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Tennis Versus Pickleball – What’s Your Net Game?

by Susan Quilty on 7 Comments


Newer active adult communities often include pickleball courts in their design plans, and many older communities have converted some of their tennis courts to accommodate a growing number of pickleball players.

Active adult communities are known for boasting many amenities, including a variety of sports courts to support a range of outdoor fun. Pickleball, the new game on the block, is gaining popularity among many residents. However, some community tennis players worry that this new pastime will take away from their own time on the courts.

Though the game was relatively unheard of just 10 years ago, pickleball is rapidly taking hold as a popular sport among older adults. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), pickleball is a fun game which is easy for beginners to learn, but also provides challenging competition for experienced players.

Pickleball is a relatively new game which some players describe as a combination of tennis and badminton. This ball-and-paddle game is played on a badminton-sized court where the net has been lowered to 34 inches at the center. Equipment includes wood or composite paddles, which are about twice the size of a pingpong paddle, and a plastic, perforated ball (much like a Whiffle ball).

There are both similarities and differences between tennis and pickleball. Like tennis, pickleball can be played in games for singles or doubles. Scoring is similar in either game, as the serving side earns a point whenever the other side fails to return the shot.

Differences between tennis and pickleball include obvious ones, such as the size of the court and the style of both the balls and rackets/paddles. Play also differs in several ways. For example, serves must be underhand, the ball must “double bounce” before volleys, and there is a “no volley” zone which extends for seven feet on either side of the net.

Because pickleball uses a smaller court and underhand serves (which are easier on the shoulder), the game is a good fit for mature adults. Though it is easier to play than tennis, players are sure to get a good workout. A competitive game can be quite strenuous, providing healthy fun which is right in line with an active adult lifestyle.

Newer active adult communities often include pickleball courts in their design plans, and many older communities have converted some of their tennis courts to accommodate a growing number of pickleball players. However, the addition of pickleball has stirred controversy in some communities.

Tennis players in active adult communities are often unhappy to have their courts appropriated for pickleball use. By painting additional lines, communities can convert tennis courts to be shared between both sports. However, some tennis players find the extra lines distracting and would rather keep the courts to themselves.

Though tennis players do not like to lose any court time, many community boards feel that it is in all of the residents’ best interests to add pickleball to their list of offered activities. Multi-use courts are often a good way to introduce the new game gradually. Though it may take time for the change to be accepted by everyone, players of both sports will eventually see that there is room for both tennis and pickleball at successful active adult communities.

7 thoughts on “Tennis Versus Pickleball – What’s Your Net Game?”

  1. Excellent article depicting the game of pickleball. It truly is one of America’s fastest growing sports. Thanks to the USAPA (usapa.org) we now have a National Championship!



  2. Many people I play with, including myself find the scoring a headache. It is just plain confusing to remember and still have fun playing. Many times we forget the score and whose serve it is, and if it was a point or side out. I feel that this game would be so much more fun if there weren’t so many of these confusing rules. I think this takes the fun out of the game. I would lilke to see the rules changed to rally scoring and a simpler serving order. I think I speak for many others. If this is for older citizens it should be less complicated.

  3. Charlotte: So you are saying older people can’t score? That is ageist and rude. We can keep track of the score just fine.

  4. Why doesn’t pickle ball change their dimensions to fit the service lines of a tennis court. Tennis players don’t want a bunch of new lines on their court and pickle ball court dimensions are only 1 foot longer and 3.5 feet thinner than the service area of a tennis court. Simply paint two lines 7′ from the center for the no volley zone and you are done. The net is 2″ shorter? Why not raise the net 2″ and match the dimensions and you end the controversy and people can easily play either sport on every tennis court in America.

    1. I totally agree with Logical. From a Park District perspective having separate facilities for this minor difference is not an efficient use of resources.
      The alternative is multi-game striping of the courts which bothers both groups, and the requirement to fiddle with the net if you want to be “official”.
      Maybe there could be indoor dimensions and outdoor dimensions, like volleyball.
      Or, we just stripe the tennis court as Logical mentioned (7′ line) and let people play (the “new” outdoor dimensions).

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