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Pickleball vs. Paddle Tennis: What’s the Difference?


Pickleball vs. Paddle Tennis: What’s the Difference?


Pickleball and Paddle Tennis are two popular racquet sports that have been gaining traction around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner looking for a fun way to stay active, understanding the differences between these two sports can help you decide which one suits you best. In this blog post, I will delve into the distinct characteristics of Pickleball and Paddle Tennis, covering everything from their origins to gameplay differences, equipment, and more.

Both sports offer unique experiences and benefits, so let’s explore what sets them apart and help you make an informed decision. We’ll look at the history, rules, equipment, and the overall community behind each sport. By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of what makes each sport unique and which one might be the perfect fit for you.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the world of Pickleball and Paddle Tennis!

Origins and History


Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by three dads—Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. They created the game to entertain their children during the summer. The sport quickly grew in popularity due to its engaging and accessible nature. It combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis, making it a versatile and exciting game for players of all ages and skill levels.

The origins of Pickleball are often associated with family and community, which is still a significant aspect of the sport today. It’s known for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, making it an ideal activity for social gatherings and family events. Over the years, Pickleball has evolved and developed a formal structure, with organized tournaments and professional players, but it has never lost its original charm and community focus.

Paddle Tennis

Paddle Tennis, on the other hand, has a longer history dating back to the early 20th century. It was invented by Frank P. Beal in 1921 in New York City. Beal wanted to create a sport that could be played in small urban spaces, making it accessible to more people. Paddle Tennis is played on a smaller court than traditional tennis, with solid paddles instead of stringed racquets.

Throughout its history, Paddle Tennis has been known for its competitive nature and is often played in clubs and organized leagues. It has maintained a strong presence in the United States, particularly in urban areas where space for full-size tennis courts is limited. Like Pickleball, Paddle Tennis also fosters a sense of community, but it tends to attract a more competitive crowd.

Both sports have rich histories and have evolved to become beloved activities for many people around the world. Understanding their origins can give us insight into why they are played the way they are and what makes them special.

Gameplay Differences

Court Dimensions and Layout

One of the most noticeable differences between Pickleball and Paddle Tennis is the court dimensions and layout. Pickleball courts are smaller, with dimensions of 20 feet by 44 feet. The net is 36 inches high at the sidelines and 34 inches high at the center. The court is divided into two service areas and a non-volley zone, commonly known as the “kitchen,” which is 7 feet from the net on both sides.

Paddle Tennis courts are larger, measuring 50 feet by 20 feet, and have a net height of 31 inches at the center. Unlike Pickleball, there is no non-volley zone in Paddle Tennis. The court layout is more similar to traditional tennis, with service boxes and baseline areas. This difference in court size and layout significantly impacts the style and pace of each game.

Scoring Systems

The scoring systems in Pickleball and Paddle Tennis also differ. In Pickleball, games are typically played to 11 points, and a team must win by 2 points. Points can only be scored by the serving team, and the serve alternates after each point. Matches are usually best two out of three games.

In Paddle Tennis, games are played to 15 points, and a player must win by at least 2 points. Points can be scored by either player regardless of who is serving. Matches can vary in length, but they are generally played as the best of three or five sets, similar to traditional tennis.

Serving Rules

Serving rules also distinguish the two sports. In Pickleball, the serve is underhand, and the ball must be struck below the waist. The serve must land in the diagonal service court, and only one serve attempt is allowed per point. The server continues to serve until they lose a rally.

In Paddle Tennis, the serve can be either underhand or overhand, and the ball must be struck below the waist if served underhand. The serve must also land in the diagonal service court, but unlike Pickleball, Paddle Tennis allows for a second serve if the first serve is a fault, similar to traditional tennis.

Equipment Differences


The paddles used in Pickleball and Paddle Tennis are distinct. Pickleball paddles are made from lightweight materials like graphite, composite, or wood. They are solid and have a smooth surface, measuring about 15.5 to 17 inches in length and 7 to 8.25 inches in width. They are designed to provide a balance of power and control.

Paddle Tennis paddles, also known as “bats,” are typically made of a composite material or perforated with holes. They are slightly larger than Pickleball paddles, measuring about 18 inches in length and 9 inches in width. The perforations help reduce air resistance, giving the player more control over their shots.


The balls used in Pickleball and Paddle Tennis are another key difference. Pickleball uses a plastic ball with holes, similar to a wiffleball. The ball is lightweight and has a diameter of about 2.87 inches. The holes in the ball affect its flight and bounce, making it ideal for the smaller court and slower pace of Pickleball.

Paddle Tennis uses a depressurized tennis ball, which is slightly smaller and less bouncy than a standard tennis ball. This type of ball is designed to be used on the smaller Paddle Tennis court and allows for faster, more controlled rallies. The different ball types significantly impact the gameplay and strategies used in each sport.

Clothing and Footwear

While there are no strict rules regarding clothing and footwear in either sport, players typically wear comfortable athletic apparel. For Pickleball, players often wear moisture-wicking shirts and shorts or skirts, along with tennis shoes that provide good grip and support on the court surface.

Paddle Tennis players usually wear similar athletic clothing, but footwear may vary depending on the playing surface. Since Paddle Tennis is often played on a hard court, players may opt for tennis shoes with extra cushioning and support to handle the impact. Proper footwear is essential in both sports to ensure safety and optimal performance.

Gameplay Strategies

Pickleball Strategies

Pickleball is a game of finesse and strategy, with an emphasis on placement and control. One common strategy is the “third shot drop,” where the serving team aims to hit a soft shot just over the net into the opponent’s kitchen. This shot neutralizes the opponent’s advantage and allows the serving team to advance to the net.

Another key strategy in Pickleball is to control the non-volley zone, or kitchen. Players often engage in “dinking” rallies, where they hit soft, controlled shots into the kitchen to force their opponents into making errors. Effective communication and teamwork are also crucial, especially in doubles play, where players need to coordinate their movements and shot selection.

Paddle Tennis Strategies

Paddle Tennis, being a faster-paced game, relies more on power and quick reflexes. One common strategy is to serve and volley, where the server follows their serve to the net to put pressure on the opponent. This aggressive approach can force the opponent into making hurried shots and errors.

Another essential strategy in Paddle Tennis is to maintain a strong net presence. Players often aim to hit deep shots to push their opponents back and then move forward to take control of the net. Quick footwork and anticipation are vital in Paddle Tennis, as players need to react swiftly to their opponent’s shots and position themselves effectively on the court.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

In Pickleball, one common mistake is overhitting the ball, especially during dinking rallies. Players need to focus on control and placement rather than power. Another mistake is not getting to the net quickly enough, which can leave them vulnerable to their opponent’s shots.

In Paddle Tennis, players often make the mistake of not being aggressive enough. Since the game is faster-paced, it’s essential to take control of the points and put pressure on the opponent. Another common mistake is poor positioning, especially at the net, which can leave gaps for the opponent to exploit.

Fitness and Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Both Pickleball and Paddle Tennis are excellent for cardiovascular health. These sports involve continuous movement, which helps to increase heart rate and improve cardiovascular endurance. Regular participation can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Pickleball, with its moderate intensity, is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels. It provides a good workout without being too strenuous, making it accessible to older adults and those new to exercise. Paddle Tennis, being more intense, offers a more rigorous cardiovascular workout, which can be beneficial for those looking for a higher-intensity exercise.

Muscle Strength and Endurance

Playing Pickleball and Paddle Tennis helps to build muscle strength and endurance. The repetitive movements involved in hitting the ball, moving around the court, and maintaining balance target various muscle groups, including the legs, core, and upper body. Over time, this can lead to increased muscle tone and strength.

Pickleball’s focus on control and finesse helps to develop fine motor skills and improves hand-eye coordination. Paddle Tennis, with its emphasis on power and quick reflexes, helps to build explosive strength and agility. Both sports offer a full-body workout and can help improve physical fitness and overall health.

Mental Health and Social Benefits

In addition to physical benefits, Pickleball and Paddle Tennis also offer mental health benefits. Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. The social aspect of these sports also provides opportunities for social interaction and building friendships, which can positively impact mental well-being.

Pickleball, with its friendly and inclusive community, is particularly known for its social benefits. Many players enjoy the camaraderie and sense of belonging that comes with participating in local clubs and tournaments. Paddle Tennis also offers social opportunities, particularly in competitive settings and club environments, where players can connect with others who share their passion for the sport.

Getting Started

Choosing the Right Equipment

Getting started with Pickleball or Paddle Tennis begins with choosing the right equipment. For Pickleball, you’ll need a paddle, Pickleball balls, and comfortable athletic clothing and footwear. Look for a paddle that suits your playing style and skill level. Beginners often prefer lighter paddles with a larger sweet spot for better control.

For Paddle Tennis, you’ll need a paddle tennis bat, depressurized tennis balls, and appropriate athletic clothing and footwear. When selecting a bat, consider the weight, balance, and grip size. A well-balanced bat can provide a good combination of power and control, while a comfortable grip can help prevent fatigue and improve your performance.

Finding a Court

Finding a court to play on is the next step. Pickleball courts are becoming increasingly common, with many community centers, parks, and recreational facilities offering dedicated Pickleball courts. You can also find temporary courts set up on existing tennis or basketball courts, using portable nets and court lines.

Paddle Tennis courts are also widely available, particularly in urban areas and at tennis clubs. These courts are often shared with other racquet sports, so it’s a good idea to check with local facilities for court availability and booking options.

Joining a Community

Joining a community of players can enhance your experience and provide opportunities for learning and improvement. Both Pickleball and Paddle Tennis have active communities with local clubs, leagues, and tournaments. Participating in these groups can help you meet new people, find playing partners, and gain valuable tips and advice from more experienced players.

Many communities also offer beginner clinics and instructional sessions to help new players get started. These sessions can provide a solid foundation in the basics of the sport, including rules, techniques, and strategies. Whether you’re playing for fun or looking to compete, joining a community can make your experience more enjoyable and rewarding.

My Thoughts

In my comparison of Pickleball and Paddle Tennis, it’s clear that both sports offer unique and enjoyable experiences. Pickleball’s emphasis on control, strategy, and social interaction makes it an excellent choice for players of all ages and skill levels. Its friendly and inclusive community is a significant draw, and the sport’s accessibility makes it easy to get started and enjoy.

Paddle Tennis, with its faster pace and competitive nature, appeals to those looking for a more intense and challenging workout. The sport’s rich history and established presence in urban areas make it a popular choice for players seeking a dynamic and engaging racquet sport.

Ultimately, the choice between Pickleball and Paddle Tennis comes down to personal preference and individual goals. Whether you’re looking for a fun way to stay active, a new competitive challenge, or a social outlet, both sports have something to offer. I encourage you to try both and see which one resonates with you. You might even find that you enjoy playing both, each providing its own set of benefits and rewards.