The game of pickleball is gaining popularity incredibly quickly. Many players and enthusiasts of sports like badminton, tennis, and table tennis have taken to pickleball as their new hobby. It has become prevalent among people who enjoy tennis, as pickleball is closely related to that deep-rooted sport, with some even referring to it as “mini tennis”.
Pickleball resembles tennis fundamentally but has the unique rules that set it apart from the longstanding sport. Upon closer look, pickleball rules, scoring, and equipment differ significantly from the sport of tennis. Pickleball is also considered to be easier and more accessible.
At first glance, pickleball can be interpreted as a mini version of tennis where uneducated people believe that the people taking part did not find a tennis court to play actual tennis on. Despite taking strong inspiration from tennis, the more you look into pickleball, the more you realize that it stands out as its sport, from court layout, rules, and equipment.
How Is Pickleball Different From Tennis?
Pickleball and tennis have similarities, but calling the fastest growing sport in the U.S. “mini tennis” is inaccurate. The two sports differ in their court layouts, rules, and equipment.
Pickleball Court Size Versus Tennis Court Size
Though the pickleball court layout is similar to a tennis court, the two differ significantly in size. A tennis court is typically seventy feet in length and thirty-six feet in width, while a pickle court is much smaller, measuring forty-four feet in length and twenty feet in width.
The net in pickleball is also not the same as in tennis. In pickleball, the net is three feet high at the center of the court, while in tennis, it is six inches taller. Though it’s a shorter net in pickleball, getting the ball over can still be challenging.
Pickleball Has Different Rules To Tennis
Pickleball looks like a mini version of tennis when viewing the sport for the first time from the sidelines. Still, despite its similarities to tennis, pickleball does adopt unique rules. Here are eight critical differences between the two sports in terms of rules.
- Serving is underhand. You serve cross-court in pickleball just as you do in tennis, except that all serves are underhand, meaning the point of contact with the ball is below the hip. Tennis allows for both overhand and underhand serves.
- Pickleball has no double faults. A player or team in pickleball serves until they commit a fault. After committing a fault, the player or team surrenders their service to the opponent(s).
- Pickleball has a kitchen. Otherwise known as the non-volley zone, the kitchen is an area close to the net on each side (seven feet deep) where a player is not permitted to play volleys. If players could stand by the net and smash volleys, the game would not be as easy or fun.
- Pickleball serves must clear the non-volley zone. In tennis, a served ball must bounce within the area closest to the net (forecourt), whereas in pickleball, the service ball must clear the area closest to the net (non-volley zone).
- Pickleball uses its own scoring. Pickleball does not use tennis’s game-set-match structure but instead has the fairly straightforward rule of first to reach eleven points (but you must win by two points). And, a team or player can only score a point when they are the ones serving.
- The double bounce rule. Players must respect this important rule during each point. Both the serving team and receiving must let the ball bounce once receiving it when they play their first shots. Only then can the teams play volleys.
- The court dimensions do not change for singles and doubles. Unlike tennis, pickleball uses the same court dimensions for singles and doubles. Double players use the tennis courts’ widest lines (tram lines).
- Court sides are even or odd. In tennis, court sides are referred to as deuce or ad sides, but in pickleball, they are referred to as even and odd.
Pickleball Equipment Is Very Different To Tennis Equipment
Though both sports use nets, racquets, and balls, you’ll notice upon closer inspection that their materials, designs, and dimensions differ greatly.
Pickleball Paddles Versus Tennis Racquets
Though the shape is similar between the two, pickleball does not use string racquets but flat paddles. Pickleball paddles also come in various shapes and sizes, just like tennis racquets do.
Generally, paddles are about half of the size of tennis racquets and have shorter handles and more rectangular-shaped frames. Because of these big differences in dimensions, the approach to hitting a ball in pickleball is very different from the swing used for tennis. As a result, tennis players who play pickleball for the first time are often caught off guard when hitting a pickleball ball for the first time.
Because the tennis racquet uses strings while the paddle uses a flat surface, the effect upon hitting the ball is very different. The tennis racquet strings compress around the ball and bend. Because the strings can interact the way they do with the tennis ball, a player can add effects like top spin and back spin.
On the other hand, a pickleball paddle’s flat surface does not compress, so a player cannot put a spin on the ball like in tennis. The ball bounces off the paddle immediately.
Pickleball Balls Are Nothing Like Tennis Balls
Pickleball balls are nothing like tennis balls. Tennis balls are made of hard and flexible rubber covered in wool and nylon. The balls need to be solid to sustain the power of tennis racquet strings.
In contrast, pickleball balls, also known as wiffle balls, are made of plastic and have perforated holes. Thanks to their lightness and holes, wiffle balls move cleanly through the air with little drag.
Since they are softer, pickleball balls do not bounce as high as the harder tennis balls. In addition, they are more fragile and would disintegrate if you were to smash them with a tennis racquet.
Pickleball ball designs vary depending on where you play. In windless conditions or indoors, balls with bigger holes can be used to play; however, balls with smaller holes must be used in windy conditions to reduce the effect of the wind on the light wiffle ball.
Is Pickleball Easier Than Tennis?
Overall, it looks like pickleball is easier than tennis regarding its physicality. It is not for nothing that many people, particularly elderly tennis players, have gravitated towards pickleball.
Pickleball is easier on the back and knees than tennis is. Though there is less movement in pickleball, the sport still requires the player to have decent agility and speed.
Even more so than in tennis, shot placement in pickleball is more important than power shots which can tax on the body. A fast-paced game of pickleball requires the players to have a fairly good fitness level, despite being played on a smaller court with lighter balls.
Though pickleball resembles tennis in many ways, simply calling this sport a mini version of tennis does not do it justice. With several rules that differ quite from tennis and its equipment, pickleball deserves to stand on its own.
Pickleball is considered by most to be easier than tennis, especially when it comes to the physical effort required.