tennis vs pickleball

Differences Between Tennis & Pickleball

Tennis vs Pickleball

If you’re looking for a new sport to try, look no further than pickleball! This fast-paced game is played on a court half the size of a tennis court and features a hard plastic ball with between 26 and 40 holes. With a lower net height and different serving techniques than tennis, pickleball offers a unique and challenging experience for players of all levels.

Despite these differences, both tennis and pickleball offer great exercise and a lifetime of enjoyment. While tennis had its heyday in the 1970s, pickleball is currently surging in popularity in the USA. So whether you’re a seasoned tennis player or a newcomer to the court, give pickleball a try and see how much fun it can be!

tennis racket and ball

Key Takeaways

  • Pickleball is a fast-paced game played on a smaller court with a hard plastic ball and underhand serving techniques.
  • Both tennis and pickleball offer great exercise and a lifetime of enjoyment.
  • Pickleball is currently surging in popularity in the USA.

Court Comparisons

Tennis Court

When comparing tennis and pickleball courts, the first difference you will notice is the size. Tennis courts are much larger than pickleball courts, measuring 78 feet in length and 36 feet in width. The court is divided into two halves by a net that stands at a height of 36 inches in the center.

Tennis courts are typically made of concrete or asphalt, as well as grass (think Wimbledon) or clay (Har-Tru in the eastern USA or Red clay at Roland Garros in Paris). The ball used in tennis is a fuzzy yellow ball, which is heavier and larger than a pickleball.

pickleball court

Pickleball Court

Pickleball courts are much smaller than tennis courts, measuring only 44 feet in length and 20 feet in width. The court is divided into two halves by a net that stands at a height of 36 inches on the edges and 34 inches in the center.

Pickleball courts can be made of various materials, including concrete, asphalt, or wood (indoors like in a gym setting). The ball used in pickleball is a hard plastic whiffle-type ball with between 26 and 40 holes. The outdoor ball with 40 holes can be used both indoors and outdoors if playing on a concrete surface. The indoor ball with 26 holes is for a wooden surface.

The front of the court, known as the Non-Volley Zone and commonly called the Kitchen, is off-limits in pickleball only when you are hitting a volley, which is a ball that has not bounced. This area is within 7 feet of the net and is what makes pickleball different than tennis.

In conclusion, while both tennis and pickleball are enjoyable racket sports, they differ in court size, net height, ball type, and court material. Whether you prefer the larger court and heavier ball of tennis or the smaller court and lighter ball of pickleball, both sports offer a great way to stay active and have fun.

Ball Differences

Tennis Ball

When it comes to tennis, the ball used is fuzzy. This is because the fuzz on the ball helps control the speed and spin of the ball. The tennis ball is made of rubber and covered in felt and is pressurized before playing. It is a bit larger and heavier than the ball used in pickleball. Tennis balls will go “dead” after opening the can and the felt will wear off the more the ball is played with. In professional tennis the balls are changed after the first seven games and then nine games after that to make sure the liveliness is consistent during match play. In other tournaments, new balls are offered at the start of every match and sometimes for the third set if necessary.


Pickleball Ball

The ball used in pickleball is a hard plastic whiffle-type ball. It is a bit smaller and lighter than the tennis ball. The ball has between 26 and 40 holes, and it is either an indoor or hybrid ball or an outdoor ball. The ball’s holes help control the speed and spin of the ball. While it is possible to “put” spin on a pickleball, it is much more difficult to control because of the properties of a hard paddle hitting a hard plastic ball vs a racket with strings hitting a “fuzzy” ball. Tennis spins are much easier to impart and control.

The sound of a pickleball being hit can evoke different reactions in people, and not everyone likes it for various reasons. It can be quite a loud and somewhat a jarring sound compared to the sound of a tennis ball being struck with a racket with strings vs a wooden or graphite paddle hitting a hard plastic object.

There have been instances of disagreements in neighborhoods about the sound of pickleball games. While pickleball is a popular and enjoyable sport for many, the sound of pickleballs being hit can sometimes become a point of contention in residential areas, particularly in communities where noise regulations are strict or where there is a diverse mix of residents with varying preferences. It can be quite loud.

In summary, the tennis ball is fuzzy and made of rubber and felt, while the pickleball ball is a hard plastic whiffle-type ball with holes. The differences in the balls used in each game contribute to the unique playing experiences of both tennis and pickleball.

==>>>Basic Information About Pickleballs for Newbies


Rackets vs Paddles

In tennis, you play with a racket, while in pickleball, you use a paddle. It can be tricky for some tennis players who play pickleball to correctly call their equipment a “paddle”.

==>>>Watch this YouTube short for a fun comparison!

Tennis rackets are typically larger than pickleball paddles. Tennis rackets measure 27-29 inches long and 11-13 inches wide, while pickleball paddles measure 15-17 inches long and 7-9 inches wide.

Tennis rackets are also heavier than pickleball paddles. Tennis rackets typically weigh between 11 and 12 ounces, while pickleball paddles typically weigh between 7 and 9 ounces.

Tennis rackets and pickleball paddles can be made of a variety of materials: wood, graphite, or composite materials. The cost will increase as the materials improve. Higher-level players seek better-made equipment. Brand endorsements by professionals are also key in promoting the latest, greatest rackets and paddles in both games.

Recreational pickleball players may find wood paddles sufficient for casual play, while competitive players often prefer the enhanced features offered by graphite and composite materials. Tennis rackets were originally made from wood, but have moved away from “the olden days” since the tennis boom of the 1970s.  Today, wooden rackets are considered relics of the past and are mainly used for nostalgic or historical purposes. Modern tennis rackets continue to evolve with advancements in technology and materials, further enhancing players’ performance on the court.

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Tennis rackets have strings that are strung across the racket face. Pickleball paddles do not have strings. Instead, the paddle face is made of solid material, such as wood or graphite, or other materials.

tennis serve

Serving Styles

In both tennis and pickleball, the serve begins the point. In tennis, you can win or lose a point on your serve. In pickleball, you can only earn points when you are the server or on the serving team in doubles.

When serving in tennis, you employ an overhand serve, aiming for a powerful shot or placement, and will often go for an “ace”, which is a serve that can not be returned. Meanwhile, in pickleball, you utilize an underhand serve, focusing on getting the ball over the net and into the service box with a goal of consistency and depth.

There are three main components of a pickleball serve: the contact point must be beneath your waist or navel, the swing direction is an upward motion, and the highest part of the paddle must be beneath your wrist.

Another type of serve in pickleball is the drop serve. With this serve, the ball can bounce on the court, and the swing direction can vary. You can choose to use a high-to-low, low-to-high, or side-to-side swing. When serving in either game, it’s important to remember that your foot must be behind the line. The primary purpose of the serve is to begin the point of the game.

pickleball serve

==>>>Watch this short video on how to hit a pickleball serve.

In both games, a player’s feet must be behind the baseline as they hit the serve. It is a foot fault when the foot touches or crosses the line during their service motion.

The tennis serve is normally hit with an overhand motion. A player is allowed two chances to hit it in the correct service box.


Both tennis and pickleball have unique ways of scoring and they are very different than each other. In deciding who serves first and who begins on what side of the court, tennis players often spin their rackets, calling “up or down” of the symbol on the bottom of the grip of the racket to determine who “wins the toss”. In pickleball, it could be a coin flip or guessing how many fingers (one or two) are behind someone’s back, but there is lore that the side closest to the state of Washington, where pickleball was invented is used in rec play as which side serves first.

The tradition of the server being closest to Washington State is a way of paying homage to the game’s origins. It’s also a way of making the game fun and interesting.  Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum were three friends who were playing badminton on a badminton court, but they didn’t have enough badminton racquets. So, they improvised and used wiffle balls and ping pong paddles instead. They liked the game so much that they decided to give it a name, and they called it pickleball, according to one of the many origin stories.

In tennis, the points are known as 15, 30, 40, and game. A set is the first to reach six games with a margin of two. Most matches are best of three sets. When you have no score or zero, it is known as “love”. In tennis one side serves a game, then the other side serves, keeping a rotation sequence of servers that everyone follows. A common score in a match is 6-3, 6-4. The server’s score is called first. It’s always suggested that the server announce the score before the beginning of the point, although it’s not mandatory.

In pickleball, a game is usually played to eleven points, with a margin of two. However, in pickleball doubles, one partner serves after the other partner has lost the rally or missed a shot. That is true except for the very first sequence of the match when only one partner (the one on the right-hand side of the court) serves. If they lose that rally, then it is “side-out” and the other team begins their sequence of serving. The player on the right-hand side begins and aims into the cross-court service box, alternating sides for each point. That player continues to serve as long as they win points. After they lose the rally or miss, the partner starts serving.

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Here’s where it gets tricky. The score has three numbers. 0-0-2 is the score at the very beginning of the game. The first number is the server’s score: 0. The second number is the opponent’s score: 0. The third number is which server are they. The first server is a one. The second server is a two.

Still confused? Well, watching a game played out and hearing the score called before the next point surely does help. It takes a bit of practice. If you are a newbie, someone on the court will most likely be able to help and keep things straight for you!

Two Bounce Rule

After the serve is in play, an important rule to remember in pickleball is the 2-bounce rule: the ball must bounce a second time before anyone can hit a volley in the air. The advantage goes to the receiving team who can move toward the non-volley zone line after they hit a return of serve. The serving team stays back to allow for the second bounce of the point before moving toward the front of the court.

The Kitchen

In pickleball, the Non-Volley Zone, also commonly called the “Kitchen,” is the area at the front of the court. This zone is off-limits when you hit a volley or after hitting one. You can step into the kitchen any other time, just not while hitting a volley or right after the volley. Keeping an eye on your shoes is a good idea as you learn how to play pickleball.   It is a violation that one calls on themselves, a ref, or another player on the court. The first year I played pickleball, as a tennis player, I made that mistake more times than I thought was possible. I rarely make that mistake anymore, but I am aware of where my feet are when hitting!

The Swing Difference

In tennis, you typically take a long backswing when hitting the ball. The deeper you are positioned in the court, the longer swing is appropriate. If a fastball is coming toward you a “block” or not swing works best. However, when playing pickleball, the approach to swinging is quite different. You’ll find that you barely take a backswing at all in this game. You will find your position on the court is mostly at the non-volley zone line (in front of the “kitchen”). A short punch for a volley is best. If you add too much swing, it’s easy to overhit the shot, so less is more.

“Placement over power” is a good adage for pickleball!


Pickleball continues to gain popularity in the USA as an exciting and accessible sport for all ages.  Overall, the combination of ease of play, social appeal, and adaptability has contributed to the rapid rise in popularity of pickleball in the United States, turning it into one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. It’s showing up in print, digital, and television advertisements frequently these days too.

While tennis experienced its boom in the 1970s and peaked during the time of the Battle of the Sexes when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome on  September 20, 1973, in Texas. The match was a highly publicized event, and it attracted an enormous television audience.

It is estimated that approximately 90 million people in the United States watched the match on television, making it one of the most-watched sports events in American television history at that time. The match received extensive media coverage and was a cultural phenomenon, highlighting the ongoing debate about gender equality in sports and society. Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs, who was a former Wimbledon champion, had a significant impact on women’s tennis and women’s sports as a whole, further advancing the cause of gender equality in the sporting world.

History of Tennis

Most historians believe that tennis originated by monks in northern France in the 12th century. The ball was then struck with the palm of the hand, hence the name jeu de paume (“game of the palm”).  It was not until the 16th-century that rackets  came into use and the game began to be called ‘tennis’. It was popular in England and France, and Henry VIII of England  was an enthusiast of the game, now referred to as real tennis.

The game quickly spread to other parts of the world, and in 1877, the first Wimbledon Championships were held. Tennis became an Olympic sport in 1896. Today, tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world, with millions of players and fans all over the globe. Legends of the game include: Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and Roger Federer. On the women’s side: Suzanne Lenglan, Maureen (“Little Mo”) Connolly, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and the Williams Sisters (Venus and Serena) stand out among many other tennis greats and favorites.

pickleball court

History of Pickleball

Pickleball is a relatively modern sport with its origins dating back to 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA, by three friends: Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. The trio sought to create a fun and engaging activity for their families during a summer day. They combined elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis to create a new paddle sport suitable for all ages.

The name “pickleball” is said to have come from Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles, who would often chase after the ball during their initial games. The game’s popularity quickly spread among the island residents and beyond.  The sport’s blend of strategy, quick reflexes, and social camaraderie continues to captivate players and attract new enthusiasts.


Tennis and pickleball are two popular racket sports that share some similarities but also have some key differences.


  • Both sports are played on a court with a net in the middle.
  • The objective of both sports is to hit the ball over the net and into the opponent’s court.
  • Both sports can be played as singles or doubles.
  • Both sports require a good deal of hand-eye coordination and athleticism.


  • The size of the court is different in tennis and pickleball. Tennis courts are much larger than pickleball courts.
  • The ball used in tennis is different from the ball used in pickleball. Tennis balls are fuzzy, while pickleball balls are hard plastic.
  • The scoring system is different in tennis and pickleball.
  • The serving technique is different in tennis and pickleball. Tennis serves are hit overhand, while pickleball serves are hit underhand.


Tennis and pickleball are both great racket sports that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. If you are looking for a new sport to try, consider giving both tennis and pickleball a try to see which one you prefer.

  • The paddles used in pickleball are typically smaller and lighter than tennis rackets.
  • Pickleball is a relatively new sport, while tennis has been around for centuries.
  • Pickleball is becoming increasingly popular, especially among older adults. The tennis boom was in the 1970s.
  • Both tennis and pickleball can be enjoyed indoors or outdoors.


One last piece of advice to avoid serious injuries, since injuries are on the rise in pickleball currently. Wear proper court shoes on the tennis court AND pickleball court and enjoy either game or both of them!

==>>> Watch this YouTube video 10 Things Every Player Should Know to Play Pickleball

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