might seem like a miniature game of tennis. And it’s easy to see why. However, it doesn’t take long to notice the differences once you start to play. Let’s take a closer look at what sets pickleball apart from tennis, from the court to the fan following to the rules and everything in between.

Pickleball Equipment and Court Compared to Tennis

Both pickleball and tennis are played on a court separated by the net with one ball that players hit with a racket or paddle. However, that’s where the similarities in gear and equipment end. In pickleball, players use a smaller, rectangular paddle with a solid face typically made of composite or graphite. These paddles are lightweight, allowing for quick, powerful swings. Tennis rackets are larger and oval-shaped with a face of gridded strings and frames that are usually made with aluminum or graphite. Tennis rackets are heavier to handle the impact of a heavier ball. 

As for the balls, tennis uses hollow, rubber balls covered in felt that weigh around 2 ounces. Pickleball balls are also hollow, but they are made of plastic, have holes all around, and weigh anywhere from .75 – to 1 ounce. The difference in paddles and balls continues with the net and court. Tennis has a much larger court and a longer, higher net. Pickleball has a smaller court and a narrower, shorter net. Find the court dimensions of standard pickleball courts on our How to Play Pickleball blog.

Pickleball and Tennis Basics

Let’s talk about differences in the rules between pickleball and tennis, specifically three: serves, bounce, and volley. In pickleball, players must serve underhand, while tennis allows both overhand and underhand serves. Off the serve, both sports require players to serve diagonally across the court. However, in pickleball, there is a two-bounce rule, meaning the ball must bounce once on each side of the net before players can volley. Pickleball also restricts players from volleying, or hitting the ball out of the air, inside the kitchen, the designated zone on either side of the net. This helps keep the ball in play longer on the smaller court. The larger tennis court is better suited for volleys and has no restrictions. 

Professional vs Recreational Pickleball and Tennis

Aside from the setup and rules, there’s also a distinct difference between who plays pickleball and who plays tennis. Pickleball is a newer sport that began in the 1960s with a smaller fan base. Tennis, with roots dating back to 12th century France, has a large, international following. Pickleball and tennis attract many types of players from all ages and demographics, but pickleball has a lower cost barrier for new and recreational players. Tennis tends to be associated with higher costs from gear, lessons, and clubs.

As for the professional landscape, tennis has more established tournaments with the Wimbledon and the US Open and big-name athletes and worldwide recognition. Pickleball has professional athletes, some of which are former tennis players, they don’t have the same recognition as tennis.

There’s no doubt that pickleball and tennis have striking similarities. There’s overlap in the court, gear, and even some professional athletes. However, as much as the two sports seem to have in common, there are at least as many differences. Each sport has a loyal fanbase with plenty of opportunities for recreational, amateur, and professional play. So if you’ve been a tennis player, but are ready for a new challenge, it might be time to order your MAK Pickleball paddle and head to the nearest pickleball court.
Check out our other post to get all your frequently asked pickleball questions answered.

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