Pickleball and tennis are popular racquet sports that are similar but differ but many ways.

I have played both myself. I have played tennis for years and switched to pickleball.

The biggest difference for me is the play style, tennis is more about control and power, and pickleball is more about reaction and positioning. 

In this article, I will compare pickleball vs tennis on the court, equipment, rules, playstyle, skill and physicality, and social aspects. 

So, you will know which sport is more suitable for you. 

Pickleball vs Tennis – Court Difference

pickleball court layout
tennis court layout

Pickleball and tennis courts look similar but have different layouts and sizes. 

Dimensions

A tennis court is much larger than a tennis court. A regulation-size pickleball court is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, while a tennis court is 78 feet long and 36 feet wide. 

Layout

There are three areas in a pickleball court and five in a tennis court. 

The two extra tennis court areas on the sidelines are called the double alley. They exist because double and single tennis games’ court layout differs. The outer sideline is used in a double game, while the inner sideline is used in a single game.

The court layout is the same for double and single games in pickleball. 

Both tennis and a pickleball court have a service area consisting of two service boxes. This is the area where the ball lands during a serve. The difference is the service area of a tennis court is next to the net, and the service area of a pickleball is next to the baseline. 

The largest box in a tennis court is called a no-man land; the name signals that, in most situations, you should not step into the area. 

The largest box in a pickleball court is called a non-volley zone. Interestingly, in most cases, you should not step into to non-volley zone. 

Non-Volley Zone

Pickleball has a unique area called the Non-Volley Zone (also known as the kitchen). It is 7 ft from the pickleball net on both sides and runs the entire court width.

As you may have guessed from its name, players cannot volley the ball while standing in the non-volley zone. 

Net

A pickleball net is lower and shorter than a tennis net. A pickleball net is 34 inches in the center and 36 inches on both ends.

On the other hand, a tennis net is 36 inches in the center and 42 inches in both ends.

The difference seems insignificant, but they make a big difference in an actual game. 

Pickleball vs Tennis – Equipment

Another significant difference between pickleball and tennis is the equipment used. Pickleball is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes, while tennis is played with a racquet and a fuzzy ball.

Paddle vs Racquet

pickleball vs tennis - racquet vs paddle

A pickleball paddle and a tennis racket’s material, size, and weight differ.

A tennis racket is bigger and heavier, with a long handle and a large, slim rectangular-shaped face with strings and weighing approximately 10 ounces. The face of a tennis racket is made of strings. 

A pickleball paddle is smaller and lighter. It has a much shorter handle, with a broader rectangular face that is solid and weighs approximately 7.5 -8 ounces (mid-weight paddle). The face of a pickleball paddle is made of a solid and smooth surface. 

The differences in size, weight, and design make a paddle easier to use, require less arm strength, and are more portable. While using a tennis racquet is more difficult, it allows more control and spins. 

Check out the best pickleball paddles for tennis players.

Ball

pickleball vs tennis balls

The ball design is considered the most prominent difference by many players.

Pickleball balls (also called whiffle balls) are rigid plastic balls with holes that are larger than tennis balls. They are less bouncier, so it’s rare to see people play pickleball on soft surfaces like grass. Also, they are lighter (0.78 oz to 0.94 oz), so they are affected by wind more.

Tennis balls are heavier (1.98 oz -2.10 oz), softer, and more flexible.

There are two types of balls in pickleball, one is for indoor, and another one is for outdoor. The outdoor balls have a smaller size, smaller hole size, and more holes, making them less easily affected by winds. 

Apparel

The apparel of both sports is similar. Players usually wear white apparel to contrast with the yellow ball to avoid distracting the opponent from seeing the ball.

Pickleball vs Tennis – Rules

The rules of pickleball and tennis differ in several ways.

Serve

In pickleball, only an underhand serve is allowed.

In tennis, both underhand and overhand serve are allowed, but overhand serve is used most of the time because it is much more powerful. 

Unlike tennis which allows a second serve, only one attempt is allowed per serve in pickleball. So if the first serve is a fault, then this point is over. 

Also, in pickleball, players take turns to serve in a game, but in a tennis game, one player takes all the serve. Does that mean the other player doesn’t have the opportunity to serve ever? No, this is related to how scoring in tennis works. 

Score

The scoring system for pickleball is different than tennis. Pickleball games are played for 11 points, and tennis games are played for 4 points that are counted like this: 0, 15, 40, and 60.

You might be wondering if the tennis games are played for 4 points only, wouldn’t a tennis match end very quickly? Indeed, a 4-point game ends very quickly, so in tennis matches, many games are played. Usually, at least six games are played, and whoever wins six games first wins the match. And in different games, players take the serve alternately.

Deuce apply to both tennis and pickleball game. It occurs when the score reaches 10-10 in a pickleball game and 40-40 in a tennis game. When a  deuce occurs, either team needs to win two points consecutively to win the match.

Kitchen Rule

As I said earlier, there is a unique area called a kitchen in a pickleball court that is 7 feet from the net on both sides and covers the entire width of the court.

It is where the kitchen rules apply. In simplest terms, kitchen rules state players cannot volley the ball while standing in the kitchen or its line. 

While in tennis, you can volley the ball wherever and whenever you like. 

Double Bounce Rule

In pickleball, there is also the “double bounce rule,” which means that after the service, each team must play their first shot off of one bounce before they can volley.

Pickleball vs Tennis – Play Style

Double is more prevalent in pickleball

Pickleball games are often played in double, while tennis games are usually played in single. 

It is more fun and reasonable to play double in pickleball. 

In a single tennis game, a player can easily cover the entire court and take shots from different angles, even though the court is large. This is because tennis players usually stand behind the backline of the court and have more time to react to shots.

But it’s hard to react to shots from different angles in a single pickleball game. First, players usually stand near the kitchen line, which is very close to the net, and second, a pickleball is less bouncy than a tennis ball. As a result, players will miss more shots, which is less fun. 

Positioning

Volley is rare in tennis but prevalent in pickleball. 

In a pickleball game, most of the time, players will stand near the kitchen line. This is because it’s easier to volley and smash the ball when you are closer to the net, and also if you are far away from the kitchen line, the ball might bounce at your feet, which makes it difficult to be returned because pickleball is less bouncy. 

Things are different in a tennis game. Tennis players usually stand behind the baseline and hit the ball after it has bounced. This makes it easier to apply spin and hit powerful shots. 

Serve and ace

In pickleball, the purpose of a game is just to start a game but not to win points. But in tennis, serving is one of the most potent weapons to score a point. Ace is much more common in tennis than in pickleball. It is probably the most challenging part of tennis and takes a lot of practice. 

Pickleball vs Tennis – Skill and Physicality

Tennis is more physically demanding, and pickleball is easier to pick up. Does this mean pickleball has a lower skill ceiling? Not necessarily. 

It takes months of practice to be decent in tennis, while you can pick up and enjoy pickleball after playing a few times.  

Tennis is more physically demanding than pickleball due to its larger court size and heavier racquet.

Pickleball vs Tennis – Which one is more suitable for you?

Pickleball and tennis are fun and exciting sports with unique characteristics. Whether you prefer the fast-paced gameplay of tennis or the more relaxed and social nature of pickleball, there is something for everyone. Ultimately, the choice between the two sports comes down to personal preference and what you seek in a racquet sport. So why not give both a try and see which one you prefer?

Check out my tutorial on setting up a tennis court for pickleball.

FAQ on Pickleball vs Tennis

Is pickleball the same as tennis?

No, they are very different sports.

What’s the difference between a paddle in pickleball and a racquet tennis?

A paddle pickleball is smaller, lighter, and has a shorter handle. It is made of a smooth and solid surface.

How many serve attempt is allowed in pickleball?

Unlike in tennis, where players have two serve attempts, in pickleball, players have only one serve attempt.

How are the scoring rules different in pickleball than in tennis?

The biggest difference is that only the serving team can win a point in pickleball. If the serving team loses, they will only lose the opportunity to serve.

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