Pickleball vs Tennis: Knowing the Difference

Even though pickleball has been an established sport in its own name for years now, a lot of people still tend to confuse it for some quirky form of tennis. The repetitive inquiry has brought to the ultimate clash of differences: pickleball vs tennis.

Now, while this subject may seem completely irrelevant to someone that’s not all that interested in either sport, the mix-up of the two can be quite frustrating and sometimes even insulting to a player of either side. For that, and for educational purposes, it’s important to know all the things that set these two sports apart, and believe it or not, there are many.

​Before we get onto the actual differences, the biggest non-technical difference between tennis and pickleball is that tennis is much harder to master and has a larger overall strain on the body, meaning older adults are often unable to take part in it. Pickleball is great for both young and old, and while children in development might enjoy tennis more due to the hyperactive manner of play, pickleball will also do wonders to their general fitness.

​Aside from the difference in strain, pickleball and tennis may appear quite similar to any casual spectator. Pickleball did derive from tennis but the technical differences that accompany it make it a sport in its own right.

Pickleball vs Tennis

Pickleball vs Tennis

​The Difference between Pickleball and Tennis

​1. The Racket

​What makes everyone think twice before calling pickleball tennis is always the evidently different racket, which unquestionably makes it the most relevant difference between these sports.

​A pickleball racket is usually composite or made out of wood (We call it pickle paddle). The nature of these rackets makes pickleball appear as a sort of large-scale Ping-Pong. While this may indeed be true, and you could call pickleball a mixture of tennis and Ping-Pong, the racket is twice as big as that used in Ping-Pong, and as such, heavier too.

​2. The Ball

​Another big difference between the two sports is the ball. We all know that a tennis ball is made out of rubber and wool or nylon, but a pickle ball is made out of perforated polymer.

​There are quite a few differences between these two, in terms of aerodynamics, bounciness and overall weight and speed. For example, a pickle ball doesn’t need to be hit as hard as a tennis ball, since it’s much lighter than its counterpart.

​Keep in mind that these differences are optimized for the sports they are used in, and the pickle ball maintains an outstanding design that lets it perform its job perfectly. Although it isn’t rubber, the polymer is both bouncy and extremely durable.

​3. The Court

​Although the overall combined length of both tennis and pickleball courts is about the same, pickleball courts come with a significant difference that usually makes those who are unaware of it ask themselves why there’s a random line there.

Pickleball courts have an empty area around the net, 14 feet wide in total, 7 on each side. In pickleball, this area is called the no-volley zone. Meaning, while a tennis player can hit the ball from literally anywhere on the court, pickleball players are not allowed to strike the ball while they have a foot in the no-volley zone.

​The net is also lowered to 34 inches in pickleball, as opposed to the 42-inch tall tennis net.

​4. The Bounce

​When it comes to pickleball vs tennis, the biggest difference between the two is without a doubt a number of times that the ball is supposed to bounce before being struck.

In tennis, a ball doesn’t have to bounce even once, although it can’t bounce more than one time if the point is to be kept. However, the rules of pickleball imply that the ball needs to bounce two times before the player is allowed to volley it.

​This is a post-serve rule that is only available during the first exchange of both sides, and after both players have struck the ball after the bounce, they can play just like tennis players would.

​This rule makes a great contribution to the overall reduced strain of pickleball when compared to tennis, since the hype of the serve and first return is reduced to a respectable minimum.

​5. The Serve

As we’ve already concluded, pickleball is a much less intense sport. As such, it needs to serve rules that are much different from those of tennis.

While in tennis the server must throw the ball up in the air and slam it onto the opponent’s half of the court, in pickleball it has to be struck with an underhand serve. The underhand serve allows for a paced initiation of the exchange, letting both the server and the receiver warm up for the rest of the play.

​However, the server only gets to make one mistake in pickleball. If their first serve hits an area outside of their opponent’s half of the court (or inside the no-volley zone), the serve is given to their opponent.

​The only time when the server is allowed to repeat their serve is when there’s something called a let, which means that the ball scraped the net as it was landing into the intended area of the court.

Two Entirely Different Sides of the Coin

As these results show, when it comes to pickleball vs tennis, there is a large difference when it comes to almost every specific detail relating to the way it’s played. If there’s a universal sport from which tennis, ping-pong, badminton, and pickleball have emerged, we can say that tennis is its most extreme version, while pickleball is still more intense than badminton or casual ping-pong, and yet playable by almost anyone.

​Due to the convenient specifics of pickleball, the newfound sport is starting to claim more and more neighborhood courts in the US. In order to accommodate the fans of both sports, the innovation of combined courts was introduced. In a way, the court that features both tennis and pickleball fields in harmony is the ideal joiner of all of these differences. Ultimately, you could play a sport in between these two, however, you like on a court like that.

Jim Stevens

Hi! I am Jim Stevens, an Author @ ToysAdvisors. I have two kids, a naughty boy and a very cute baby girl. I always want to make them happy, and I love to share my experience about parenting.