Pickleball vs Tennis: 5 Key Differences Between Two Thrilling Racket Sports

Many of us consider pickleball and tennis to be the same thing. In this article on Pickleball vs Tennis, I have explained the differences between both.

Sports are a massive part of our lives without any doubt. You can see most of us have our favorite games in sports, whether basketball, tennis, pickleball, etc. But mostly not all of us know the rules or differences between the games. We confuse the playing styles and practices oftentimes. Pickleball and Tennis are one of the many games that all of us confuse every time.

We mix their rules and sometimes even think that they are the same thing. But this is not true, Pickleball and Tennis are very different games. They have very notable key differences, discovery history, rules, and pieces of playing equipment.

In this article, I will take you through the whole Pickleball vs Tennis. I will mention all the aspects that set them apart and their rules to play so that they are never confused again.

Related: Best Pickleball Paddles for Tennis Players | Top Picks and Buying Guide

Pickleball vs Tennis Two Exciting Racket Sports

Before I start any further about the rules of these games, we all need to know the history of these globally recognized games. The popularity is to the point that both the games have their own separate national and international tournaments held. Let us see what Pickleball and Tennis are.

History of Pickleball

This fastly gaining popularity game was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, an American Congressman who was from Washington, and his fellow Bill Bell, who was a successful businessman.

These men invented pickleball to finish their boredom when they could not find the right pieces of equipment to play Badminton. These men then played this game with a holed ball and Tennis paddles on the badminton court with a net of 60 inches in height.

This game was invented with the vision to enjoy a game with family and also to finish one’s boredom. Later they moved the net to a height of 36 inches because the ball bounced better. Both the men were accompanied by their friend Barney McCallum and the three of them made the rules of the famous game of Pickleball.

Now if we look towards when pickleball got its court it was 1967, in the backyard of Bob O’ Brian who was not only the neighbor of Pritchard but also his friend.

Over time, this game was not only mentioned in the Tennis magazine as the newest racquet sport in 1976 but time caught the attention of Athletic Clubs. By now USAPA has over 40,000 members of this amazing game and more than 3.3 million participants with a large fanbase.

Where the name of this game is concerned, there are two histories related to it. One the name was suggested by Joan Pritchard, as the game reminded her of a pickle boat with different oarsmen. The second is that its name came from the dog of Bob O’Brian who loved to chase the ball. Though many say the dog joined the family after the game had been created.

Related: Pickleball Tips and Tricks for Players of All Levels, from Beginners to Advanced

Differences Between Pickleball vs Tennis

History is Tennis

Interestingly the history of Tennis dates back thousands of years. This game evolved with time and did not have racquets to be played with. This is not an American game but comes from ancient Greece culture. It was developed in the 12th century and was known as “Paume” meaning it was a game played with palms in ancient times also pronounced as “Jeu de Paume”. Tennis too was created with the vision of providing entertainment.

The European monks developed it to play on important occasions. Hitting the ball was quite painful for the palms, so later on leather gloves were designed to play Tennis. But the leather gloves were also not effective which led to the development of racquets. Until the 14th century, this game became recognized by monks all over Europe and was enjoyed a lot.

Due to its popularity, it was also adopted by France, and later on, between the 16th to 18th centuries, the game was soon known as “Royal Tennis”. The French players called it “Tenez”. The game got its first court in the 1530s in the Hampton Court Palace by English King Henry VIII. Over time the game got recognized around the globe and became a sensational event for the players and fans.

The very first ball of tennis was made of wood which evolved to be played with leather gloves and then later on racquets. Then later on it was made of leather with sawdust in it and is now made of rubber. As for the racquets, as I stated above the game was first played with palms then by wearing leather gloves, and later on racquets.

The first racquets were made of solid wood then later evolved into the material of cork and strings made out of sheep intestines. Now the racquets have a specific shape and are made of laminated wood and plastic fiber strings and have a long wooden handles. Today this game has millions of fans around the globe and is recognized by Athletic Clubs and Sports Corporations with thousands of players.

Differences Between Pickleball vs Tennis

Key Differences Between Pickleball and Tennis

Though playing with the racquet and on a court might make them seem similar that is not the case. Both the games have minor and major differences in them which you need to understand especially if you are new to these games.

Minor Differences

Just before jumping to the major distinguishing factors between Pickleball and Tennis, let us go through the minor differences.

  1. Pickleball is a game that can be played on indoor courts of volleyball or basketball but tennis cannot be.
  2. You do not have to worry about a double fault with serving in pickleball.
  3. You can not overhead serve in pickleball, the only serving should be underhand.
  4. The dimensions of the court should be the same for both single and double games in pickleball.
  5. Pickleball can be easily played on the knees while tennis can not be.

Major Differences

Just now, I told you about the minor differences between Pickleball and Tennis, now it is time for the major ones. Let us see what are those major distinguishing factors.

1. Types of Ball

The first major difference is the balls of pickleball and tennis. The Tennis balls are made of hollow rubber to make them bouncy and lightweight to play with. When it comes to the balls of Pickleball, there are two types of them.

The indoor balls are made with bigger holes in them and are mostly USG balls. For the outdoor courts, the pickleball balls have slightly smaller holes in them so that they do not get carried away by the wind. The material for pickleball balls is solid plastic.

2. Racquets Vs Paddles

Yes, these two games have different playing equipment. The Tennis Racquets are made of laminated wood and plastic fiber strings and a long handle. When you hit a ball with the racquet it sinks inside to give a push to the ball towards the other side. Whereas, the Pickleball paddles are completely different from the racquets.

The paddles are mostly made of good quality wood and in a way, you can say they have a core, unlike the strings of racquets. The paddles are like stone walls that have a soft lamination on them to give the ball a soft yet strong push. They are shorter in size compared to racquets.

3. The Court

The court pickleball is smaller than the tennis court. Pickleball court consists of dimensions of 20 feet in width and 44 feet in length and both are inclusive of lines. The net height for pickleball is also quite low. The height at the corner is 36 inches while in the middle it is 34 inches.

These dimensions of the pickleball court are followed for both single and double games. And it is mostly played in doubles rather than singles.

Now if we look at the dimensions of a tennis court, it has different dimensions for double and single games. The dimensions for a single game are 78 feet x 27 feet or you can say a total area of 2,106 square feet. As for the double game, the dimensions of the court are 78 feet x 36 feet, or a total area of 2,808 square feet.

4. Serve

The serving of tennis can earn the players points but in pickleball, that is not the case. In pickleball matches, you never earn a single point while serving. The serving of pickleball also must be underhand. A Pickleball game is all about the placement of ball hits to earn you aces in the game.

In tennis, you just have to hit the ball with all the power you have. Your body moves sideways in the whole game. You can swing the racquet to the front to hit the ball and make sure that you do not miss a single hit to earn the points. This can not be done in pickleball though as the ball is perforated so you have to maintain a distance and angle to play the game.


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While tennis is an ancient game, pickleball was discovered in the 20th century. Both the games have evolved and become global sensations. These games sound similar to many beginners but they are not. In this whole article Pickleball vs Tennis, I highlighted the key differences and history of both games. I hope next time when you see someone mixing these two up you will be able to guide them well and enjoy the game easily.

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