Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis: Understanding the Differences Between These Popular Racket Sports

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Pickleball and paddle tennis are two racket sports that have exploded in popularity in recent years. With some similarities on the surface, these two sports also have distinct differences when it comes to history, court dimensions, equipment used, scoring, and more. This article will dive into the key differences between pickleball and paddle tennis so you can better understand these unique games.

A Quick Overview

Pickleball was invented in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington as a backyard children’s game. Paddle tennis originated earlier in 1898 in New York City as an alternative to lawn tennis that could be played on snow-covered surfaces. While both sports involve paddles and balls and can be played in singles or doubles, they vary in terms of court size, balls used, scoring system, and speed of play. Pickleball is the faster growing sport, with nearly 5 million U.S. players as of 2021 compared to around 300,000 paddle tennis players. Major brands like HEAD and Wilson now manufacture pickleball gear due to its surging popularity.

The Courts: Size and Dimensions

One of the most noticeable differences between these racket sports is the size of the playing area. A regulation pickleball court measures 20 feet x 44 feet – slightly smaller than the dimensions for a paddle tennis court which are 20 feet x 50 feet. The smaller court size in pickleball translates to a faster pace of play since players cover less ground. Paddle tennis courts are only marginally longer, but this extra room does impact the speed and movement required.

Equipment: Paddles, Balls, and Nets

The paddles used in pickleball and paddle tennis also vary in terms of size, shape, weight, grip, and materials. Pickleball paddles tend to have a larger surface area with more intricate polymer or composite materials in their construction. Paddle tennis paddles are smaller with traditional wooden designs. Pickleball balls are made of plastic with characteristic holes, while paddle tennis uses a felt covered rubber ball with lower internal air pressure than a tennis ball. The nets are similar in height, but pickleball nets are narrower since the court width is slimmer.

Scoring: Table Tennis vs. Traditional Tennis

Another key difference is the scoring system for these racket games. Pickleball uses a scoring style similar to table tennis with games played to 11 points. Teams must win by 2 points. Paddle tennis uses the traditional tennis scoring of 15, 30, 40, game with no “advantage” call. This scoring difference changes the pace and tempo of each sport. The pickleball approach promotes quicker games while paddle tennis scoring builds longer points.

Overall Play: Speed, Intensity and Key Skills

While paddle tennis gameplay closely mirrors the strokes, strategies, and patterns of tennis, pickleball has some variances. The quickness of the pickleball court places more emphasis on fast reflexes and mobility. Tennis skills do transfer, but pickleball also utilizes unique techniques on volleys, dinks, and drop shots. Paddle tennis allows for more power hitting like tennis with longer groundstrokes and serves. Pickleball tends to involve more finesse-based elements of placement and touch.

In the end, while paddle tennis and pickleball certainly share similarities as racket sports, their contrasting histories, court sizes, equipment, scoring methods, and pace of play make for distinctly different athletic experiences. Understanding these key differences allows players to better appreciate the unique attributes of both games.<context> </context>

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions comparing and contrasting pickleball and paddle tennis:

Can you use tennis balls when playing pickleball?

No, tennis balls cannot be used in pickleball. The balls are quite different. Pickleballs have a plastic construction with holes, which affects the bounce and speed. The larger fuzzy tennis ball would not perform right on a pickleball court.

What is the ideal paddle tennis court surface?

The original paddle tennis courts were grass, but most modern courts use an artificial turf carpet-like surface. Some are all-weather outdoor courts made of sports court material.

Is serving underhand allowed in paddle tennis?

Yes, underhand serves are permitted in paddle tennis. This contrasts with pickleball where underhand serves are not legal.

How do pickleball and paddle tennis nets differ?

Pickleball nets are 20 feet long and hang at 36 inches at the center, while paddle tennis nets are 60 feet long and hang at 42 inches in the middle. The lower pickleball net accounts for the court’s smaller size.

Can pickleballs and paddles be used on a paddle tennis court?

Paddle tennis courts are larger than pickleball courts, so pickleball equipment can generally be used. However, the court’s greater length would affect play and strategy compared to a regulation pickleball court.

Which sport is better physically – pickleball or paddle tennis?

Both sports provide excellent physical exercise and fitness benefits. Pickleball tends to involve more starting, stopping, and direction changes which enhances agility. Paddle tennis offers more sustained aerobic activity with longer rallies and groundstrokes.

How did pickleball get its name?

Pickleball got its name from the “Pickle Boat” where oarsmen were chosen from leftover crews. It was meant to reflect the mixed nature of pickleball as a sport combining elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis.

Who invented paddle tennis?

Paddle tennis was invented by Frank Beal in New York City in 1898 as a way to play tennis during cold winter weather by using an enclosed court with screens.

Is paddle tennis easier to learn than pickleball?

Pickleball is generally considered easier to learn, especially for beginners. Its smaller court size, underhand serve, and 2 bounce rule create a lower barrier to entry and quicker proficiency.

How do pickleball and tennis scoring differ?

Tennis uses the 15, 30, 40 game scoring system while pickleball incorporates a simpler table tennis style scoring to 11 points, winning by 2.

Can you play pickleball indoors?

Yes, pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors. Indoor pickleball courts have gained popularity, especially in cold weather regions.


While paddle tennis and pickleball offer enticing options for active outdoor recreational play, understanding the origins, equipment adaptations, gameplay, and tournament cultures that make each sport unique allows both participants and spectators to gain a deeper appreciation. As these racket sports continue growing in popularity across North America, more players are able to experience the joy of volleys, overheads, dinks, and rallies, whether on a paddle tennis platform or pickleball court. The friendly social components of both games ensure smiles and fun for all ages and abilities.

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