Paddle Tennis vs Pickleball: What’s the difference? (2022)

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 04/27/22 •  7 min read

There is a wide range of racket sports and paddle sports played across the globe and confusing them with each other is common. So, it’s no surprise that differentiating between pickleball and paddle tennis is a challenge for some.

That’s why we have composed this guide discussing the differences and similarities between pickleball and paddle tennis. Not only will it help you understand how these sports are different but it’ll also help you choose the game that suits your style.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is, arguably, the fastest growing sport in the US, combining different sports such as ping pong, badminton, table tennis, and court tennis. It’s characterized by the use of a perforated plastic ball and smooth paddles. In this game, players hit the hole-filled plastic ball back and forth in a court over the net.

Pickleball is a great sport to get the family outside, moving around, and doesn’t require much equipment. It’s also perfect for people of all ages.

paddle tennis vs pickleball

Brief History

The pickleball game was invented by Joel Pritchard along with some friends back in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. They developed this game so that they could play it in Pritchard’s backyard. Now the game has evolved from simple rules and handmade equipment to a popular sport with official rules in North America.

In fact, some Asian and European countries are also recognizing pickleball as an official sport. In the United States, the sport is promoted and regulated by the USAPA (United States Pickleball Association).

Basic Description

In simple words, pickleball is pretty similar to playing ping pong in a court with paddles and a slightly bigger ball. You can play this interesting game regardless of your skill levels and age. It’s a competitive, fast-paced, and challenging game with simple rules.

What is Paddle Tennis?

Paddle tennis, on the other hand, is typically played outdoors on a heavily enclosed court. It’s also called pop tennis or paddleball and just like racquetball, it can also be played indoors. Typically, a paddle tennis court is one-fourth of the size of a standard tennis court and is enclosed by four walls or fencing.

Additionally, the ball used in this game is softer than a standard tennis ball and the height of the net in paddle tennis courts is also lower. The paddle is usually perforated.

Paddle tennis is a perfect sport when the weather requires you to be inside but your family still wants to get some exercise, and you have access to a court.

paddle tennis vs pickleball

Brief History

Paddle tennis was developed by Frank Peer Beal, an Episcopal minister, back in 1915. He developed this game for children as a recreational activity and many paddle tennis courts were created in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village during his time. Now it’s played all around the United States and many other countries including Mexico, Argentina, and the United Kingdom.

Basic Description

Paddle tennis can be played with both singles and doubles, which means two to four players can play this racket sport at the same time. The scoring and set winning rules of paddle tennis are pretty similar to the traditional tennis game.

Important Note: Paddle tennis is a different racket sport from platform tennis and padel tennis as all these sports have different rules.

How Are They Similar?

You may find paddle tennis and pickleball extremely similar to each other unless you play these games. The following are the similarities between the two sports that you need to know.

Game Style

Both pickleball and paddle tennis are played in a pretty similar style and that’s the most common reason why people think they’re the same game. In both games, the players use paddles to hit the ball back and forth over a net, whereas many other similar sports tend to use rackets.

Court Size

The court of pickleball and paddle tennis also appear to be identical, especially for a beginner; however, the court dimensions differ between the two (see “How Are They Different?” below).

Equipment

Both paddle tennis and pickleball are racquet sports and use similar-looking equipment. However, there are some key differences that change the nature of the gameplays of both sports. Pickleball uses a small plastic ball similar to a wiffle ball and paddle tennis uses depressurized tennis balls.

However, they’ll appear to be the same if you look at them from a distance. The paddles used for these games can be made with different materials such as high-density polyethylene rubber, composites, carbon fiber, and memory foam. But again, they look similar at first glance if you’re not familiar with the two sports.

How Are They Different?

While there are some similarities between paddle tennis and pickleball, there’s more than one major difference between the two that can be observed once you become familiar with the sports.

Here are the main differences:  

Court Size

The size of the court is a major difference. The size of the pickleball court is identical to the doubles badminton court and it measures 44 x 20 feet. The same court dimensions are used for doubles and singles competitions. The height of the net is 34 inches in the middle and 36 inches on the sidelines. A tennis or badminton court can be converted to make a pickleball court.

On the other hand, pop tennis (paddle tennis) courts look pretty similar to tennis courts but they’re smaller in size. The court size of the standard pop tennis is 50 x 20 feet.

Court Layout and Design

In a pickleball court, there’s a 7-foot non-volley zone, called the “kitchen,” in front of the net. The playing area is typically surrounded by a fence to prevent the ball from getting away.

The paddle tennis courts have left and right service zones just like the standard tennis court. This game relies on a specialized large encompassing screen to keep the ball on the court.

Serving Style

Serving style is another aspect that sets the two sports apart. Serving rules in pickleball are quite strict. Players are only allowed to serve underhanded from the service line and they have only one serving opportunity. Additionally, only the serving player or the serving team can score points and the ball must also not touch the no-volley zone.

On the other hand, paddle tennis has less strict rules. It also offers only one serving opportunity but players can serve the way they want. Unlike pickleball, the serving in paddle tennis can be overhanded.

Scoring System

Pickleball has a unique scoring system. A player must reach 11 points in order to win the game. Plus, the winner also needs to have a score two points greater than the opponent leading to potentially higher-scoring games

As mentioned earlier, the scoring system of paddle tennis is pretty similar to traditional tennis. Each game has six different point opportunities that are scored at 15, 30, 40, and of course the game point. On top of that, a single set is made of six such games.

Paddles and Balls

The paddles that are used in pickleball and paddle tennis are similar to each other with one key difference: paddle texture. The pickleball paddle must be completely smooth but the paddle tennis paddles have small holes or are textured.

A pickleball’s solid paddle is not allowed to be textured because it provides an unfair advantage.

In pickleball, small, lightweight, perforated plastic balls are used. These balls are made of hard plastic and don’t compress offering less bounce.

On the contrary, paddle tennis balls are made of hollow rubber and are the same size as a tennis ball, making them bigger and bouncier than a pickleball.

Paddle Tennis vs Pickleball – Which will your family choose?

As you can see, paddle tennis and pickleball are very different games. It’s important to remember that both games can be fast-paced and challenging, requiring you to not only plan but also coordinate in order to carry out your strategies.

However, each game may have a distinct feel to it. After all, each one can have varying degrees of intensity but what remains the same is the level of fun that both sports offer.

We hope this guide will help you understand how these sports are different from each other so that you can choose the one that suits your family’s style better.

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!