Pickleball was invented 50 years ago, but it experienced a surge of popularity over the last decade or so, becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. It combines elements of several different racket sports, including tennis. If you are new to pickleball, some of the elements may seem mysterious to you, particularly the differences between pickleball vs tennis.

What Are Some of the Most Important Differences Between Pickleball Vs Tennis?

If you’re new to pickleball, you may be wondering what sets this racket sport apart from tennis. It may be helpful to compare the two so that you can better understand the differences.Here are 7 key differences between pickleball vs tennis:

1. Court

Pickleball courts are roughly 1/4 the size of a tennis court. A regulation pickleball court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. This is smaller than a typical tennis court, which measures 36 feet wide and 78 feet long. Some pickleball players use tennis courts if there are none dedicated to their own sport available, but it requires marking different boundaries.

Since a pickleball court is narrower than a tennis court, it follows logically that a pickleball net doesn’t cover as wide a span. A pickleball net is also shorter than a tennis net by 6 inches though, again, pickleball players who only have tennis courts at their disposal may have to make do.

2. Kitchen

In pickleball, there’s an area near the net called the “kitchen.” The kitchen is a 14-foot area in the center of the court divided by the net into 7-foot segments on either side. Also known as a no-volley zone, the kitchen is intended to prevent spikes that are close to the net from hitting and possibly injuring players on the other side. Once the ball enters the kitchen, players must let it bounce before hitting it.

3. The Pickleball

Pickleball is played with a perforated plastic ball, not a felt-covered ball. The ball is similar to a Wiffle ball and does not bounce as high as a tennis ball.

If you have ever played with a wiffle ball, you have an idea of what a pickleball looks like. A pickleball ball is made of smooth plastic that is much lighter than a tennis ball. It is hollow and perforated with holes that cause it to create less drag. As a result, its movement in the air is cleaner than that of a tennis ball, but it doesn’t bounce as high.

4. Paddle vs Racquet

Pickleball is played with a paddle, not a racquet. The size and weight of the paddle can vary, but it is typically smaller and lighter than a tennis racquet. Paddles are typically made of composite materials like graphite or fiberglass and are smaller than tennis racquets.

When pickleball was first invented, before it developed its own equipment, players used ping-pong paddles. Today, pickleball paddles still bear more resemblance to ping-pong paddles than to tennis racquets. Tennis racquets have strings woven together to create a particular pattern and texture. Pickleball paddles are flat and typically smooth to the touch, though some have air holes built in. To accommodate different playing styles, pickleball paddles can come in different thicknesses and sizes. In this, they are similar to tennis racquets.

5. Serve

In pickleball, the server must keep one foot behind the baseline when serving. This is not required in tennis.

Tennis requires an overhand serve that involves tossing the ball up into the air and then hitting it with the racquet. Overhand serves are against the rules in pickleball, and underhand serves are required. The pickleball serve and the tennis serve are similar in that the direction is diagonal or cross-court, but for a pickleball serve to be valid, the paddle must make contact with the ball below the level of the server’s hip. It also has to clear the kitchen. Before volleying, i.e., hitting the ball back and forth without letting it hit the ground, can begin in a game of pickleball, the ball has to bounce twice after the serve: once on the opponent’s side and once on the server’s side.

6. Scoring

There are different scoring rules in pickleball vs tennis.  Pickleball is typically played to 11 points, while tennis is played to 21 points.

Tennis has a complicated system of scoring based on the various phases of the match, known as games and sets. Pickleball scoring is simpler, with no games and sets. Nevertheless, it has its own idiosyncrasies.

You can only score in a game of pickleball if you are the one who served the ball, another respect in which the scoring is different between pickleball vs tennis. A game of pickleball is played up to 11 points, but to win, you must exceed your opponent’s score by two points. When both of those conditions are met, a game of pickleball comes to an end with one side the victor.

7. Net

The net in pickleball is lower than the net in tennis. In fact, the height of the net is one of the key regulation differences between pickleball vs tennis. For example, in men’s singles pickleball, the net height is 36 inches, while in tennis it is 3.5 feet.

What Are the Benefits of Pickleball Vs Tennis?

The game of tennis has roots in the Middle Ages. It has been popular for centuries and probably always will be. Nevertheless, pickleball offers some advantages over tennis that may account for its recent surge in popularity.

Accessibility to Beginners

Pickleball is less expensive than tennis. You don’t need expensive equipment or a membership to a private club to play.

People learning to play tennis for the first time can struggle with some aspects of the game, such as the complicated scoring system and the overhand serve. Pickleball’s simpler scoring can be easier to understand and learn. Similarly, the underhand serve can be easier for beginners to master. If you have experience bowling, you should pick up the underhand pickleball serve fairly easily as it involves a similar motion.

Low Impact on Joints

High-impact sports such as tennis can put a lot of pressure on the cartilage of the joints of the lower extremities, particularly the knee. Over time, this can contribute to wearing down the cartilage, resulting in arthritis. Pickleball is considered a lower-impact sport than tennis. It has been recommended as a way for elderly people, who are more likely to have osteoarthritis from cartilage wear, to stay active without causing any further damage to their joints. The aging of the baby boomer population may be partially responsible for its sudden rise in popularity.

Appropriate for Multi-generational Play

While the elderly population may be responsible for raising awareness of pickleball, its popularity has grown among younger generations as well. Its accessibility to beginners as well as its low impact on the joints makes it a good family activity that parents and children or grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy together.

Having contrasted the differences between pickleball vs tennis, are you interested in giving pickleball a try? You can learn where to equip yourself with pickleball gear from Pickleball Insiders.