Pickleball vs. Tennis: What is the Difference Between Pickleball and Tennis?

by Kristina Tamas on October 13, 2023

In a world brimming with sports options, two racket sports have been steadily gaining popularity – pickleball and tennis. While they share some similarities, each possesses unique characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we delve into the contrasts between pickleball and tennis, helping you make an informed choice for your next racquet adventure.

Pickleball: A Modern Racket Sensation

Pickleball player

The Basics

Pickleball is a distinctive and increasingly popular sport that blends elements from tennis, badminton, and ping pong. Often referred to as "mini-tennis," it offers a dynamic and engaging experience on a smaller court with a lower net. This combination of factors makes pickleball not only accessible to a wide range of players but also a unique sporting endeavor.


Pickleball enthusiasts are armed with solid paddles, typically crafted from wood or composite materials. These paddles have a different feel and design compared to the stringed rackets used in tennis. The ball used in pickleball is a notable departure from traditional tennis balls. It takes the form of a perforated plastic sphere, designed for aerodynamic performance and playability. This distinctive equipment adds to the appeal of pickleball, offering players a fresh and exciting experience that sets it apart from tennis.

Court Size

A standout feature of pickleball is its court size. In comparison to the expansive dimensions of a tennis court, a pickleball court is a fraction of the size. Specifically, it measures 20 feet by 44 feet (6.1m x 13.4m), which significantly reduces the ground to cover during play. This reduction in court size makes pickleball an attractive option for individuals seeking a sport that is less physically demanding. It's particularly welcoming to those who may not have the endurance for larger courts or those looking for a sport with a faster pace. If you want to learn more about pickleball courts, check our article “All you need to now about pickleball courts”.

Rules and Gameplay

Pickleball introduces players to a unique set of rules that distinguish it from tennis. Notably, there is a "no-volley zone," often referred to as the "kitchen," located near the net. Players are restricted from hitting the ball in this area, except during specific circumstances, adding an extra layer of strategy to the game. Additionally, pickleball employs a distinct serving technique that involves an underhand serve, as opposed to the more versatile serving options in tennis. Unlike tennis, where you can serve from anywhere behind the baseline, pickleball restricts serving from behind the baseline to ensure fair play and maintain the sport's unique character.


Tennis: The Classic Racquet Sport

Tennis player

The Basics

Tennis stands as a venerable and esteemed racket sport, celebrated for its competitive fervor and the grandeur of its tournaments. The essence of tennis lies in the art of skillfully hitting a ball over the net and into the opponent's court while meticulously adhering to strict rules and etiquette, fostering a sense of sportsmanship and respect among players.


In the world of tennis, players wield a stringed racket, typically crafted from advanced materials like graphite. These rackets are designed with precision and customization in mind, allowing players to tailor the weight, string tension, and grip size to match their individual playing style and preferences. The fuzzy yellow ball, unique to tennis, is specially engineered for the sport, ensuring a balance between durability and playability. This marriage of advanced racket technology and a carefully designed ball adds to the sport's prestige and precision.

Court Size

A defining characteristic of tennis is the grandeur of its courts, which are significantly larger than their pickleball counterparts. The dimensions of a tennis court, measuring 78 feet by 36 feet (23.8m x 10.9m), extend beyond mere playing grounds; they become arenas of athleticism, demanding endurance and agility. The expansive size of tennis courts not only challenges players physically but also allows for the elegant and dynamic movement that defines the sport, making it a preferred choice for those seeking a robust and comprehensive workout.

Rules and Gameplay

Tennis boasts a rich and storied history, accompanied by a well-established set of rules that contribute to its unique character. Unlike pickleball, where serving is confined to a specific area, tennis players can serve from anywhere behind the baseline, adding an element of strategy and variety to the game. Moreover, tennis features a diverse array of shot types, including forehands, backhands, and volleys, each requiring skill and precision. Scoring in tennis follows the distinctive "love," "15," "30," and "40" system, creating a scoring rhythm that is both traditional and elegant, adding to the sport's enduring appeal.


Key Differences

Now that we've outlined the basics, let's dive into the key differences between pickleball and tennis.

Court Size

Pickleball courts are notably smaller than tennis courts. The smaller size of pickleball courts results in less ground to cover during play, making it an attractive option for players who prefer a game with reduced running and a faster pace. In contrast, tennis courts demand more extensive physical endurance due to their larger size, requiring players to cover more ground and exert more effort in reaching the ball.


The equipment used in pickleball is straightforward and less demanding. Players wield solid paddles, typically made of wood or composite materials, and use a lightweight plastic ball with strategically placed holes. In tennis, players employ strung rackets, which require a higher level of skill to use effectively. Additionally, tennis balls are heavier and made of felt, demanding more strength and precision when striking them.


Scoring systems in the two sports vary significantly. Pickleball uses rally scoring, where points can be scored by both the serving and receiving teams, fostering a more dynamic and rapid progression of points. In contrast, tennis employs a traditional game and set scoring system, with points won only by the serving side, creating a more complex scoring structure that may require a deeper understanding.

Gameplay Style

Pickleball is often regarded as a more accessible sport for beginners due to its smaller court and simplified rules. The rules are straightforward, and the sport values quick reflexes and positioning over power. Tennis, with its larger court and more intricate techniques, can be more challenging for beginners to pick up. It places a greater emphasis on powerful serves, groundstrokes, and strategic play, requiring players to develop a broader skill set and a deeper understanding of the game.


Which Sport Is Right for You?

The choice between pickleball and tennis ultimately depends on your preferences and physical abilities. If you're looking for a fun and social game with less physical exertion, pickleball might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you seek a more challenging and traditional racket sport that demands skill and endurance, tennis could be your calling.



  • Is pickleball suitable for older players?

    Yes, pickleball is often preferred by older players due to its less physically demanding nature. Also, there are a lot of benefits of playing pickleball for seniors.

  • Which sport has a faster pace, pickleball, or tennis?

    Pickleball generally has a faster pace due to the smaller court and lightweight ball.

  • Can I use a tennis racket to play pickleball?

    While it's possible, it's not recommended as pickleball paddles are specifically designed for the sport.

  • Do tennis and pickleball require the same level of fitness?

    Tennis usually demands a higher level of fitness due to the larger court and longer rallies.

  • Are there professional pickleball players like in tennis?

    Yes, professional pickleball players exist, and the sport has a growing competitive scene.

In the world of racket sports, pickleball and tennis stand out as two distinct options, each with its own unique charm. Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between pickleball and tennis, you can make an informed decision about which one suits your interests and abilities best. Whether you choose the swift courts of pickleball or the classic elegance of tennis, both sports offer fantastic opportunities for recreation and exercise.

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