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Pickleball vs Tennis: How Are They Different?

If you’re new to the sport of pickleball, then you might wonder how it differs from tennis.

Since plenty of fitness centers are repurposing tennis courts for pickleball games, then you’d be correct if you think that the two have a lot in common.

But they are distinctly different sports.

The main differences between pickleball and tennis are the size of the courts, the scoring system, the slightly different equipment, the different serving style, and the ball has less bounce in pickleball.

Below we’ll look at the differences and similarities between tennis and pickelball a bit closer.

Tennis Game Play And Scoring Basics

Tennis can be played one-on-one or as teams of two against each other.

A game of tennis is played on a tennis court, which is 78-ft (23.77m) in length. 

The courts used for singles matches are 27-ft (8.23m) wide, while doubles courts are 36-ft (10.97m) wide.

The court’s service line is 21-ft (6.4m) from the net.

Though you can find indoor tennis courts, traditionally the game of tennis is an outdoor sport.

Each tennis match is made up of two to three sets.

And to win a set, you must win at least six games.

Tennis games are scored starting at “love” (or zero) and go up to 40, but in actuality that’s just four points.

From love, the first point is 15, then 30, then 40, then game point, which wins the game.

For tennis, you must serve overhand.

Pickleball Game Play And Scoring Basics

Pickleball can be played one-on-one or as teams of two against each other.

Traditionally, pickleball is played on a pickleball court, which is smaller than a tennis court.

It is also often played on a badminton court when no pickleball courts are available.

It can be played indoors or outdoors.

For pickleball, you must serve underhand, and the point of contact must be below the hip. This differs from tennis.

A lot of the scoring and basics of game play in pickleball are similar to tennis.

You win pickleball by reaching 11 points and being at least 2 points ahead of your opponent.

Equipment Needed To Play

In pickleball, the equipment you need to play are pickleball paddles and a pickelball ball.

You’ll notice that a pickleball ball is a perforated polymer ball, much like a wiffle ball, with 26 to 40 round holes.

Pickleballs are incredibly light and bounce low.

Pickleball paddles are larger than table tennis paddles and have a slightly different shape.

They are made of wood or composite materials and the surface is smooth and solid.

Amazin' Aces Pickleball Wood 2-Paddle Set - Pickleball Paddle Set Includes 2 Wood Pickleball Paddles, 4 Pickleballs, 1 Mesh Carry Bag, and 1 Quality Box
via Amazon

In tennis, the equipment that you need to play are a tennis ball and a tennis racket.

The solid tennis ball is traditionally yellow and around the size of a baseball, but with a good amount of bounce to it.

The inside of a tennis ball is made of a hollow rubber core, which compresses when the ball is struck or dropped. 

Tennis rackets are not solid but instead have a woven or netting type of surface.

 WILSON Adult Recreational Tennis Rackets
via Amazon

If you’ve ever played tennis, but not pickleball, then you will discover that pickleball is really easy to pick up for tennis players.

Differences In Health Benefits

Since tennis is played on a larger court than pickleball, there is a good chance that you end up running around the court more when playing tennis.

This means that tennis potentially offers you a better cardio workout than pickleball.

You’ll find this to be especially true when playing singles.

pickleball courts
image: John Beagle/Flickr, CC 2.0

Tennis also requires more core strength than pickleball because swings in tennis tend to be longer and faster than in pickleball.

Since most pickleball shots are below the waist, players don’t experience as many shoulder injuries as tennis players do.

In fact, injured tennis players often move to pickleball once they can no longer play tennis well. 

Generally speaking, pickleball is easier on the body than tennis.

Final Word

As you can see, pickleball and tennis have a lot in common as they are very similar sports.

However, their differences are distinct enough to make them two completely different games.

Which is better?

That really depends on you, but either way both are run sports that give you a great workout.

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