Tennis vs. Pickleball: What’s the Difference?

While tennis is a more familiar and widely-known game, with international championships, well-known athletes, and worldwide participation, its ‘sister sport’, pickleball, is quickly growing in popularity. While it may sound whimsical, pickleball is fast-growing and has its own unique appeal.


What is pickleball, and how is it different from tennis? Who should be interested in this creatively-named sport? Read more to find out.

Court Size and Design

A standard tennis court is about 78 feet in length and 27 feet wide for singles matches, extending to 36 feet wide for doubles. The net is placed at a height of 3.5 feet at the post and 3 feet in the center. Tennis courts can be made of grass, clay, or other hard surfaces, each surface impacting the tennis ball’s speed and bounce.

A pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, about the size of a badminton court. A pickleball court measures 44 feet in length and 20 feet in width. The net’s height is 34 inches at the center. Pickleball courts can be many different surface types, including acrylic, concrete, and specialty rubber/plastic courts, providing a hard, even surface.


When playing tennis, players use a tennis racquet, which is strung and can be up to 29 inches long. The tennis ball is made of felt-covered rubber, pressurized to bounce effectively on the court. In contrast, pickleball uses a solid paddle, often made of wood, composite, or graphite, and it’s smaller than a tennis racquet. The ball is similar to a wiffle ball, with holes that affect its bounce and movement.


Tennis uses a unique scoring system, with points awarded in sequences of 15, 30, and 40 before reaching a game. A match is typically played in best-of-three or best-of-five sets, with each set requiring a player to win at least 6 games with a margin of 2 games. Pickleball utilizes a straightforward point system. The first team or player to reach 11 points with a lead of at least 2 points wins the game. Matches are often played best out of three games.


When playing tennis, the person serving stands behind the baseline, serving diagonally into the opponent’s service box. Players get two serves to start a point. If both serves fail, it’s a double fault, and the opposing player wins the point. In pickleball, serving is exclusively underhand, and it must clear the no-volley zone, landing in the diagonal service box. Players get only one serve attempt, and double faults don’t exist.

Gameplay Dynamics

Tennis is known for its powerful serves, volleys, and groundstrokes. Players often use spin, slice, and topspin to maneuver their opponents and win points. Due to the smaller court and wiffle ball, pickleball focuses on strategy over power. The no-volley zone (or “kitchen”) prohibits players from smashing the ball while inside this area, emphasizing placement and strategy


Tennis and pickleball are both uniquely exciting sports, each offering different opportunities to showcase strategy and athleticism. While tennis has a longstanding history and international acclaim, pickleball’s rising popularity showcases its accessibility and fun. Whether you’re an athlete or a sports enthusiast, understanding these distinctions can only enrich your appreciation for these games. Choose your sport, grab your racquet or paddle, and meet up with a friend to play!