Pickleball vs Tennis: I’ve played both for years and reveal my favorite

So tennis now has some challengers to its crown as king of racket sports. There is some confusion over the difference between tennis, Pickleball, Paddle and Padel.  The latter three sports have exploded on the scene in recent years. So what makes pickleball so popular, and where did it come from?

In this article, we compare pickleball vs tennis, comparing the equipment, rules, origins, and courts of the two sports. Other celebrities are also investing in pickleball, and we’ll explore why so many tennis pros are switching sports.

a group of people play tennis

How Are Pickleball and Tennis Different?

There is a common ancestor between pickleball and tennis, but they share different branches on the racket sport tree. Tennis has a much longer history than pickleball, which evolved from badminton and table tennis.

Below are a few points that will help you differentiate between the two sports:

  • History: Pickleball is a sport that is much younger than tennis
  • Courts: They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and layouts
  • Equipment: In tennis, string rackets are used along with soft balls, whereas in pickleball, hollow plastic balls called WiffleTM are used together with solid paddles
  • Rules: Despite their similarities, they are completely different games

The following points need to be discussed in more detail:

A brief history of Pickleball

Pickleball is a sport with a relatively short history. To entertain their children, two fathers in a suburb of Seattle invented a game in the late 1960s. Wiffle balls and ping pong paddles were substituted for rackets on the family badminton court, as no rackets were available.

After several weeks of fine-tuning and coming up with rules, the families realized they were onto something. A decade later, pickleball had spread nationwide and gained traction in local communities.

Over the following decades, pickleball became increasingly popular and was played in all 50 states by 1990. However, it remained a niche market for older, more mature people until relatively recently.

person showing pair of blue-and-white running shoes

A brief history of Tennis

There was an earlier version of tennis called ‘ Real Tennis ‘, which is still played today. Tennis originated in France from a game called Jeu de Paume, also known as Palm, played in 1300. The game was originally played with palms, but gloves soon became popular and by the 17th century, players were using strung rackets.

Following the servers’ calls, the English yelled ‘Tenez! That means ‘take it’ – naming the game tennis and quickly falling in love with it. Sport involving rackets and paddles evolved from this sport.

The game originated in England during the mid-19th century when Major Harry Gem and Augurio Perera created a croquet lawn version. The modern game of lawn tennis began soon after the founding of the world’s first lawn tennis club.

He developed early nets and rackets, and promoted the game among the aristocracy, which really helped the game take off. First Lawn Tennis championships were held in Wimbledon by 1877.

Pickleball vs Tennis Courts

Playing on a pickleball court and a tennis court is very different. It is well known that tennis courts have a much larger surface area than pickleball courts. There are 78′ by 36′ of tennis court space, while 44′ by 20′ are the dimensions of a pickleball court.

Five areas make up each tennis court side, including the service areas, doubles alleys, and ‘no man’s land’. NVZ (the kitchen) and service areas (NVZ) split each side of the court just three ways in pickleball.

There are a lot of similarities between pickleball and tennis nets. Tennis nets are 6 inches higher than pickleball nets because the court is half as wide and half as long.

blue and white track field

Interactions with tennis clubs

Pickleball fever is sweeping the country and demand for courts is skyrocketing, but other, more established racket sports have been hesitant to embrace it.

Pickleball has been banned from some tennis courts due to overcrowding by eager pickleheads (the name given to players!). Fortunately, pickleball continues to thrive alongside other racket sports for the most part.

Pickleball vs Tennis Equipment

Pickleball equipment (paddle) is very different from tennis equipment racket. A tennis racket works like a spring with its strings. Tennis balls sink into strings and move forward as they sink into them. As the paddles are solid surfaces, pickleball balls bounce off them with a clean, uncushioned ‘dink’.

Wearing pickleball clothes and tennis apparel on the court is very similar. Pickleball gloves are more like those used in racquetball or golf than tennis shoes, shirts, and skirts.

Pickleball vs Tennis: How They’re Played

As far as rules and gameplay are concerned, pickleball and tennis are vastly different. A pickleball serve, for example, is entirely different from a tennis serve. There is rarely a chance to score points with underhand serves under USA pickleball rules. The overhand serves used by tennis players are designed to make an ace if possible.

It is more like ping-pong than tennis when it comes to scoring in pickleball. There are 15 points, 30 points, and 40 points in tennis, while there are 11 points in pickleball. A major difference between pickleball and tennis is that the person or team serving can only score points. When it is their turn to serve, the opponents cannot score.

Neither game can be compared without mentioning pickleball’s non-volley zone (NVZ), or ‘kitchen’ rule. If any part of your body is in the kitchen, you cannot hit a volley, which is an air shot.

The most prevalent way to play pickleball is in doubles, whereas the most common way to play tennis is in singles.

A tennis stroke can be hit from any angle and from either side of the body, so it is much more varied than in other sports. Playing pickleball involves taking shots out in front of the body nearly all the time.

With its smaller court size and slower ball speed, pickleball can be a much more enjoyable game than tennis. There are numerous health benefits associated with pickleball, both mental and physical. Despite pickleball being a much gentler game, tennis is still a much more vigorous workout than pickleball.

a green and red skateboard


Pickleball Rules

There are many rules in pickleball that are similar to those in tennis, but there are some key differences as well. Pickleball, for instance, requires serving underhand and returning the serve after it bounces. Players are also prohibited from hitting the ball in the air in the non-volley zone (also called the “kitchen”).

Tennis Rules

In tennis, the ball can be hit in the air at any point on the court, and the ball must be served overhand. A tennis game is also won when a player or team scores four points with a two-point lead to win a game. The use of video technology is another unique rule of tennis that allows players to challenge line calls.

Do Tennis Skills Matter in Pickleball?

Pickleball skills can definitely be transferred from tennis, as several former tennis pros have demonstrated. In pickleball, you need practically all the same skills you need in tennis. The ability to control the ball on a tennis racket, quick footwork, and good hand-eye coordination are all valuable skills in both sports.

Gigi Fernandez, Sam Querrey, and Thaddea Lock are among the top tennis players who are embracing pickleball.

Pickleball vs Tennis: Popularity

With an estimated 87 million players around the world, tennis is one of the most established and popular sports in the world, and events such as Wimbledon draw huge crowds and high viewer ratings. On the other hand, pickleball is still relatively new and was slow to catch on for the first five decades of its existence.

It’s now the fastest-growing sport in America, with over 36.5 million people playing pickleball every year – it’s now the fastest-growing sport in the world apparently. When compared to tennis, where roughly 20 million people play, pickleball not only grows in popularity, it completely eclipses it!

A series of high-profile athletes and celebrities have invested in teams as the sport’s popularity has grown. LeBron James and Tom Brady both own MLP teams, to mention just a few! It is also interesting to see the rise of popularity on social media channels.

Pickleball is also being pushed for inclusion in the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 by fans and athletes alike.

man in gray crew neck t-shirt and gray shorts sitting on basketball court

Is Pickleball a better alternative to tennis?

So why pick pickleball over tennis? Firstly, pickleball has a lower impact than tennis, so it is ideal for people worried about their knees and hips. Anyone can enjoy pickleball, regardless of their level of fitness or strength, since it involves less running around.

Children can quite easily enjoy a pickleball game with their grandchildren, and vice versa, since pickleball is open to everyone, regardless of age.

Due to the size of the court, pickleball courts are also more plentiful. Tennis and badminton courts can easily be converted to pickleball courts, or existing lawns can be turned into pickleball courts.

One of the major draws of pickleball, and our favorite characteristic, is its social aspect. There are often 50 or more people playing pickleball at the same time in an open-play format.

Mixed social situations on and off the courts result in a congenial atmosphere, which leads to a great culture of pickleball parties, picnics, and barbecues.

But don’t get us wrong, the Tennis Pursuits team are all avid tennis players and we believe that both these sports can exist together and help each other grow.  There is still nothing like the satisfaction of hitting a tennis ball!

Pros and Cons

Pickleball – Pros and Cons


  • Easy to learn and play
  • Suitable for players of all ages and skill levels
  • Requires less physical stamina compared to tennis
  • Can be played indoors or outdoors


  • Limited availability of courts and equipment
  • Smaller community compared to tennis
  • May not provide as much of a physical workout compared to tennis

Tennis – Pros and Cons


  • Widely recognized sport with a large community of players
  • Provides a good physical workout
  • Can be played both indoors and outdoors
  • Offers a wide range of equipment options
  • Great to watch top players compete in established tournaments


  • Can be more challenging to learn and play compared to pickleball
  • May require more physical stamina compared to pickleball
  • Outdoor play may be limited to certain climates.

Health Benefits

Both pickleball and tennis are great sports for improving fitness and overall health. As well as improving cardiovascular health, strength, and coordination, they both require a lot of physical activity. Furthermore, they can improve mental health and reduce stress and anxiety.

What Makes Tennis Players Switch to Pickleball?

Sporting worlds are taking notice of pickleball. Many people are still doubtful that a paddle and plastic ball can change the world of sports, regardless of how major news outlets have recognized it, including The New York Times , The Atlantic, and Washington Post .

The versatility and accessibility of pickleball make it so beloved. Anyone who wants to try out this sport can easily pick it up. Skilled players can even build lucrative professional careers despite not having athletic strengths.

Due to its lower impact, social nature, and ability to last for a longer period of time, pickleball is becoming more popular among tennis players.

Regardless of athletic ability, pickleball is an easy game to play. The shorter net and smaller court make the game more social, leisurely, and affordable.

Pickleball vs Tennis: Which is Better?

The answer to this question ultimately depends on the individual’s preferences and needs. If you are looking for a sport that is easy to learn and play, and requires less physical stamina, pickleball may be the better choice for you. If you prefer a more challenging and physically demanding sport, and enjoy playing outdoors in a wider variety of climates, tennis may be the better choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between pickleball and tennis?

Pickleball and tennis are two different racket sports. While both sports involve hitting a ball back and forth over a net, they differ in terms of court size, equipment, and gameplay.

How big is a pickleball court compared to a tennis court?

A pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court. A pickleball court measures 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, while a tennis court measures 27 feet wide and 78 feet long.

What equipment do you need to play pickleball or tennis?

To play pickleball, you need a pickleball paddle and a pickleball. To play tennis, you need a tennis racket and a tennis ball.

Can you use a tennis racket to play pickleball or vice versa?

Tennis rackets can be used to play pickleball, but it is not recommended. There is a specific shape and size to pickleball paddles that differentiates them from tennis rackets. Tennis would also be impossible to play with a pickleball paddle.

How is the ball different in pickleball vs tennis?

Pickleballs are smaller, lighter, and have smaller holes compared to tennis balls. This makes them easier to hit and control in pickleball. Large tennis courts require heavier and higher-bouncing balls, which are more suitable for tennis.

How many players are on a pickleball and tennis court?

Pickleball is usually played as doubles, with two players on each side of the court. Singles or doubles tennis can be played on either side of the court, with one or two players on each side.

What are the scoring differences between pickleball and tennis?

In pickleball, games are played to 11 points, and a team must win by two points. In tennis, games are played to 4 points, and a player or team must win by two points. The most common format for tennis matches is best-of-three or best-of-five sets, while pickleball matches are best-of-three or one game.

Which sport is easier to learn, pickleball or tennis?

Due to its smaller court size, slower ball speed, and easier-to-handle equipment, pickleball is generally considered easier to learn than tennis. Practice and skill development are necessary for both sports to improve.

person wearing white sneakers standing on between green and red pavement

Final Thoughts

Tennis and pickleball are both popular racket sports that have their own advantages and disadvantages. A more physically demanding sport such as tennis requires greater skill and athleticism than pickleball in our view, which is easier to learn. We believe the future is both sports will benefit from each other.

A person’s preferences and physical capabilities will ultimately determine whether they prefer pickleball or tennis. It is fair to say we are tennis enthusiasts here and love the feeling of a hitting a running backhand winner or hitting a smash.  Pickleball is fun we’ll definitely keep playing as many of our friends get involved.

No matter what your preference is, tennis or pickleball provide a fun and challenging way to stay active and engage in friendly competition, regardless of court size and ball weight.


David Harris

David is the founder and chief writer at Tennis Pursuits. A tennis fanatic, David has extensive experience of the game and has reviewed 100s of products to date. He is passionate about helping others on their tennis journey.

Comments are closed.