Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis: A Comparison of Two Popular Sports

If you’re new to racquet sports, you may have heard of pickleball and paddle tennis as two popular options. While both sports involve hitting a ball with a paddle, there are significant differences in gameplay, equipment, and rules. With pickleball exploding in popularity in recent years and paddle tennis having a rich history, it’s worth delving into a comparison of these two sports to understand their unique features and which one might be the right fit for you.

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis: A Comparison of Two Popular Sports

Pickleball and paddle tennis are two racquet sports that share similar aspects, but also have several differences in their gameplay, rules, and equipment. Pickleball has gained immense popularity in recent years, while paddle tennis has a rich history and is still played in many parts of the world. Understanding the nuances of both sports can help you choose the one that best suits your interests and preferences.

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis: A Comparison of Two Popular Sports

Are you looking for a fun and engaging racquet sport? If so, you might have come across two such sports that have gained immense popularity worldwide: pickleball and paddle tennis. In this article, we will outline the differences and similarities between the two sports. This comprehensive guide will help you decide which of the two sports would best suit your interests and preferences.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fun and easy-to-learn racquet sport enjoyed by all ages. It is played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court. The sport is played with a perforated plastic ball and composite or wooden paddles. Something that sets pickleball apart from other racquet sports is its use of a lower net, which reduces the speed of the ball while still enabling players to execute precise shots.

The History of Pickleball

Pickleball was invented on Bainbridge Island, a suburb of Seattle, in 1965. The game’s co-founders were three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum – who aimed to create a fun sport for their families to play. They modified badminton, lowered the net, and used paddles instead of rackets to make the game more accessible to all ages. The plastic ball, along with the lower net, made the game even safer and easier to master. Since those early days, pickleball has emerged as the fastest-growing sport in America. It boasts of over 3 million players, predominantly in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The Rules of Pickleball

Pickleball rules are straightforward and easy to learn. A game of pickleball is played between two or four players, using paddles to hit a plastic ball over a net until it drops out of bounds or hits the net. A player scores points only when they serve, and the game goes until one player reaches 11 points, with a 2-point lead. A player can only serve once in each rally, and the receiving team must allow the ball to bounce once on their side before returning it.

What is Paddle Tennis?

Paddle tennis is a racquet sport that shares similarities with tennis and squash. It is played on a smaller court, usually 50 feet long by 20 feet wide, which is surrounded by high walls. The sport is played with a depressurized tennis ball and wooden or composite paddles. Paddle tennis is usually played in the backyard or on a paddle tennis court, and players can engage in singles or doubles matches.

The History of Paddle Tennis

Paddle tennis has a comparatively long history. It was invented in the 1890s by Frank Beal on the grounds of the Montclair Athletic Club, in New Jersey, as a way for children to learn and practice tennis. Beal’s version of paddle tennis was played on a smaller court size, so it was easier for children to learn and score points. Since then, paddle tennis has grown in popularity and expanded into competitive tournaments and clubs worldwide. The sport enjoys a strong following in Spain, Argentina, and other Spanish-speaking countries.

The Rules of Paddle Tennis

The rules of paddle tennis are similar to those of tennis. The game is played with a depressurized tennis ball and wooden or composite paddles, and the objective is to win points by hitting the ball over the net and onto the opponent’s court without them being able to return it. The game can be played in singles or doubles, but four players are generally preferred. Players alternate sides after every point won, and a game is won when a player reaches six games with at least a two-game lead. Paddle tennis is becoming more popular, and not just for recreational play. In fact, it’s now an official sport at the Gay Games with dozens of entries for both singles and doubles.

Comparing Pickleball and Paddle Tennis

Both pickleball and paddle tennis are similar in that they require players to hit a ball with a paddle over a net. However, several differences set these two sports apart:


The equipment used in pickleball and paddle tennis differs. Pickleball requires a perforated plastic ball, usually with 26 rectangular holes, and a paddle that is slightly smaller than those used in paddle tennis, weighing between 6 and 14 ounces. On the other hand, paddle tennis is played with a depressurized tennis ball and a wooden or composite paddle that is heavier and longer than the pickleball paddle.

Court Size:

Pickleball courts measure 20 feet by 44 feet in size, which is approximately one-third of the size of a regular tennis court. They use a shorter net of 36 inches, which is two inches lower than the official tennis net. On the other hand, paddle tennis uses a court that is 44 feet by 20 feet, which is just over half the size of an official tennis court, and has high surrounding walls.


Another significant difference lies in the serve. In pickleball, the server must hit the ball underhand, serving from behind the baseline, allowing the ball to bounce once on the other side of the court before the opponent returns it. On the other hand, the server in paddle tennis can serve overhand, with no restrictions, and the ball must land in the opponent’s serving area.


Pickleball and paddle tennis have different scoring systems. In pickleball, scoring is done in increments of one, and only the serving team can score. The game ends when either team reaches 11 points, and the winner needs to have at least a two-point lead to be declared the winner. On the other hand, paddle tennis scores in increments of 15 and plays matches in sets, with each set played until a player reaches six games with a two-game lead.

The Benefits of Pickleball and Paddle Tennis

Both pickleball and paddle tennis are great sports to pick up, learn and play. These two sports have many benefits that can make them the perfect option for you:

Physical Benefits:

Playing racquet sports like pickleball and paddle sports can improve hand-eye coordination, enhance cardiovascular health, and build muscular endurance. Paddle tennis allows for a full-body workout while helping to improve balance, coordination, and agility.

Social Advantages:

Pickleball and paddle tennis are great for socializing and building a community. These sports are typically played in doubles, with four players on the court, allowing you to meet new people, develop new friendships and share common interests.


Pickleball and paddle tennis are highly accessible sports. They can be played on smaller courts, with lightweight equipment that is easy to handle. Additionally, these sports are relatively low-impact, making them ideal for individuals recovering from an injury or dealing with joint pain.

Fun and Engaging:

At the end of the day, pickleball and paddle tennis are just really fun and engaging sports to play. Whether you’re looking for a recreational sport or a competitive game, the activities are easily accessible and provide an enjoyable and entertaining pastime.

By now, it should be clear that pickleball and paddle tennis share some similarities while still maintaining their unique features. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced player, both sports offer opportunities for enjoyment and active engagement. When it comes to choosing between the two, the decision is based solely on personal preferences. So why not grab a paddle, ball and hit the court today? It’s your time to decide whether you’re a pickleball or paddle tennis enthusiast!

Pickleball and Paddle Tennis Equipment

Since both sports are played with paddles, let’s compare the two pieces of equipment in detail. A pickleball paddle has a larger surface area than a paddle tennis paddle, meaning that it is more forgiving when players don’t hit the ball in the center. Paddle tennis paddles, on the other hand, require precise shot placement to avoid disadvantageous rebounds. Paddle tennis paddles come in a range of weights, with most players choosing heavier options to control the ball better.

Playing Styles

Pickleball and paddle tennis have different playing styles. Pickleball is typically played at a faster pace than paddle tennis, with shorter rallies that require quick reflexes to execute timely winners. Paddle tennis has slower-paced rallies than pickleball, and like tennis, requires more strategy and precise shot placement to win.

Rules on Serving

In serving, the rules of pickleball and paddle tennis differ significantly. Pickleball is an underhand serve, with the player allowed only one attempt at getting the serve right. In pickleball, the ball must also land in the diagonal court to be in play. In contrast, paddle tennis allows for overhand serves, more like tennis, and doesn’t limit the number of attempts the player gets. In paddle tennis, the player has to serve from beyond the baseline and the ball must land in the service court, failing which, the serve is termed out.

Accessibility of Pickleball and Paddle Tennis

One of the most significant advantages of pickleball and paddle tennis is their accessibility. Both are low-impact sports that can be played indoors or outdoors, and on various surfaces like cement, tiles, or carpet. The courts are also smaller than those of other racquet sports, making them perfect for players of all ages and skill levels. While paddle tennis requires walls that surround the court, pickleball doesn’t, making it easier to discover playable spaces like school gyms, backyards, or community pools.

Which One should You Choose?

The crucial question at this point is: which sport should you choose? There are a few sorts of criteria you may want to consider, including your playing style, fitness, accessibility or enjoyment.

If You Prefer a Social Environment

Pickleball and paddle tennis are both extremely social sports and can be played either in singles or doubles. They have a serene and comfortable environment in which conversations can be held between playing members, and this creates a friendly atmosphere.

If You’re a Driver of New Hobbies

If you like to try new things, then pickleball is worth a try. It is a great sport to explore and learn for different age groups. The sport is easy to pick up and can bring a lot of fun and physical activity.

If You Want a More Competitive Format

If you already play tennis or squash and are looking for a competitive format, then you might want to choose paddle tennis. It’s built in a very competitive manner, which can provide tough but welcoming matches.

If You Want a Low-Impact Sport

Both sports are low-impact, making them ideal for people recovering from injuries or dealing with joint pain. However, the speed and mobility required for each sport may differ. Pickleball is typically played at a slower pace than paddle tennis, and as such, might be better suited for people who are more mobile.

The Bottom Line

It’s always good to have alternative activities and sports. Pickleball and paddle tennis are niche activities with their benefits, histories, and playing styles, with differences and similarities that make them both popular among older adults and young individuals. If you have never tried either sport, consider taking them up today. Who knows, you might just find your new favourite racket sport!


Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the differences and similarities between pickleball and paddle tennis:

1. What is the major difference between pickleball and paddle tennis?

The major difference between pickleball and paddle tennis is the equipment used, with each sport having its unique paddles and balls. Pickleball uses a perforated plastic ball, while paddle tennis uses a depressurized tennis ball. Paddle tennis paddles are also heavier and longer than pickleball paddles.

2. Is pickleball easier than paddle tennis?

In general, pickleball is considered easier to learn than paddle tennis. The game uses a larger ball and paddle, has simpler scoring systems and rules, and is played on a smaller court – all factors that contribute to the sport’s growing popularity and accessibility.

3. Is pickleball or paddle tennis more popular?

Pickleball is more popular than paddle tennis currently. The sport has grown in popularity worldwide and boasts of over three million players primarily concentrated in North America. Paddle tennis, on the other hand, is still thriving and widely played in Spanish-speaking countries and some parts of America.

4. Are the rules of pickleball and paddle tennis similar?

While there are similarities in the gameplay and rules, it’s worth noting that there are differences in the court size, scoring system, and serve-related rules. Pickleball courts are smaller, have lower nets, and scoring is done in increments of one, while paddle tennis courts are larger, have walls, and scoring is done in increments of 15.

5. What is the best age group for pickleball and paddle tennis?

Both pickleball and paddle tennis are sports suitable for all ages. They are low-impact, adaptable to various skill levels, and perfect for individuals who want to maintain an active lifestyle. The sport offers a fun and exciting way to engage in cardiovascular exercise and promote overall well-being.

6. What does the term “pickle” mean in pickleball?

The term “pickle” in pickleball has no relevant meaning or origin to the sport. The co-founders of the game, who were dog owners, named the game after their dog, Pickles. Hence, the term “pickle” means nothing more than a personal tribute to their pet dog.

7. Can you play pickleball or paddle tennis indoors?

Both sports are versatile and adaptable to various settings, including indoor and outdoor courts. Pickleball and paddle tennis can be played on various surfaces, including concrete or carpet surfaces, making them easy to play indoors or outdoors.

8. What are the benefits of playing pickleball or paddle tennis?

Playing pickleball or paddle tennis offers numerous benefits, including improved hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular health, muscular endurance, socializing opportunities, and accessibility. Additionally, both are low-impact sports, making them ideal for individuals recovering from injury or dealing with joint pain.

9. What are the fundamental differences between pickleball and tennis?

The significant differences between pickleball and tennis include the court size, net height, equipment, and serving rules. The pickleball court is 20 feet by 44 feet in size, with a 36-inch net, while the tennis court is 27 feet by 78 feet with a 36-inch net. Tennis uses a tennis ball while pickleball uses a perforated plastic ball.

10. What is more physically demanding? Pickleball or paddle tennis?

Pickleball and paddle tennis are low-impact sports that are