Both tennis and pickleball are sports that involve hitting a ball with a racket or paddle over a net. Although there are many other similarities between the two sports, there are several differences as well.

tennis vs pickleball infographic


Key takeaways

  • Both tennis and pickleball use different types of balls.
  • Both tennis and pickleball use different types of rackets/paddles.
  • Pickleball courts are smaller than tennis courts.
  • Pickleball courts have a kitchen or non-volley area.
  • Overhand serves are not allowed in pickleball.
  • The scoring systems used in both sports are different.
  • Double fault rules don’t apply to pickleball.
  • A two-bounce rule applies to pickleball only.


Key Differences Between Tennis And Pickleball

Pickleball is a growing sport and has been increasing in popularity around the world. Most people are familiar with tennis but pickleball might be new to them.

As the two sports are somewhat similar, it can be confusing to know many of the differences. Here are some of the key differences between tennis and pickleball.

male Tennis and pickleball players
Tennis and pickleball players

Tennis ball vs pickleball

One of the main differences between the sports is the type of ball being used. A tennis ball is covered in felt and made of hollow rubber filled with pressurized air.

A pickleball (often called a whiffleball), is made of hard plastic and has several holes throughout. Tennis balls are designed to bounce on the court while pickleballs don’t have as much bounce.

Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors and there are both indoor and outdoor balls. The difference between the balls is the indoor pickleballs are a bit smaller and made out of a softer and lighter material. The indoor balls also weigh less than the outdoor balls.

Outdoor pickleballs usually have 40 holes, while indoor pickleballs have fewer. Indoor pickleballs can have as few as 26 holes.

A tennis ball has a diameter of 2.57-2.70 inches and weighs between 56-59.4 grams.

A pickleball ranges from 2.874-2.972 inches in diameter and weighs between 0.78-0.935 ounces or 22.11-26.50 grams.

tennis ball vs pickleball
tennis ball vs pickleball

Rackets vs paddles

In order to hit the ball in either sport, you need to use a racket or a paddle. In tennis, you use a racket and in pickleball you use a paddle.

Tennis rackets and pickleball paddles are completely different in design and weight. A tennis racket uses strings that will compress the ball on contact and a pickleball paddle has a flat hard surface that doesn’t compress the ball.

Pickleball rackets also use a core whereas tennis rackets do not. A tennis racket is much larger and weighs more than a pickleball paddle.

The average tennis racket length for an adult is 26 to 27 inches, has a width of 12.5 inches, and weighs 10.6 ounces.

A pickleball paddle is 16 inches long and 8 inches wide and weighs 8.5-9.5 ounces.

tennis racket vs pickleball paddle
tennis racket vs pickleball paddle

Court size

The playing surface used for both sports is similar other than the size. Pickleball courts are mini tennis courts with the same rectangular shape. The difference is the dimensions between them.

Tennis courts are much larger than pickleball courts and cover a larger area. Pickleball courts measure 44 feet long and 20 feet wide for both singles and doubles play. Tennis courts measure 78 feet long and 27 feet wide for singles play. For doubles play, the court measures 36 feet wide. 

The measurements for the net are also different.

Pickleball courtTennis court
Length 44 feet78 feet
Width20 feet27-36 feet
Net36″ at the posts, 34″ in center42″ at the posts, 36″ in center

Pickleball court vs tennis court size comparison
Pickleball court vs tennis court size comparison

Non-volley zone/kitchen

There is a part of a pickleball court called the kitchen which is a non-volley zone. In this area of the court, a ball is not allowed to be volleyed over the net without it bouncing first. This rule extends 7 feet from the net and runs from side to side of the court.

The kitchen or non-volley zone is not applicable to tennis.

pickleball court kitchen area
pickleball court kitchen area

Serving

In both tennis and pickleball, the serve is a crucial part of the game. Although in tennis, the serve speed is very fast and is a quick way to score a point.

In pickleball the serve is much slower. The biggest difference other than ball speed is the overhand serve is not allowed in pickleball. All serving must be done underhand.

You will never see an underhand serve in tennis although it is allowed and there is no rule against using it. You will never see an overhead serve in pickleball.

Tennis serve vs pickleball serve
Tennis serve vs pickleball serve

Scoring

The scoring structure between tennis and pickleball is also different. Tennis uses a game-set-match point system where players aim to win 6 games to win a set. Win 4 points to get 1 game. Win 2 out of 3 sets or 3 out of 5 sets to win the match.

Pickleball uses a much easier scoring system. The player who reaches 11 points wins the game and you must win by 2. The game will continue past 11 points until there is a winner by 2 points.

Another difference in scoring is that in pickleball only the serving side can score points whereas in tennis either side can score points.

Double faults

In tennis, it is very common to see a double fault. A double fault occurs when the player serving commits two fouls during one serving point.

If a double fault occurs, the opposing player will receive a point.

In pickleball, there is no double fault rule.

Two bounce rule

In pickleball, there is something called the two-bounce rule. This is where the ball must bounce once on each side after a serve before a volley can take place. So each side must have one groundstroke prior to volleying the ball.

After the ball has bounced on each side once, any combination of groundstrokes or volleys can be used.

The two-bounce rule does not apply to tennis.

tennis and pickleball players
tennis and pickleball players

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