Pickleball vs. Tennis: Which One is Better Sport for You?

Pickleball and Tennis are at times compared by pundits, racquet sports enthusiasts and even the average Joe.

Pickleball is a relatively new racket sport introduced in the 60s to encourage young children to play something close to tennis at home.

However, the game became popular with time and eventually got picked up by adults. The game is a mix of a couple of the famous racket sports such as badminton, table tennis, and tennis.

Several got some of the similarities and differences between these two racket games.

Let’s jump right in the comparison

Pickleball vs Tennis

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Of course, tennis is one of the oldest racket games to use modern racket sports techniques. In fact, tennis is the mother of all racket sports played today such a squash, racquetball, badminton and table tennis among others. Tennis is believed to have come from the original racquetball game which used to be a game similar to tennis but played with bare hands. In fact, the first racquetball was introduced in prison when a couple of inmates started hitting the ball against the wall. It became the origin of racket games such as squash, racquetball, and tennis.

However, the current tennis that doesn’t involve hitting the ball against the wall started in the 12th century by a French enthusiast then known as the game of the palm. Rackets would later be introduced in the 16th century and new rules and sophisticated courts in the 18th century in Birmingham England.

Pickleball, on the other hand, is a relatively new game that began in the USA in the 1960s. It’s believed that the game initially started as a hobby for kids before it quickly gained interest among adults across the country. Initially, the game started as an innovation when a former state representative found his family bored at his home in Washington from a game of golf. In a bid to entertain them, he tried to set up a badminton game but didn’t find a shuttle, so they had to improvise. In this regard, they lowered the net, found a wiffle ball and quickly made some makeshift rackets from plywood. The game ended up having a mix of tennis, table tennis and badminton in it.

Basic Rules

When it comes to the basic rules, some people believe that pickleball’s rules are pretty simple as compared to tennis and other racket games. Most of the rules are similar to tennis except for a few modifications.

Pickleball also uses the same court dimensions such as badminton, but the ball looks more similar to a wiffle ball unlike the hollow rubber ball used in tennis. Furthermore, they do use wooden paddles identical to those used in table tennis to play the ball. The paddles could be made of other composite materials, and the goal is to keep the ball from bouncing more than twice on your court. The game can be played by three, two or four players.

In tennis, the basic rules are pretty simple as well and are similar to those of pickleball. In fact, most rules used in pickleball are borrowed from tennis.

Equipment (Racket, Shoes, Balls)

As mentioned above, pickleball players use wooden paddles that are similar and twice as big as table tennis (ping pong) bats (can be made from other composite materials as well such as graphite) to play a perforated plastic ball over a 0.86m high net.

On the other hand, tennis involves two or four players going against each other on a tennis court hitting a hollow rubber ball over a 3 m high net using specialized rackets with graphite handles and substantial oval heads made of strong nylon.


When it comes to courts, both games can be played on the same court except that the dimensions would be different. In this regard, both sports can be played indoors or outdoors and on any court surface. In both games, the main difference is the height of the net where tennis uses a 3 m high net while pickleball only requires at most a 0.8 m high net.

Pickleball uses a smaller court that is similar to that of badminton. In fact, you can use a badminton’s doubles court to play pickleball. The courts are supposed to measure 20 x 44’ and are marked just like tennis courts. However, in a pickleball court, there are none volley zones. Furthermore, doubles and singles are played on the same court dimensions.


In both sports, four or two players can play against each other in doubles and singles respectively. However, while in tennis the players use the outer markings on the court for doubles, in pickleball the court dimensions are the same as when playing singles. What’s interesting, is that in pickleball of that player can be introduced in a 3- person pickleball drill.


In tennis, serving does not come with many restrictions, and therefore players can use their skills to try and outshine their opponents from their service. Some of the most popular serving styles include spins and chops. However, in pickleball, only underhand serves are permitted. In this regard, you are expected to hit the ball from below your navel in an upward arc. Just like tennis, you are supposed to hit the ball towards your opponent’s court diagonally over the net and keep the ball at play until one commits a fault. In the sport, you can only score a point if you are on the serving side.


In tennis, most players have to toss the ball in the air before hitting it towards the opponent’s court. In case the opponent is unable to return the ball, allows the ball to bounce twice on their court, runs the ball out of play or on undesignated areas, then the player who served the ball earns a point.

In pickleball, the rules are a bit similar, and you only gain a point when your opponent commits a fault. Some of the most common faults include;

  • Sending the ball out of play
  • Volleying a ball when returning a service,
  • Volleying the ball on your first return after serving,
  • Not getting the serve in the right box.
  • Being unable to send the ball over the net at any time of play 
  • Align the ball to bounce more than two times on your court among others.


Since Pickleball is mostly a non-competitive game, officiating can be locally organized without causing any alarm. However, in tennis, we expect highly qualified and certified referees to officiate the game. It is believed that there can be more than 11 officials in a single tennis game. In contrast, you might not see a single official in a high-level tennis tournament. However, there is the main referee in every game who monitors the game and assisted by the other officials. This referee’s decision is final.


In the end, both games are fascinating to watch and play. In fact, most people are comfortable switching from one game to the other for leisure. However, when it comes to competitive sports, tennis seems like a more difficult game given the various strict rules and energy required to play the game.

Although pickleball demands more in competitive levels, it’s a good game for socializing. Some of its features make it easy for socializing and less about athletics. For instance, unlike tennis where you need to be very fit to reach for the ball at longer distances during play, the pickleball court is tiny allowing for minimum movement during gameplay.

In pickleball, the sets are short and quick allowing for people to gather as they await their turn making it one of the best socializing racket sport. Furthermore, the tiny court allows for constant communication between players. However, both games require strategy and wit to get points.

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    Peter S. Harper

    I am Peter, a 39-year-old friendly being from the United States. I love playing a lot of sports such as tennis, table tennis, volleyball, softball, and badminton... I have created this blog to help you find information on different types of sports equipment and finding the right one to enhance your skills at the game.

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