Here are some key differences between pickleball and tennis:

Court Size – Pickleball courts are smaller, usually 20×44 feet. Tennis courts are larger at 78×36 feet for doubles.

Net Height – The pickleball net is lower, at 34 inches at the center. Tennis nets are 3 feet high in the center.

Ball – Pickleballs have holes and are made of plastic. Tennis uses a felt-covered rubber ball. The pickleball is slower moving.

Paddle/Racket – Pickleball uses a solid paddle, while tennis uses a strung racket. Pickleball paddles are generally lighter weight.

Serve – The pickleball serve is underhand and must land diagonally. In tennis, serves can be overhand or underhand. 

Scoring – Pickleball scoring goes up to 11 points per game. Tennis uses more complex scoring of points, games and sets. 

Doubles – Most recreational pickleball is doubles. Tennis at higher levels is more focused on singles.

Volleying – There is more volleying at the non-volley zone line in pickleball. Tennis players stay more toward the baseline.

Strategy – Pickleball strategy involves more shooting, blocking volleys and surprise attacks at the net. Tennis uses more lobs and groundstrokes.

Accessibility – Pickleball can be played recreationally by a wider range of ages and abilities. Tennis requires more athleticism and skill.

The smaller court, paddle, lower net and simple rules of pickleball make it more accessible for casual play across different ages. Tennis is a more demanding sport athletically.

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Below is a more thorough information:

At first glance, pickleball and tennis appear quite similar. Both sports involve players or teams volleying a ball back and forth over a net using a racket-like implement. Beyond these basic mechanics, pickleball and tennis offer markedly different experiences in terms of gameplay, rules, equipment, and accessibility.

This article will highlight the origins, equipment differences, pickleball court vs tennis court dimensions, scoring, serving style, common strategies, and demographic trends that distinguish how pickleball is different from tennis. After reading about the sports’ contrasts, it will be clear why pickleball’s popularity is soaring, especially among casual players.

Smaller Pickleball Courts Cater to Accessibility

One factor that makes pickleball so accessible is its compact pickleball court size vs much larger tennis courts. At 20 x 44 feet for doubles, a pickleball court is one-quarter the total area of a tennis court. The cozy dimensions allow players to cover the court quickly with less exertion. Opponents are never far from the net for volley exchanges. Easy setup contrasts with tennis’s spacious court and playing zone requirements.

Tennis Courts Demand Endurance 

Meanwhile, regulation tennis courts sprawl over huge footprints. Singles tennis courts measure 78 feet long by 27 feet for nimble side-to-side coverage. Doubles tennis courts expand to 36 feet wide. Tennis courts thus provide ample margin for chasing down shots, then recovering into position. But covering all that ground demands superior conditioning and speed which favors younger, athletic players.

Top view of Tennis Court
Top view of Pickleball Court

Paddles and Balls – Portable Pickleball Equipment

Besides the smaller court size, pickleball’s paddles and balls also enhance the game’s accessibility. Weighing 6-10 ounces, composite pickleball paddles are inexpensive at $40-$100. The perforated plastic balls weigh just 0.9 ounces, travel slowly, and cost under $1. Overall, pickleball gear is very portable and affordable. The equipment is forgiving for casual recreational games.

Tennis Rackets and Balls – Built for Power  

In contrast, tennis rackets run 10-13 ounces with densely-string composite heads and specialized frames to maximize ball spin and speed. Higher-end tennis rackets cost well over $200. Felt-covered tennis balls are pressurized to 2 ounces for cleaner hops off the court at speeds exceeding 60 mph. Tennis equipment favors athleticism versus casual play. Portability is limited given the long nets and heavy balls that can damage floors or windows.

Underhand Serves Start Pickleball Points

Perhaps pickleball’s most recognizable feature is its mandatory underhand serve. Servers start behind the baseline and serve diagonally to the opponent’s service court. Underhand serving eliminates extreme speed or tricky spins. The generous service box provides a large target zone. Returners can easily punch the serve back to start a rally. Underhand serves get games flowing quickly with fewer drawn-out service exchanges.

Tennis Serves are Overhand for Control 

In contrast, tennis utilizes overhand serves – either flat, slice, or kick varieties. Mastering spin, speed, and placement is critical when serving. Tennis servers toss the ball overhead then strike it up to 5 feet in the air for maximum power and angular trajectories. The tennis serve is a potent offensive weapon, with pros averaging 120 mph on first serves. But for recreational players, executing consistent tennis serves takes lots of practice. 

Volleying Dominates Pickleball

Given pickleball’s smaller court dimensions, players spend lots of time clustered at the non-volley zone line waiting to pick off returns. With opponents nearby, quick reflexes on blocking volleys keeps rallies lively. Teams coordinate to cover the net zone, sometimes calling out cues or moving as a unit. Pickleball is truly a game of active volleying mobility versus passive baseline play.

Groundstrokes and Net Play in Tennis

The deep tennis court favors different priorities than pickleball. Tennis players situated along the baseline rely on topspin groundstrokes, aiming to move opponents side-to-side tiring them out. Approaching the net is tactical upon drawing a weak return. Volleys are typically struck in mid-court after forcing an error, not at a fixed net position. Lobs and passing shots counter net rushes. Tennis scoring also expects varied combinations of groundstrokes, volleys, overheads and touch shots.

Simplified Scoring for Pickleball 

For new players, pickleball’s scoring is intuitive compared to tennis. Games are played to 11 points, win by 2. Points accumulate without resets. Short scoring bursts cater to casual play. Friends can have exciting cutthroat games to 11 points during a quick 30-minute lunch break – unlike committing to multi-hour tennis matches. The scoring simplicity keeps games moving briskly with gratifying payoffs for each point scored.

Tennis Scoring Reflects Endurance

Tennis matches comprise multiple sets of games, each game containing points. To win a game requires winning at least four points by two or more – complex terms like “deuce” and “advantage” handle 40-40 ties. Sets also go to the winner of at least six games by a margin of two. Tennis scoring evolved to handle lengthy competitive matches rather than casual play. The layered sequence tests endurance and concentration across hours-long contests.


In summary, while tennis and pickleball share the fun of swinging rackets to hit balls over nets, they provide quite different gameplay experiences. Pickleball’s portability, ease of learning, and social accessibility makes it ideal for casual recreational players. Compact equipment and courts cater to all ages for low-impact fun with less exertion. Tennis offers athletic richness for competitors seeking rigorous challenges, but can intimidate beginners. As pickleball expands, the two sports may increasingly converge around modified rules and equipment. Blending aspects of each game will ultimately widen their reach and cross-generational appeal.

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