Paddle Tennis (Pop Tennis) vs. Pickleball

Paddle tennis (also known as pop tennis) and pickleball have exploded in popularity in recent years as fun outdoor racquet sports that can be played competitively or just for fun. While the two sports share some similarities, there are key differences between paddle tennis and pickleball when it comes to the equipment used, court size, scoring, and more. This article will break down the distinctions between these two paddle sports.

Similarities

CategorySimilarity
Equipment– Played with a paddle/racket and a ball over a net
Court Layout – Played on a rectangular court with a net in the middle
Players– Can be played singles or doubles
Serving– Use underhand serve
Play style– Have volleying near the net
Scene– Fun recreational sports with a competitive scene

Differences

CategoryPaddle TennisPickleball
Ball– Uses a tennis-like rubber ball with less pressure– Uses a whiffle-style plastic perforated ball
Net– 31″ high on sides, 29″ in center– 36″ on sides, 34″ in center
Paddle/Racket– Head is 9″ x max 10″ width- Face may be perforated- Average weight 12.5 oz– Length: 15.5 – 17″- Width: 7 – 8.25″- Weight: 7 – 8 oz- Grip: 4 – 5″
Court– 20′ x 50′ baseline-to-baseline– 20′ x 44′, Also, pickleball courts have a 7-feet non-volley zone, known as the “kitchen.”
Scoring– Best of 5 sets– Single game to 11 points
Game PacePaddle tennis generally promotes shorter, faster rallies due to the smaller court and lower netPickleball often features longer rallies and more strategic play due to the larger court, higher net, and the “kitchen” rule.
History– Derived from tennis– Inspired by badminton and table tennis
Popularity– Popular on East Coast– Popular nationwide
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Paddle Tennis Nets vs Pickleball Nets

One of the most noticeable differences between paddle tennis and pickleball is the net used. Paddle tennis uses a lower net that is similar to a tennis net. The top of the net is set at 31 inches at the sidelines and slopes downwards to 29 inches in the center, which is lower than a regulation tennis net. Pickleball nets are much higher, with the top edge set at 36 inches along the sides and 34 inches in the middle.

The higher net height in pickleball leads to more lobs and overhead slam shots as players are able to volley the ball more easily on the bounce. The lower paddle tennis net causes the ball to bounce lower after being hit, resulting in more of a volleying style of play.

Paddle tennis nets must be sturdier with tighter mesh than pickleball nets to handle the harder hit balls and shots at the net. Pickleball nets can use looser mesh since the ball is not hit as hard. The lower tension also helps increase the accuracy of rolls or bounced shots.

Paddle Tennis Racket vs Pickleball Paddle

Paddle tennis rackets look similar to table tennis paddles, with a short, wide head and handles that are attached to the sides of the racket head. The heads are about 9 inches wide and maximum 10 inches long. The racket face may be perforated. The rackets average about 12.5 ounces in weight and the handle is small, meant for players to grip with their fingers curled under.

Pickleball rackets look more like oversized table tennis rackets, with a paddle shaped head and handles extending from the bottom or bottom-center. Heads measure between 15.5 – 17 inches in length and 7 – 8.25 inches in width. Pickleball paddles weigh between 7 and 8 ounces. The grip size ranges from 4 inches to 5 inches.

The different racket shapes impact the techniques used. The small grip of the paddle tennis racket encourages more wrist action, allowing for quick volleys and angled shots. Pickleball players rely more on forearm rotation when swinging to drive the ball with pace and spin. The lighter pickleball paddle promotes quick reaction shots at the non-volley zone near the net.

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Paddle Tennis vs Pickleball court

In terms of playing area, paddle tennis courts are smaller than pickleball courts. The dimensions of a regulation-sized paddle tennis court are 20 feet wide by 50 feet long baseline-to-baseline, equaling an area of 1,000 square feet. Pickleball courts measure 20 feet wide by 44 feet long, totaling 880 square feet.

The larger court in pickleball results in more running from side to side to cover shots. Players tend to stay back close to the baseline in both sports and the volley area near the net is not as actively contested. In pickleball, the slightly bigger court size puts players in close proximity, leading to more volley exchanges and rapidfire shots, especially near the kitchen. The court size also affects doubles play – partners in both sports freely cross and exchange positions.

Top view of Paddle Tennis (Pop Tennis) Court
Top view of Pickleball Court

Scoring

Another key difference is the scoring system. Paddle tennis matches consist of the best 3 out of 5 sets. Sets are played until one player reaches 6 games. If the set reaches 6-6, a tiebreak is played to determine the set winner.

Pickleball uses a single-game scoring system, with the first player to reach 11 points winning the game (must win by 2 clear points). Matches are the best 2 out of 3 games. Pickleball’s condensed scoring leads to quicker games that can shift momentum rapidly compared to paddle tennis that uses a multi-set format. The nuances of tennis-style scoring also come into play in paddle tennis, like advantage points and service breaks.

Conclusion

In summary, while paddle tennis and pickleball share some superficial similarities as racquet sports played on a court over a net, there are substantial differences between the two activities when it comes to equipment, playing space, scoring system, and game dynamics. Paddle tennis derives from tennis while pickleball takes inspiration from badminton and table tennis. As paddle tennis continues growing on the East Coast and pickleball explodes in popularity nationwide, it’s helpful to understand the distinctions between the two fast-paced and fun paddle sports.

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