Tennis vs pickleball
Ever wondered the differences between tennis and pickleball? Find out more about both racket sports and how you can get involved.
What are the differences between tennis and pickleball courts?
Tennis and pickleball courts have a very similar layout, but a pickleball court is much smaller – around 6.09m x 13.41m. You can fit approximately three pickleball courts to one tennis court.
Tennis courts can come with a variety of different surfaces – such as hard, grass and clay courts – while pickleball is traditionally played on hard courts.
Tennis courts also have tramlines on either side of the court to indicate different court sizes for singles and doubles, while pickleball keeps the same court for both formats.
The pickleball court has two service boxes at the back of the court and a no-volley zone (known as ‘The Kitchen’) stretching seven feet on both sides of the net. The net is also slightly lower in pickleball as well.
What are the different types of equipment for tennis and pickleball?
One of the big differences between the sports are the rackets. Tennis uses a larger racket with a frame and strings in the centre to hit the ball, while pickleball uses a smaller plastic paddle.
The ball is also very different. While tennis uses a rubber shell that can be pressurised to various levels, with a felt covering, pickleball uses an entirely plastic ball with between 26 and 40 holes on it. The plastic ball means that it doesn’t bounce as high, which makes it perfect for the smaller court.
Like tennis, when it comes to footwear, you’ll want to stick to something with a sturdy outer sole, with multidirectional support that gives you some cushioning, so you feel comfortable.
What are the rule differences between tennis and pickleball?
In pickleball, the point starts with a serve from one service box to the one diagonally opposite before the rally begins – it can’t bounce in the kitchen. In pickleball you have what’s known as the ‘double bounce rule’, which means the ball must bounce on each side of the court before either team can hit a volley. Remember though, you can’t hit a volley if you’re stood in the kitchen zone on the court.
Just like in tennis, the point is only decided if one team hits the ball into the net, out of the court or there is a double bounce. However, you can only win a point if you are the server. In doubles, both players get to serve regardless of whether they win the first point on serve, before they hand it over to their opponents.
Tennis matches can be scored in several different ways, but the most common is by sets and games. To win one set, you have to win six games and be leading by two clear games.
Similarly, to clinch a game, you must win four points with a two-point advantage. Games are scored as:
- 15 – one point
- 30 – two points
- 40 – three points
If the game goes to 40-40, this is called deuce, but you still need to win by two clear points to win the game.
However, you don’t always have to score when playing tennis, just have fun getting on court and having a hit with your friends and family.
Pickleball is scored as a first to 11 points, but this must be by two clear points. The score is called as the server first, then the returners, followed by the serve number. For example, the score could be 5-3-2, which would mean the serving team are 5-3 up, but are now on their second server after losing a point on serve already.
What are the different shots used in tennis and pickleball?
To start a point in both sports, you have to hit a serve diagonally on to your opponent’s side of the court, however, while tennis traditionally needs an overhead serve (although, not always), pickleball only uses an underhand serve.
Otherwise, the shots in both are very similar. Both rely on groundstrokes – hitting the ball after one bounce – as well as volleys, where you play the shot without the ball bouncing, usually close to the net.
In pickleball you also have a shot called a ‘dink’, which can only be used near the net, or in the kitchen area of the court. A dink is a very soft shot that just about reaches over the net, making difficult to return – much like a drop shot in tennis.
Frequently asked questions
Pickleball is a great game for all ages – it is based more on control and reactions rather than just power and as it’s on a smaller court, doubles doesn’t require as much movement as other sports.
Pickleball was founded in 1965 by Joel Prichard in Washington. There are two potential stories for how the sport got its name. The first is that the sport takes its name from the term ‘pickle boat’ which is used to describe a crew of rowers that have been put together at random for a race. Joel’s wife, Joan who was a keen rower, said the sport reminded her of a pickle boat because it’s played by random groups of people who were often leftover from other sports.
The other story comes from the Pritchard’s neighbours, who claimed it was named after their family dog ‘Pickles’. The dog would apparently run across the garden with a Wiffle ball (similar to a pickleball) and play with it, hence the sport was named after the dog.
A pickleball is a round plastic ball that has between 26 and 40 holes across the surface.