Tennis vs Pickleball: The Great Racket Rivalry

Everyone is used to watching the famous Tennis players of our decade. Let’s face it, they are magnetic. Djokivic, Nadal, Federer. They are the epitome of excitement and charisma.  But what if there’s a faster sport with charisma ready to bust through the seems?  I’m talking about pickleball. Yes, I said it, pickleball.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 2 years, you’ve seen and heard the buzz of pickleball. Tom Brady, Lebron James, March Cuban, Kevin Durant, Gary V…what do they have in common? They have all purchased pickleball teams. Surprised?  It’s not tennis. In fact, most pickleball players like it considerably more than tennis. Smaller courts, faster paced, less strain on the body, easy to learn, etc. 

Although there are of course many similarities between tennis and pickleball, let’s go over some of the differences now.  Then it’s up to you if you want to test out the fastest growing sport in the country or not.

Pickleball and tennis are both popular, but of course there are not the same and have some key differences.. One of the main differences is the size of the court. A pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, typically measuring 20ft x44 ft and tennis measuring 78ft x 36 ft.  The pickleball ball is similar to a wiffle ball. The plastic ball used with that yellow plastic bat on the summertime beaches up the east coast? That’s wiffle ball and the ball used to play  pickleball  is very similar. Because of that, the ball naturally will not go as far as a tennis ball. Remember, the tennis ball is solid. The bottom line–pickleball courts are significantly smaller than tennis courts making it easier to keep your energy and play for long periods of time. If you’re prone to injury, you wont have to run nearly as much. The best part? You can’t win on your serve in pickleball. That’s correct–no overhead serving! In tennis we often hear of an “ace”. That’s why playing an opponent much younger usually has the advantage. They are usually stronger and less prone to injury.  In pickleball–it’s basically an even playing field. In fact, the serve must be made underhand and must bounce one time in a designated box. This equals it out! Great, right?

Another difference between pickleball and tennis is the type of ball used. Pickleball uses a perforated plastic ball that is lighter and slower-moving than a tennis ball, making it easier to control and less likely to cause injury. As we’ve already discussed, this is similar to the wiffle ball but it’s worth pointing it out again because it’s a major difference and quite beneficial for older players. 

The net height is also different in pickleball, but it actually looks the same to the naked eye. The pickleball net is  36 inches at the sides and 34 inches in the center, while tennis nets are 36 inches and 42 inches high at the posts. Not a major difference but still worth noting. 

The scoring system is also different in pickleball and tennis–no more “love” “advantage” “deuce” etc that’s used in tennis. In pickleball, it’s similar to ping pong scoring. The first team (or player) to reach 11 wins the game. As in ping pong, you must win by two. These brings in a new level of excitement! Now, in tennis, the scoring is a bit different, as many of you know.  The first player to win four points (15x 30x 40 xGame).  In tennis the words “win by two” are not used. Instead, they use “deuce” and “advantage”. Essentially this means win by two, not sure why we continue using those words. Send me a message if you know why. 

 The paddles used in pickleball are also different than the ubiquitous tennis racket.   Pickleball paddles are shorter, wider, and much lighter than tennis rackets. The grip and sweet spot are also different in pickleball. In tennis there are strings–in pickleball, the paddles are solid. They are usually made of wood, graphite, fiberglass and carbon. We love the pickleball paddles at the big dink. They have a large sweet spot and the way they’re designed makes for less stress on the elbow and shoulder. The graphite face gives more power than with wood paddles. Overall, the quality and value of the big dink paddles seem to be the best on the market. You can check them out and be sure to let me know what you think. The Big Dink Pickleball Paddles

Picture of gen z woman playing pickleball having fun

More and more, tennis players seem to be converting to “pickleballers”--and usually most are quite reluctant at first. Let’s dig deeper into why this trend continues.

Pickleball courts are smaller. They require much  less space to play. This means less running, which, means it’s physically not as demanding. This makes pickleball easier on your muscles and body. Let’s face it, we are all playing against mother time and the older we get, the more advantages we need.  Having a smaller court is a huge advantage for older players and even injured players. In fact, many have even played pickleball with their opposite hand due to injury. With tennis, this would be nearly impossible. Overall, pickleball just seems to be more accessible than tennis.  The smaller court size and slower-moving ball make it easier for everyone-especially if you’re just picking up the game. It’s also faster than tennis. We all love that fast paced action! But it’s not nearly as difficult. In fact, it’s quite easy to learn pickleball and quite time consuming and talent ridden to learn tennis. They tennis serve requires tremendous skill and practice. The learning curve is quite demanding. With pickleball, you can pick up paddles and start playing that day- with virtually no learning curve and not major “new” skill required. Many also consider it to be more fun-probably because it’s faster but easier on the body without a huge advantage for the young, talented and strong!

Pickleball seems to ge everywhere. It’s growing popularity has many agreeing that it will soon  overtake tennis in popularity. In fact, many are saying pickleball will be in the 2028 Olympics! It’s clearly on a fast paced track and tennis seems to be level or on a decline in popularity.  Either way, it’s fairly safe to say that this pickleball popularity  trend is likely to continue for many years ahead. Let’s face it, if it’s more accessible, let’s costly, easier to learn, fast paced, fun, less stress on the body, with a quick if not immediate learning curve, what’s not to love? It’s certainly makes sense why everyone loves it. It also clearly makes sense that it’s the fastest growing sport in the United States. 

Whether you're a seasoned or experienced  player or just a beginner looking for a something new, , pickleball just may be the answer! It’s fun, exciting and if you haven’t heard, quite addicting! Did we mention the extra benefits of a great cardio workout? Or meeting new  people? Socialization is huge with pickleball. Some would say it’s also with tennis but pickleball is more intimate without such a huge difference in talent separating players as in tennis. If you’re looking for places to play, most cities are now setting up courts right on their tennis facilities. The Big Dink offers a free pickleball court locator. Simply enter an address of zip code and it will give a list of pickleball courts nearby starting with closest to you. It’s pretty awesome to use! And most of the courts are free to use! Here’s the link Pickleball Court Locator

If you want to learn how to play, there is also a link on the Big Dink website with rules. For “official rules”, contact the usapa or other association with a formal rules book. Good luck to all and happy pickleballin!