Pickleball vs. Tennis | The Definitive Comparison Guide (2024)

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Pickleball vs. Tennis | The Definitive Comparison Guide (1)

Pickleball vs. Tennis | The Definitive Comparison Guide (2)

The Definitive Comparison Guide

By Jon Crim

As a lifelong tennis player and a fan of all racquet sports, I’ve been fascinated watching and participating in the explosion of pickleball, which encourages players of all ages and levels to grab a paddle and hit the court to meet new people and spend time with friends and family.

On the surface, pickleball and tennis have a lot in common, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find quite a bit of differentiation between the two. Whether you’re looking to cross the divide or simply want to explore what they have to offer, one of the best places to start is understanding where they are similar and different.

In this guide, I’ve compiled a head-to-head comparison to help anyone interested in learning about or picking up one of the sports to decide which is best for their lifestyle, as both are excellent pastimes.

Check out the table below for a glimpse of what I’ll cover in greater depth throughout the remainder of this article.

Comparison CriteriaTennisPickleball
Origin12-centery, France1965, United States
Popularity*21 million50 million
Demographics*43% female43% female
Social ConnectionsSocial SportHighly Social Sport
DifficultyModerately ChallengingEasy to Get Started
Physicality**357 – 517 calories/hr107 – 550 calories/hr
EquipmentRacquet, Strings, Balls, ShoesPaddle, Balls, Shoes
Court78 x 36 feet44 x 20 feet
RulesModerate Learning CurveModerate Learning Curve

*Stats for the United States.
**Based on a person weighing 150 lbs (68 kg).

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To lay some groundwork, let’s start by covering how pickleball and tennis came to be, each game born out of the desire to have some fun.

Origin StatsTennisPickleball
FoundersUnknownJoel Prichard / Bill Bell
LocationFranceUnited States
Rules Published18751984


Tennis has a long and storied history, with historians pinpointing its origin to the 12-century French game ‘paume,’ or ‘jeu de paume,’ which participants played with their hands, striking the ball back and forth over a net before the introduction of racquets years later in 1583.

The modern game we’re all familiar with today is an evolution of the sport, which resembles lawn tennis played at the All England Lawn and Croquet Club, formed in 1870, now known as Wimbledon.

In 1875, the Marylebone Cricket Club published the Rules of Lawn Tennis, which Wimbledon adopted for their first Championships in 1877 and were later standardized in 1913 by the International Lawn Tennis Federation, now known as the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Today, tennis is one of the top sports worldwide, enjoyed by players of all ages and levels, with a highly entertaining pro tour.


As much as kids look forward to summer, the extra free time they have on their hands very often leads to boredom, and that’s precisely the situation the Prichards and Bells found themselves in 1965.

Congressman Joel Prichard and his friend Bill Bell arrived at their house after a round of golf near their home in Bainbridge Island, Washington, east of downtown Seattle, to find their families (namely their kids) sitting around looking for something to occupy their free time.

Motivated to get their families engaged and moving around, Joel and Bill dug up some old badminton equipment. However, they were short on racquets, so they improvised, pulling out some ping-pong paddles and a wiffle ball, which they hit back and forth over their badminton net.

What started as a mishmash of a few different games quickly evolved into a sport of its own, with rules hashed out between Joel, Bill, and their friend Barney McCallum, which later formalized in 1984 when the United States Amateur Pickleball Association published the game’s first rulebook.

The Bottom Line

Tennis is undoubtedly a more mature sport, having a few hundred-year head start on pickleball and a dedicated worldwide fan base that will continue to carry the sport for years to come.

Meanwhile, pickleball is a very young sport, but its immense popularity and ease of participation have fueled its rapid growth and development. Don’t let its age fool you; pickleball is the real deal, and the sport shows no signs of slowing, even with a push to make it into the Olympics.


In 2023, the Association of Pickleball Players (APP) announced that total participation in the United States reached 48.3 million, far eclipsing the established presence of tennis, which the United States Tennis Association (USTA) reported at 23.6 million in 2022.

Globally, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reports there are 87 million players. However, international pickleball organizations like the International Federation of Pickleball and the World Pickleball Federation have yet to compile these figures, likely due to a heavy or primary concentration of participants in the United States.

Regardless of how you slice it, both sports are popular and have experienced growth in recent years, making them excellent options to explore for spending some of your free time.


According to the ITF’s latest Global Tennis Report from 2021, there are 87 million tennis players worldwide, which the organization arrived at by surveying 41 national associations that participate.

For context, the report defines a tennis player as anyone who has played the sport in the past 12 months, so it’s a fairly broad definition.

Here’s how the figure breaks down by top nations:

CountryParticipationPercent of Total
United States21,621,37925%
Great Britain3,987,3925%

More recent data from the USTA puts the number of participants in the United States at 23.6 million, a 33% increase since 2020. However, despite the increase, these figures now trail pickleball.


In recent years, pickleball has taken the United States by storm as the fastest-growing sport in America. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), participation grew from 4.8 million in 2021 to 8.9 million in 2022, an 85% increase year over year.

Here’s an extended timeline of pickleball’s growth.

YearParticipantsYearly Growth

However, in 2023, the APP released two separate reports, suggesting pickleball participation far exceeds the original numbers. In January 2023, they revealed that 36.5 million participated in the sport, then followed that up in March 2023 to announce that 50 million have played in the last six months, representing a 37% increase in a few months.

Like tennis, a pickleball participant is anyone who picked up a paddle and played the sport at least once in the past 12 months.

Those numbers are staggering, and if you live in the United States, you’ve likely noticed people clamoring to play the sport. The big question that looms is whether or not those people experimenting with pickleball for the first time stick with it or try it and give up on it.

The following year or two will be an exciting period for the sport in the United States as it would appear it’s reaching a saturation point. However, there’s still plenty of room for international expansion.

The Bottom Line

Today, tennis is undoubtedly more popular than pickleball, with data to back its global participation up. However, in the United States, one of the most crucial markets worldwide, pickleball popularity has eclipsed tennis in a few short months, with more than double the participation.

What remains unclear is whether pickleball will maintain its homegrown traction and international expansion with sustained participation that rivals the consistent and stable figures associated with tennis.

Regardless, both sports are prevalent, so if you’re interested in picking up either, you’ll find plenty of clubs and communities catering to them where you can stay active, meet friends, and have fun.


Tennis and pickleball have players of all ages and levels enjoying both sports, and there’s reasonably balanced participation among men and women, making both sports great options for nearly anyone.


Tennis enthusiasts have long touted the game as a lifelong sport, one you can begin playing as a child and continue playing and being challenged well into the later years of your life. As a result, it’s no surprise that you’ll find players, young and old, hitting the court to get some exercise.

One of the reasons for its success extending into the later stages of life is that it’s a non-contact sport that’s relatively easy on the body. That’s not to say players don’t get injured; far from it. However, compared to many other competitive options, tennis is a relatively safe bet you can enjoy at any age without significant concern for hurting yourself.

According to the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), the age of tennis players in the United States broke down as follows in 2018.

Tennis Player AgesTotal PlayersPercent of Total

As far as gender goes, the ITF reports tennis is relatively balanced, with 40.7% of players worldwide being female and the remaining 59.3% male, which breaks down to 43.3% female and 56.7% male in the US.


Through 2019, it was common for people to think of pickleball as a sport for seniors, which wasn’t terribly surprising as the age of participants skewed heavily toward an older generation. Today, the 45+ age bracket still represents a third of all participants, but that’s only part of the story.

Along with the sport’s growth, there’s been a groundswell of younger players eager to try it out, which celebrity investment in Major League Pickleball (MLP) helped fuel. Here are just a few of the big names and famous people who threw their hat in the ring as owners of teams.

  • LeBron James
  • Tom Brady
  • Drew Brees
  • Michal Phelps
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Kevin Durant
  • Heidi Klum
  • Chris Evert
  • Lindsay Davenport
  • Tracy Austin
  • Mark Cuban
  • John Isner
  • Eva Longoria
  • Naomi Osaka
  • Nick Kyrgios
  • Patrick Mahomes

According to the APP, the average age of pickleballers looking back 12 months in March 2023 was 34.8 years old in the United States, significantly younger than anticipated, showcasing the following breakdown of avid participants in the sport.

Avid Pickleballer AgesPercent of Total

Regarding gender, pickleball participation is on par with tennis in the United States. The APP’s research also revealed that 43% of casual players are female, while 57% are male. However, for avid pickleballers, things skew a bit more toward the male side, with roughly 62% of players in that category being male and 38% female.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re interested in playing tennis or pickleball, it’s never too early or late to get started. Both sports welcome players of all ages and levels, with a relatively balanced distribution of participants among men and women, so there’s something for everyone looking to get involved.

Social Connections

Beyond exercise, people who participate in tennis and pickleball often look for the social connections that accompany playing a sport. Let’s look at what you can expect when participating in each.


Many people perceive tennis as an individual sport, with singles receiving the lion’s share of focus from the media on the pro tours. However, despite that outward appearance, its social nature is still a core part of why people participate in the sport, especially at the recreational level.

For starters, if you’re looking to get involved, you’re likely going to connect with other players at a club or with friends and family.

Tennis clubs will expose you to the broadest range of players, with opportunities to socialize before, during, and after play. Of course, it’s common for clubs to hold social activities off the court as well, presenting even more chances to meet new people and make friends.

Of course, even if you’re meeting up with one friend to play at your local public courts, that one-on-one connection is valuable.

Players looking to amp up the social element in tennis will likely do well in doubles, which requires four players. Simply having extra players in the mix tends to make it more social, and players often take it a bit less seriously at the recreational and club levels.

Mixed doubles is also an excellent opportunity where men and women share the court and play together, creating a fun social setting.

For the more serious tennis player, league tennis presents another terrific opportunity to get involved with the sport competitively while developing relationships with your teammates. Under this format, you join a team that plays head-to-head against other teams in the league.

Overall, tennis is an excellent activity if the social element is high on your list of priorities for a fun exercise.


Like tennis, pickleball is a social pastime, but it’s even more engrained in the sport, with many players gravitating to the game to meet new people just as readily as to have fun and get some exercise.

Part of the reason for pickleball’s social success has to do with its format, where open play is super common. Open play refers to a set date and time when players of varying levels come and enjoy the sport without having to set up a match ahead of time, and it’s one of the driving forces that has helped propel the sport’s growth.

With open play, you’ll likely show up with more players than can take the court at once. For example, you might have two courts with 15 people who show up, meaning only eight can play doubles at a time. In that case, seven players get to take a break to sit, watch, and chat on the sidelines before getting their opportunity to rotate in and play.

Furthermore, most open play is mixed doubles, which lends itself to a more social environment where people are there to have fun and catch up versus being overly competitive. Of course, that’s not to say players don’t take it seriously, but it’s usually a lighter format.

If you book a court for singles or doubles, it’s still a great time to catch up with friends or family, and considering doubles is most common, you’ll have at least four of you on the court to make for a fun setting.

Even at the professional level, the MLP has adopted a team format, with each team consisting of two men and two women, reinforcing the social element even at the elite level.

The Bottom Line

Tennis and pickleball are excellent options for anyone who wants to meet new people and make friends. However, I give pickleball a slight edge over tennis if the social element is a high priority on your list. Its format is highly conducive to meeting new people, and more often than not, players are there to have fun, exercise, and catch up with friends.


Tennis and pickleball are equally accessible to beginners, with both sports encouraging the participation of new players and systems of progression in place to ensure growth and success on the court.

However, since a good instructor can break both down into easy-to-perform steps, I’ll focus on the difficulty of learning tennis or pickleball to the point where you can confidently play a match, emphasizing the serve, balls, net, and court size as essential factors to consider.


Let’s start with the serve. Players begin a point in tennis by serving a ball cross-court into a service box.

To accomplish the feat, you first need to learn proper technique, and it just so happens that the serve is one of the most technically challenging strokes. Once you get the hang of how to serve, you’ll need to hit a ball 39 feet (11.89 m) over a net that’s 3 feet (0.91 m) high in the middle into a service box that’s 21 feet (6.4 m) x 13.5 ft (4.1 m).

It’s a daunting feat starting from scratch, so when you’re learning how to serve, your instructor will teach you in baby steps, including an abbreviated service motion, while standing closer to the net.

Once the ball is in play for a point, the court, which is 78 feet (23.77 m) in length and 27 feet (8.23 m) in width for singles, affords players plenty of surface area for keeping the ball in play but there’s a lot of movement required to run to the ball and position yourself to hit it back. Not to mention learning how to read a tennis ball’s bounce, which is dynamic and can change dramatically based on the spin applied.

All combined, these elements make getting started playing a true tennis match challenging at first. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t have fun as a complete beginner. Getting to the point where you can confidently play a match simply requires breaking things down into bite-size chunks, but you can still enjoy playing while progressing.


Like tennis, players start a point in pickleball with a serve. However, a handful of factors differentiate the pickleball serve from tennis.

First, you’ll hit a serve in pickleball underhand, making contact with the ball below your waist. Depending on your preference, you can release the ball from your hand as you strike it or drop it in front of you to let it bounce once before making contact below your waist.

The magic of the pickleball serve lies in its simplicity. Sure, over time, players can develop a more effective serve. However, nearly anyone who steps on a court can successfully hit a serve after a few attempts, which is a stark contrast to the level of difficulty hitting a serve in tennis.

Beyond the simplicity of the serve stroke in pickleball, the distance you have to hit the ball and net height is less than in tennis, where a serve must travel 39 feet (11.89 m) over a net 3 feet (0.91 m) high in the middle. In pickleball, you only need to hit the ball 29 feet (8.84 m) to reach the service box, and the net height is 2 feet 10 in (0.86 m) in the middle.

However, the ball is another factor that helps simplify getting started with pickleball compared to tennis, which features a rubber core pressurized with nitrogen for a lively bounce.

In contrast, a pickleball is hollow with holes, similar to a wiffle ball, so it doesn’t travel as fast and is not nearly as bouncy, making it easier to track the ball and get in position to hit it.

Overall, the simplicity of the pickleball serve stroke combined with the smaller court dimensions and less bouncy ball that doesn’t travel as fast helps make the sport accessible and relatively easy to get started.

The Bottom Line

Although both sports require hand-eye coordination and agile movement, the rules, court dimensions, and equipment make learning pickleball easier, especially if you aim to participate in a full match.

Of course, you can still get started having fun playing tennis without any prior experience. It will typically just take more time, patience, and lessons with an instructor before you’re comfortable playing a competitive match and successfully executing the service motion.


One of the top reasons people participate in any sport is for exercise, so if you’re considering tennis or pickleball, you may be curious about which is more physical and delivers a better workout.


By all accounts, tennis is a physical sport, with plenty of movement required to play the game effectively, with a reasonably large court that’s 78 feet (23.77 m) long by 27 feet (8.23 m) wide when playing singles for a total area of 195.65 square feet (18.18 sq m).

Due to the court’s size, a lot of running (and sprinting) is involved in getting to the ball quickly so you can position yourself to return it to your opponent. Moreover, a player’s feet should always be moving during a point to ensure they can quickly react and move to the ball, which helps increase the sport’s physicality as you’re continually moving during points.

As a result, playing tennis is an excellent workout, which, according to USTA, can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease by 56% when you play a mere three hours per week. Depending on the intensity of the type of tennis you’re playing, a 150 lbs (68 kg) individual can expect to burn anywhere between 357 to 571 calories in an hour.

Type of TennisPlayer Weight (lbs)Player Weight (kg)METCalories Burnt
Moderate Practice150685357

For reference, the metabolic equivalent of task (MET) expresses the energy used during an activity as outlined by the Compendium of Physical Activities, which is a terrific means for gauging an activity’s intensity.


Like tennis, pickleball is an excellent sport to pick up to stay active and get plenty of exercise that will help keep you in shape.

A pickleball court measures 44 feet (13.41 m) long by 20 feet (6.10 m) wide, much smaller than a tennis court, so whether you’re playing singles or doubles, there’s much less running around required. Also, doubles is most prevalent in pickleball, reducing movement further as you’re only required to cover half the court while playing.

However, despite these differences between tennis, there’s still plenty of movement required to play pickleball, from continually moving to the ball to make contact and swinging to hit your next shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), exercising is one of the best ways to stay healthy, putting you at a lower risk for serious health issues like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer, and pickleball is an excellent way to keep active.

In a study published by the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology (IJREP), a team measured the MET response to pickleball from 1.5 to 7.7, with an average of 4.1 for moderate intensity. Using those values, an individual weighing 150 lbs (68 kg) can expect to burn between 107 and 550 calories. Here’s how these figures break down with varying degrees of intensity.

Type of PickleballPlayer Weight (lbs)Player Weight (kg)METCalories Burnt
Low Intensity150681.5107
High Intensity150687.7550

Ultimately, pickleball is a terrific way to stay active and improve your fitness and health, which are excellent reasons to participate.

The Bottom Line

Tennis and pickleball are excellent sports for improving your health and fitness. However, the data clearly shows that tennis delivers the biggest bang for your buck regarding exercise, so if that’s a driving force for your participation, it might be a better fit for your needs.

Of course, that shouldn’t diminish the value of playing pickleball, as it’s still an excellent way to get moving and stay active.


Tennis and pickleball are both considered racquet sports, and although their equipment has some similarities, a handful of differences distinguish them from each other.


Beyond a court to play on, which we’ll cover in the next section, only a few essential pieces of equipment are required to play tennis, including a racquet, strings, tennis balls, and a quality pair of tennis shoes.

Most adult tennis racquets are 27-inch (68.58 cm) long graphite frames with holes drilled throughout the head to allow strings to pass through. After weaving together and applying tension to the strings, the string bed creates a trampoline-like surface to hit the ball with a texture that amplifies spin. It’s worth noting that tennis strings won’t last forever, so you’ll need to replace them periodically based on your frequency of play.

Meanwhile, tennis balls feature a rubber core injected with nitrogen and wrapped with a felt cover to produce adequate bounce and grip when brushing against the strings of a racquet. A standard tennis ball has a diameter that ranges from 2.57 – 2.70 inches (6.54 – 6.86 cm) and weighs 56.0 – 59.4 grams (1.975 – 2.095 oz) as outlined by the ITF.

With your racquet strung and a can of tennis balls ready to go, the only other piece of equipment you’ll need is a pair of quality tennis shoes, which provide the stability, comfort, and traction required to protect your feet and ankles from the quick directional changes that are common.

Although you can technically play tennis with any shoes, the investment in purpose-built tennis shoes is well worth it to reduce injury while also having the added benefit of coming with non-marking soles.


Similar to tennis, the equipment you’ll need to play pickleball includes a paddle, pickleballs, and a quality pair of shoes for the court.

Unlike adult tennis racquets, which are mostly uniform in length at 27 inches (68.58 cm), pickleball paddles vary in size as the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) rules are relatively broad, stating that the paddle’s combined length and width can’t exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm).

Despite the lenience in a paddle’s dimensions, most fall between 15 – 16 inches (38.10 – 40.64 cm) long and 7 – 8.25 inches (17.78 – 20.96 cm) wide, with a relatively uniform face.

When it comes to pickleballs, they’re plastic and hollow with holes that catch air and slow the ball down. According to the USAPA, a regulation ball must contain between 26-40 holes, have a diameter between 2.874 – 2.972 inches (7.3 cm – 7.55 cm), and weigh 22.1 – 26.51 grams (0.78 – 0.935 oz).

However, another distinction that separates pickleballs from tennis balls is that there are indoor and outdoor pickleballs. Indoor pickleballs are lighter, softer, slightly larger, and have fewer holes because wind isn’t present when playing inside. In contrast, you’ll use the same balls for indoor and outdoor play for tennis.

Regarding shoes, the same characteristics of stability, comfort, and traction crucial for tennis are also essential for pickleball. So, players have adopted tennis shoes as their shoe of choice, which work perfectly for the game. Although some brands like New Balance have introduced shoes explicitly for pickleball, they’re tennis shoes repackaged for the sport.

The Bottom Line

Although there are distinct differences in the equipment for tennis and pickleball, the requirements are nearly identical: some balls, a racquet or paddle to hit the balls, and quality shoes to prevent injury.

Moreover, the costs of buying entry-level or high-end equipment for either sport are very similar, so on this front, both sports are on a reasonably level playing field.


On the surface, tennis, and pickleball courts boast many similarities. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll find as many, if not more, differences that separate the two sports.


The vast majority of tennis courts are set up for singles and doubles, measuring 78 feet (23.77 m) long by 36 feet (10.97 m) wide, for a total playing area of 2,808 square feet (260.75 sq m).

It’s also worth noting that tennis courts also require space around the court to allow players to move freely without running into the fence or backstop, which should be a minimum of 18 feet (5.48 m) behind the baseline and 10 feet (3.05 m) to the sides of the court.

Therefore, the total size of a tennis court is 96 feet (29.26 m) by 46 feet (14.02 m) or 4,416 square feet (410.23 m).

Pickleball vs. Tennis | The Definitive Comparison Guide (4)

Here’s an overview of the lines:

  • Baseline
  • Center Mark
  • Service Line
  • Center Service Line
  • Singles Sidelines
  • Doubles Sidelines

Between the lines, you’ll find these areas:

  • Service Boxes
  • Back Court (No Man’s Land)
  • Doubles Alleys

Separating the court in the middle is a net, which measures 42 feet (12.80 m) long and 3.5 feet (1.07 m) high at the posts. Finally, a strap pulls the net’s height down to 3 feet (.91 m) in the middle.


All pickleball courts are set up for singles and doubles, measuring 44 feet (13.41 m) long by 20 feet (6.10 m) wide or 880 square feet (81.80 sq m), which is nearly 70% smaller than a full-size tennis court that includes doubles alleys and lines, which is a substantial difference.

According to the USAPA rulebook, the total minimum area for a pickleball court should be 60 feet (18.29 m) long by 30 feet (9.14 m) wide or 1,800 square feet (167.17 sq m), which means there should be 14 feet (4.27 m) behind the baseline and 10 feet (3.05 m) on the sides of the court to allow for adequate movement.

Said another way, the square footage of two pickleball courts comfortably fits inside a tennis court, making for a dramatically different playing experience. In some places, you’ll even find the lines of four pickleball courts painted on a tennis court by reducing the space behind the court and at its sides to allow for more concurrent games.

Pickleball vs. Tennis | The Definitive Comparison Guide (5)

Here’s a quick overview of the lines on a pickleball court.

  • Baseline
  • Centerline
  • Sideline
  • Non-volley line

Between the lines, you’ll find these areas:

  • The non-volley zone
  • Right service area
  • Left service area

A net, which measures 22 feet (6.71 m) wide, separates the court in the middle. The net’s height measures 36 inches (0.91 m) at the net posts and 34 inches (0.86 m) at the center. As a result, a pickleball net is six inches shorter at the posts and two inches lower at the middle.

The Bottom Line

Playing tennis will be your best bet for maximizing your movement and exercise due to the larger court size. However, pickleball’s smaller court is terrific if you’re looking for a fun, less strenuous activity, making it an excellent option for those limited in their movement.


Another area that differentiates tennis and pickleball is the rules. However, rather than dive deep into the finer details, I’ll touch on some of the most prominent differences, including the serve, pickleball’s two-bounce rule and no-volley zone, and scoring.


When you serve in tennis, you must toss the ball in the air and hit it to the opposite service box from where you stand at the baseline before it lands on the ground, but there are no height requirements when contacting the ball with your racquet. You can serve underhand, at your side, or overhand; each method is legal. Moreover, when you serve in tennis, you get two attempts to hit the ball, a first and second serve.

Once the ball bounces in the service box, the ball doesn’t need to bounce again, so the server can rush the net and volley the ball in the air, which isn’t allowed in pickleball, requiring two bounces before volleys.

There also aren’t any areas of the court that are off-limits when playing a point in tennis. You can volley as close to the net as you’d like, but you risk being lobbed by your opponent. Whereas in pickleball, there’s a no-volley zone that you can’t enter when hitting the ball in the air.

Finally, scoring is different in tennis. Here are the basic point values:

  • 15 = 1 point
  • 30 = 2 points
  • 40 = 3 points
  • Deuce = Tied at 3 points
  • Ad in = Server wins the deuce point
  • Ad out = Reciever wins the deuce point

The first player to win four points wins the game, but a player needs to win by two points for that to happen. Furthermore, a player must win six games by a margin of two to win a set, with matches typically played as a best of three sets, i.e., the first player to win two sets wins the match.


Like tennis, you also need to serve diagonally into the opposite service area from the baseline when playing pickleball. However, the rules state you must make contact with the ball below your waist. You can release the ball from your hand to hit it in the air, or you can drop it and let it bounce before making contact, the latter of which is illegal in tennis. You also only get one attempt per serve, which helps speed up play.

After serving, the ball must bounce on the receiver’s end, similar to what you’d experience in tennis. However, the two-bounce rule in pickleball requires that the ball bounce a second time on the server’s end before anyone can volley the ball.

Once the ball has bounced twice, players are allowed to volley the ball in the air. However, players can’t execute volleys in the no-volley zone, a.k.a. the kitchen, to prevent players from crowding the net or smashing the ball at their opponents. In tennis, there isn’t a two-bounce rule or no-volley zone. Therefore, the server can serve and volley if they choose.

Regarding scoring, pickleball differs from tennis in the point system and how players score. First, only the serving player or team can win points, and as long as they keep winning points, they keep serving until they lose the point or serve a fault. Furthermore, point values are straightforward in pickleball, i.e., if you win the first point, you have one point, with most games played till 11 points where you must win by a margin of two.

The Bottom Line

Tennis and pickleball each have a unique set of rules and quirks you’ll need to understand to play the game, each of which takes time and repetition to learn and become comfortable with the game’s flow.

Whether you’re picking up your first racquet sport or transitioning from one to the other, a little patience will go a long way in learning the basic rules that make each sport fun to play.

Wrapping Up

Tennis and pickleball are two thoroughly enjoyable sports worth considering as regular activities to exercise, have fun, meet new people, and spend time with friends and family.

If you’re exploring racquet sports for the first time, it’s hard to go wrong with either. However, understanding their differences will allow you to select the best option for your needs. Of course, many of the skills required for both are highly transferable, so there’s also an excellent opportunity for players to transition between the two.

Hopefully, this guide has helped shed some light on the similarities and differences between tennis and pickleball. Of course, if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Pickleball vs. Tennis | The Definitive Comparison Guide (2024)


What 3 sports is pickleball most similar to? ›

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, table tennis, and badminton. The court is an abbreviation of a tennis court and net, and the game itself combines rules from a variety of racquet sports.

Why do people like pickleball more than tennis? ›

Playing pickleball allows you to work on your balance, agility, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination without putting excessive strains on your body. Pickleball is a wonderful alternative for older players who used to play tennis, but have physical limitations such as hip, shoulder, knee, or other joint problems.

What two sports is pickleball a combination of? ›

Pickleball is a sport described as "a combination of ping-pong, tennis, and badminton", played in schools, parks and recreation centers, correctional facilities, camps, and retirement communities mostly in North America. It uses a simplified combination of tennis rules and strategies.

Do tennis shoes work well on pickleball courts? ›

If you are playing on both surfaces and just want to buy one pair of shoes go with tennis shoes, they will last longer and as long as you keep the soles clean you will be fine indoors.

Can I wear cross training shoes for pickleball? ›

Leave the walking shoes, running shoes, and cross-trainers at home when playing pickleball. They are designed specifically to support your forward motion — not side-to-side movement with quick stops and starts.

Can you play pickleball in running sneakers? ›

Optimized Tread and Outsole

Consequently, the rugged rubber outsole lasts longer through all the footwork on the pickleball court than a softer running outsole. You'll destroy your running/walking shoes pretty quickly playing pickleball.

Why do older people love pickleball so much? ›

Aside from being great exercise, there are many reasons why pickleball is attractive to older adults. Since you don't have to cover as much distance as you would on the tennis court, especially if you play doubles, pickleball is physically accessible. There's some learning involved, but it's not too complex.

Why do older people like pickleball? ›

Among the reasons older adults love pickleball: The court is small enough that you don't need to move much to hit the ball, especially if you're playing doubles. The game encourages players to socialize. There's none of the frustration factor that accompanies sports like golf.

Why is pickleball gaining in popularity so quickly? ›

The sport saw some success in the following years. However, it really gained momentum in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. With many team sports off-limits, people turned to pickleball as a socially distant way to stay active. The game's low barrier to entry escalated its popularity.

Why can't you play pickleball on a tennis court? ›

Yes, but not without changing the dimensions of the court and the height of the net. A pickleball court is 20 x 44 ft while a tennis court measures 27 x 78 ft. A tennis net measures 42in at the post and 36in in the center. A pickleball net should measure 36in at the post and 34in at the center.

Can you turn a tennis court into a pickleball court? ›

With a multi-sport court, you can convert a tennis court into a pickleball court simply by playing within the pickleball boundaries and adjusting the net. Easy-peasy!

Can you play pickleball on grass? ›

Can you play pickleball on grass? The simple answer is yes, but not very effectively. If you're really stuck for somewhere to play and don't mind an irregular, low bounce, then it is possible to play on grass. Ideally, the surface should be very even and mown short—like a grass tennis court.

Are pickle balls and wiffle balls the same? ›

When it comes to pickleballs and wiffle balls, their construction is the biggest difference. Pickleballs are typically made from a durable, high-impact plastic, ensuring they withstand intense gameplay. On the other hand, wiffle balls are crafted with lightweight plastic that allows for precise control and accuracy.

Is pickleball the 3rd fastest-growing sport? ›

Pickleball has been named America's fastest-growing sport for the third year in a row in the 2024 Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Topline Participation Report. The report shows participation grew 51.8% from 2022 to 2023.

What sport has the same size court as pickleball? ›

A standard pickleball court happens to be around the same size as a doubles badminton court and the court measures 44 feet long (inclusive of lines) and 20 feet wide (inclusive of lines).

What is padel called in America? ›

Padel (Spanish: pádel), sometimes called padel tennis, is a racket sport of Mexican origin, typically played in doubles on an enclosed court slightly smaller than a doubles tennis court. Although padel shares the same scoring system as tennis, the rules, strokes, and technique are different.

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