Pickleball vs Tennis! Both are popular racket/paddle sports that have been enjoyed by people all around the world. While they share many attributes, the differences in rules, equipment, court size, and physical demands, create unique experiences for the players.
In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between Pickleball vs Tennis so that you can decide which is best suited for you.
Origins and Popularity
Tennis, being an Olympic sport and having been played for centuries, enjoys worldwide recognition and popularity. Originating in Europe during the 12th century, it has grown into one of the most-watched sports in the world, with tournaments like Wimbledon, French Open, Australian Open, and the US Open followed by millions.
Pickleball, on the other hand, is relatively new, originating in the mid-1960s on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Although younger than tennis, Pickleball has experienced a rapid rise in popularity in recent years, particularly in North America, where it’s often incorporated into community programs and recreation activities.
Pickleball vs Tennis
Tennis and pickleball both require rackets/paddles and a ball, but they differ significantly in specifications.
- Tennis rackets are larger and typically made of lightweight, high-strength materials like graphite, while pickleball paddles are smaller, usually made of composite materials, and resemble oversized ping pong paddles.
- Tennis balls are felt-covered and hollow, whereas pickleball balls are plastic with holes, similar to a whiffle ball.
Court Sizes and “The Kitchen”
- Tennis Court: A standard tennis court for singles measures 78 feet in length and 27 feet in width. For doubles, the width extends to 36 feet.
- Pickleball Court: A pickleball court is smaller, measuring 44 feet in length and 20 feet in width.
- Tennis Court: The net in tennis is positioned such that it stands at a height of 3.5 feet at the posts and 3 feet in the center.
- Pickleball Court: The net height for pickleball is slightly lower, being 36 inches at the sides and 34 inches in the middle.
- Tennis Court: There are two service boxes on each side of the net, dividing the court into a left and right service area. Players must serve diagonally into the opposite service box.
- Pickleball Court: The court is divided into two service areas as well, but there’s also a unique section called the “non-volley zone” or “kitchen.” This is a 7-foot zone on both sides of the net where players cannot volley the ball. The service in pickleball is also different; players serve underhand and must serve diagonally like in tennis, but the ball must clear the non-volley zone.
- Tennis Court: Apart from service boxes, a tennis court has a baseline, sidelines (which differ for singles and doubles), and a center service line which divides the two service boxes. There’s also a center mark on the baseline to guide serves.
- Pickleball Court: Along with the non-volley zone lines, a pickleball court has a baseline, sidelines, and a centerline dividing the service areas. Unlike tennis, there’s no difference in court markings for singles and doubles play.
- Tennis Court: Tennis can be played on a variety of surfaces, including grass, clay, hard court, and even carpet. Each surface influences the speed and bounce of the ball.
- Pickleball Court: While pickleball can also be played on various surfaces, it’s most commonly played on hard courts, similar to tennis hard courts. However, the ball’s bounce and play characteristics differ due to the nature of the pickleball itself.
Rules of the Games
In Tennis, the objective is to hit the ball over the net and into the opponent’s court without the opponent returning it.
Pickleball also requires players to serve the ball over the net and keep it within the boundaries of the opposite court. However, the game begins with an underhand serve from behind the baseline, and only the serving team can score points.
One unique rule in pickleball is the “non-volley zone” or “kitchen,” a 7-foot zone on either side of the net where volleying (hitting the ball without it bouncing) is not allowed.
Additionally, there is a rule called the two-bounce rule. This rule states that the ball of the returning team must hit the ground once before they send it back over the net. Similarly, the serving team must allow the ball to hit the ground once before returning it once more.
Tennis Scoring System
- Points Within a Game:
- 0 points = “Love”
- 1st point = “15”
- 2nd point = “30”
- 3rd point = “40”
- If both players reach “40-40”, it is called “Deuce”. From Deuce, a player must win two consecutive points to win the game. The player who wins the next point after Deuce is said to have the “Advantage”. If the other player wins the next point, the score returns to Deuce.
- Games Within a Set:
- The first player to win 6 games with at least a 2-game lead wins a set. If players are tied 6-6, a tiebreak is usually played to determine the set winner. In the tiebreak, players earn points numerically, and the first player to reach 7 points with a 2-point lead wins the tiebreak and the set.
- Sets Within a Match:
- Men’s professional matches (like in Grand Slams) are typically best of 5 sets, while women’s are best of 3. However, this can vary based on the tournament and location.
Pickleball Scoring System
- Calling the Score:
- Three numbers are called out before each serve. For example, “4-5-1” would mean the serving team has 4 points, the receiving team has 5 points, and the server is the first server for their side. (Each side gets two serves, one for each player, before the ball is handed over to the other team).
- Points Within a Game:
- Points are only scored by the serving team. If the serving team wins a rally, they earn a point. If they lose the rally, no point is scored, and if it’s the first server who loses the rally, the serve switches to the second server on the same team. If the second server loses the rally, the serve switches to the opposing team.
- The first team to score 11 points and lead by at least 2 points wins the game. Some games, especially in tournaments, might be played to 15 or 21 points.
- The serve must be hit underhand and diagonally. The ball must also clear the non-volley zone (often referred to as the “kitchen”). If the ball lands in the kitchen on the serve, it is a fault.
Physical Demand and Accessibility
Tennis often requires more physical exertion, given the larger court size and the potential for longer rallies. It requires a blend of strength, stamina, agility, and coordination. Thereby making it physically demanding yet beneficial for cardiovascular health and overall fitness.
Pickleball tends to be less physically demanding due to the smaller court size and slower-paced game. So it makes a suitable choice for individuals seeking a more moderate form of exercise. Its rules are also simpler and easier to learn for beginners. This has led to its popularity among older adults and those new to racket sports. But it’s also enjoyed by individuals of all ages and skill levels.
Pickleball vs Tennis, though similar in appearance, offer unique experiences for players. Because of their different rules, equipment, and physical demands.
Tennis is a globally recognized sport that offers high-intensity play. While pickleball, with its simple rules and less strenuous gameplay, is quickly growing in popularity as a more accessible sport for people of all ages.
Whether you prefer the traditional, physically demanding nature of tennis. OR the strategic, accessible gameplay of pickleball, both sports offer excellent ways to stay active and have fun.