How to Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court

by Kristina Tamas on April 22, 2024

One of the most attractive aspects of pickleball is its versatility, it can be played on various surfaces, including indoor and outdoor courts specifically designed for pickleball, as well as on existing tennis courts. This adaptability makes pickleball a go-to activity for enthusiasts looking to play, especially in areas where dedicated pickleball courts are not available. 

In this guide, we'll explore how you can seamlessly transform a tennis court into a pickleball battleground, ensuring you can enjoy this fast-growing sport wherever you may find a tennis court.


What You Need to Know Before You Start

While pickleball shares some similarities with tennis, there are key differences in equipment, court size, and rules that newcomers should be aware of.

Equipment Needed: At its core, pickleball requires a paddle, which is smaller than a tennis racket but larger than a ping-pong paddle, and a plastic ball with holes, similar to a wiffle ball. Although a standard pickleball net is lower than a tennis net, most casual games adapt by using the existing tennis net. Additionally, comfortable athletic wear and proper footwear are recommended for safe play.

Understanding Pickleball Rules: Familiarizing yourself with the basic rules of pickleball is essential. The game can be played as singles or doubles, just like tennis, but the serving rules, scoring, and the non-volley zone (also known as "the kitchen") introduce unique elements to the game. A brief review of these rules will ensure that all players are on the same page and can enjoy the game to its fullest.

Step 1: Converting a Tennis Court into a Pickleball Court

Adapting a tennis court for pickleball is simpler than it might seem. The primary considerations involve adjusting the net height, if possible, and marking the boundaries for a pickleball court.

Adjusting the Net: A pickleball net is 34 inches high at the center, which is slightly lower than a tennis net. If you're able to lower the tennis net to this height, great! If not, don't worry—many players proceed with the tennis net height as is for casual games.

Marking Temporary Boundaries: A pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, measuring 20 feet in width and 44 feet in length for both singles and doubles play. You can mark the boundaries using temporary chalk or painter's tape. Be sure to measure accurately to maintain the integrity of the game's dimensions.

Step 2: Understanding the Rule Adjustments

Playing pickleball on a tennis court necessitates a few adjustments to the standard rules, primarily due to the differences in court size and net height. It's important to discuss and agree on these adaptations before starting the game to ensure a fair and enjoyable experience for all players.

Non-volley Zone: Also known as "the kitchen," this area extends 7 feet from the net on both sides in a standard pickleball court. Volleys are not allowed within this zone, meaning the ball must bounce once before it can be returned if a player is standing within this area. Marking this zone clearly on the adapted court is crucial for maintaining this rule.

Serving Rules: In pickleball, the serve must be underhand, and the paddle must make contact with the ball below the waist level. The ball must land in the diagonal service box across the net. When adapting a tennis court, it's vital to define the service boxes accurately, considering the modified court dimensions.

Scoring and Serving Sequence: Pickleball uses a unique scoring system where only the serving side can score points. Games are typically played to 11, 15, or 21 points, with the winning team needing to lead by at least 2 points. The serve sequence and positioning, especially in doubles, can be slightly complex for beginners, so it's helpful to review these rules before starting.


Step 3: Getting the Game Going

With the court set and the rules understood, you're almost ready to play. However, the transition from tennis to pickleball, especially on a tennis court, can be challenging due to the different dynamics and strategies involved.

Warming Up: Start with a proper warm-up to get accustomed to the pickleball paddle and ball, especially if you're more familiar with tennis. Practice serving underhand and getting a feel for the ball's bounce and the paddle's handling.

Adapting Techniques: Tennis players may need to adjust their power and swing to the lighter paddle and ball used in pickleball. Practice softer shots, dinks, and volleys to master the control needed for pickleball. Additionally, the smaller court size requires quick reflexes and strategic positioning.

Practice Drills: Engage in drills that emphasize pickleball's unique aspects, such as the non-volley zone play, accurate serving, and the use of spin. Drills can also help players adjust to the court's modified dimensions and develop strategies for singles and doubles play.


Step 4: Organizing Pickleball Games on Tennis Courts

As you grow more comfortable playing pickleball on a tennis court, you might want to organize regular games or even small tournaments. This step involves a bit more coordination but can significantly enhance your playing experience.

Setting Up Regular Games: Use social media, local sports clubs, or community bulletin boards to find and connect with other pickleball enthusiasts in your area. Apps and websites designed for organizing sports meetups can also be invaluable for scheduling games.

Connecting with Other Players: Building a community of players interested in pickleball can lead to more organized and competitive play. Consider creating a group or club dedicated to finding available tennis courts and scheduling pickleball games.

Permits and Reservations: Be aware that using public tennis courts for pickleball might require a permit or reservation, especially if you're planning regular or large gatherings. Check with your local parks and recreation department for any necessary arrangements.


Making the Most of Your Playing Experience

Transitioning from tennis courts to pickleball play not only requires adjustments in equipment and rules but also in how you approach the game, especially when playing outdoors. Here are some tips to enhance your playing experience and ensure everyone enjoys the game to the fullest.

Dealing with Environmental Factors: Outdoor tennis courts are subject to weather conditions like wind and sun, which can affect play. Consider the direction of the sun and wind when starting a game and try to position the court accordingly. Using outdoor-specific pickleball balls, which are designed to be less affected by wind, can also help.

Hydration and Safety: Playing outdoors, especially in warm weather, can be dehydrating. Ensure all players have access to water and take regular breaks to stay hydrated. Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, cooling towels, and other pickleball accessories can protect against sunburn and heat-related issues.

Emphasizing Sportsmanship: Pickleball is known for its friendly and inclusive community. Whether you're playing a casual game or a more competitive match, maintaining good sportsmanship is key. Celebrate good plays, offer encouragement, and enjoy the social aspect of the game.

Ready to Play?

Pickleball's adaptability to different playing surfaces, including tennis courts, is a testament to the sport's accessibility and growing popularity. By understanding the equipment needed, making necessary adjustments to a tennis court, and following the adapted rules for pickleball play, players can enjoy this dynamic sport in numerous settings.

Remember to focus on fun, fitness, and fostering a community of sportsmanship and inclusivity. Share your experiences, tips, and perhaps even your love for the game with others, and see how pickleball can bring people together!