Pickleball vs Tennis: What's the Difference?

Photo of a net on a pickleball court

If you're a tennis player looking to try a new sport or just curious about the similarities and differences between pickleball and tennis, you've come to the right place. Both are popular racket sports, but they have some distinct characteristics that set them apart. Let's explore the key differences between pickleball and tennis. 

Difference Between Pickleball and Tennis

While both involve hitting a ball back and forth over a net, the gameplay, equipment, and court dimensions vary significantly between pickleball and tennis.

Pickleball is played with a perforated plastic ball, similar to a whiffle ball, and solid paddles. Tennis, on the other hand, uses felt-covered rubber balls and stringed rackets. The pickleball court is much smaller than a tennis court, measuring 20 feet by 44 feet, with a lower net height of 34 inches at the center.

Pickleball Court vs Tennis Court

The pickleball court's compact size and the presence of non-volley zones (commonly known as the "kitchen") on either side of the net create a unique dynamic. Players are not allowed to step into the kitchen unless the ball bounces there first, encouraging a combination of groundstrokes and volleys.

In contrast, a full-size tennis court measures 78 feet by 27 feet for singles and 78 feet by 36 feet for doubles, with a net height of 3 feet at the center. Tennis players can move freely around the court, allowing for a more diverse range of shots and strategies.

How to Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court

While a dedicated pickleball court is ideal, you can (temporarily) convert a tennis court for pickleball by making a few adjustments. First, lower the tennis net to the standard pickleball height of 34 inches at the center. Next, use portable or temporary makers to outline the pickleball court dimensions. Make sure to include the kitchen zone, extending 7 feet from each side of the net. The outer lines should be marked 15 feet from the kitchen lines, or 22 feet from the net, with the court width spanning 20 feet.

With the net lowered and court lines marked, you can now play pickleball on the tennis court. Keep in mind that the surface of a tennis court may play differently from what you’re used to on a designated pickleball court.

Pickleball Injuries vs Tennis Injuries

Pickleball injuries

Both sports carry some risk of injury, but pickleball is generally considered a lower-impact activity compared to tennis. The smaller court size and underhand serving in pickleball reduce the stress on joints and muscles, making it a popular choice for older adults or those recovering from injuries.

Tennis injuries

Tennis, with its larger court, overhead serving, and faster pace, can put more strain on the shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. However, proper warmup, technique, and equipment can help mitigate injury risks in both sports. If suffering from minor injuries, consider playing pickleball in the meantime, or try a topical pain reliever to stay active and enjoy your preferred racket sport.

Whether you're a tennis enthusiast looking to try something new or a complete newcomer to racket sports, pickleball offers a fun and engaging way to stay active while enjoying a social and competitive atmosphere. Give it a try and see if you can master the unique dynamics of this rapidly growing sport!