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Paddle Tennis Vs Pickleball: How to Choose the Right Game for You

person holding pickle ball paddle on court

Are you on the hunt for a new racket sport to try out? Well then, look no further!

You probably already know a thing or two about tennis or ping pong, and that’s a great start. Today, we’ll compare two other racket sports that have been gaining steam these past few years: specifically, paddle tennis vs. Pickleball.

Sure, they may look similar on the surface. However, some key differences between the two sports may make one a better fit for you than the other. So, we will compare some key features of pickleball vs. paddle tennis to help you find your next favorite racket sport. Let’s get started!

What Are the Similarities Between Paddle Tennis and Pickleball?

Let’s make it totally clear from the get-go. Is pickleball the same as paddle tennis? No, these sports are similar in many ways, but far from identical. There are key differences as well.

Before we explore those differences, let’s explore what makes these two racket sports so similar.

First and foremost, paddle tennis (also sometimes known as paddleball or POP tennis) and pickleball are, as you may have expected, both variants of tennis.

Paddle tennis and pickleball are both racket sports and commonly played one-on-one or with teams of two on each side. Players face off against each other on a court divided into two distinct areas by a net. They use a racket to hit a ball from their side to the opposing team’s.

To score a point, the ball must touch the ground on the opponent’s side within the court’s boundaries without being returned. The main concept of a ball needing to stay within the area of play, and points being scored when one player or side fails to keep that ball in play, is similar to that of tennis.

However, pickleball and paddle tennis have a few other things in common that differ slightly from their predecessor.

For example, a tennis racket usually has solid frames with tight, crisscrossing strings. Paddle tennis and pickleball, meanwhile, have rackets with no strings. Instead, you use a solid paddle or one with air holes.

One other key difference is the court size. Paddle tennis and pickleball courts are much smaller than tennis courts. That, make them more suitable for those who want to avoid tiring themselves out too quickly or can’t easily cover longer distances quickly and reliably.

With that in mind, increased accessibility is an important similarity between pickleball and paddle tennis. As compared to tennis, both sports have smaller courts and balls that won’t fly as far or as fast when hit (we’ll go into more detail about balls in the next section.

That makes both pickleball and paddle tennis more accessible. In other words, a broader range of people can play pickleball and paddle tennis because the sports aren’t as demanding as standard tennis. Pickleball in particular has exploded in popularity in recent years because it’s easier for many people to pick up the game and start playing.

What Are the Differences Between Paddle Tennis and Pickleball?

tennis court

Tennis is clearly quite different from paddle tennis and pickleball. These two sports have their differences, too. Let’s take a look at some of their most notable distinctions below.

Court Size

If you’re familiar with the size of a doubles badminton court, then you already know a pickleball court’s dimensions. They’re about 44 x 20 feet for singles and doubles pickleball games.

On the other hand, a paddle tennis court is a little bit longer, at about 50 x 20 feet. Since it has been rebranded as POP tennis, though, this is also considered to be the size of the POP Classic court. The official new POP tennis courts are about 60L x 21W for singles and 60L x 27W feet for doubles.

Court Layout

Paddle tennis and pickleball courts both feature four service zones and no doubles alleys. However, they each have something distinct regarding their layouts.

A pickleball court has a non-volley zone, commonly called the “kitchen.” This area covers about seven feet from each side of the center. Here, pickleball players are not allowed to volley, meaning they can’t hit the ball right out of the air and over the net.

Instead of a non-volley zone, paddle tennis courts feature a backcourt. This three-foot area at the back of the court’s length is bracketed by a service line and baseline. Importantly, it doesn’t have the same restrictions as the non-volley zone.

Equipment

Of course, you’ll use paddles/rackets and balls in both sports, but they are slightly different.

Paddles

A pickleball paddle must have less than 24 inches of surface area and can’t exceed 17 inches in length. There isn’t any width limit, though it should complement the paddle’s length.

On the other hand, a paddle tennis paddle, or today’s POP tennis racket, is a little more specific. It should have a maximum length of 18.5 inches, a maximum frame thickness of 38mm, and a maximum face of 10 inches wide. And, unlike solid pickleball paddles, paddle tennis paddles tend to have holes.

Balls

While the paddles may not be too different, the balls certainly are! A pickleball ball looks similar to a wiffleball, as it’s plastic and full of holes but is slightly heavier. There’s simply no mistaking it for a tennis ball or something similar.

Now, a paddle tennis ball is a bit more similar to a regular tennis ball. The official ball for paddle tennis is usually made of rubber and may be called a “Green Dot.” Its internal pressure is roughly 75% of a regular tennis ball.

However, there is another option for paddle tennis. There is also the “Orange Dot” ball, which is only 50% of the pressure of a standard tennis ball. This one is usually used for children, beginners, and those who generally like slower-paced games.

Gameplay

As previously mentioned, the two games are played quite similarly. Despite the rules differences, the basic concepts of keeping a ball in play, using rackets, playing on courts, etc. apply to both. There is one area where they can be quite different, though: their serving style.

Regarding pickleball, players need to get their serves right the first time. It needs to be underhanded and can’t touch the non-volley zone.

With paddle tennis, though, the serving rules are a little laxer. You still only get the one serving attempt, but you can serve the ball however you like.

Scoring

This is another area where paddle tennis and pickleball differ significantly. While paddle tennis typically follows the same scoring rules as regular tennis (Love - 15 - 30 - 40, etc.), the system used for pickleball is quite unique.

Without going into too much detail, the typical pickleball game goes to 11, where the winner must overcome the opposing team by at least two points. Learn more about the rules of pickleball, including scoring.

The interesting thing about pickleball scoring is that only the serving player or team can earn a point. The receiving team is out of luck. This is known as side-out scoring. In sports like paddle tennis and standard tennis, rally scoring (where both teams can score) is used.

Paddle Tennis vs. Pickleball: Which One Is Right For You?

two friends playing pickleball

As you can see, the two sports have some significant differences. Which one is right for you may largely come down to personal preference.

If you’re looking for a smaller game of tennis with similar balls, rules, and scoring systems, then paddle tennis may be the right choice.

However, pickleball is your best bet if you’re looking for a game that’s a little more challenging and different than a more traditional racket sport. Even with the challenge of learning new rules, it’s important to remember that pickleball is accessible. The slower speed of the game means it’s still an athletic contest, but one that’s easier for a broader range of people to play.

And as a bonus, if you decide to go with pickleball as your paddle sport, you’re already in the right place! We have all the paddles, balls and shoes you need to get started!  We also offer a court locator powered by PicklePlay to help you find a place to play in no time.

Besides, you already know tennis, so why don’t you try pickleball? Check out our Ultimate Pickleball Paddle Buying Guide to learn more about the most important piece of equipment you’ll use on the court.

There's a reason it's the fastest growing sport. You won’t regret it!

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