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Tennis Versus Pickleball – What’s Your Net Game?

by Susan Quilty on 23 Comments

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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.

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  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).

    2. Logical, that is probably the simplest and most sensible suggestion I have heard in quite a while! You also get my vote for President – can you start right away, please? One (more faint or different coloured) line would certainly not affect us tennis players, it’s a part of the court we don’t use much. That would avoid having to dedicate valuable space to one sport or the other and prevent the brewing battle between two groups of people just trying to have fun.

  5. Good article for people to understand the differences. In our town of Loveland, Colorado the city decided to paint tennis courts for pickleballers in a park to be opened Aug. 1, named Maffey park. The tennis league is furious and threatening to keep pickleballers from using the courts by painting over the lines. You know the problem is the pickleballers leave the nets lower and it is too much trouble for tennis league folks to raise them again.

    I don’t understand your point that adding pickleball doesn’t take away from tennis time on courts. Since we have over1,000 tennis players in our town looking for space to play any use of the court for pickleballing means less time for more sophisticated tennis players to us the courts.

    The difference is also demographics. Pickleball is much more likely to be retired blue collar workers like plumbers or school bus drivers who never learned how to play tennis. For me trying to make a court for both is a mistake. It is like trying to convert the first 5 holes of a championship golf course into miniature golf.

    If these people never had the money for proper tennis lessons why should we suffer and give-up our court time so they can play pickleball?

    1. This guy does not need to worry about pickleball; he needs to worry about his mental health and socialization. A sad case. Please, never play pickleball.

    2. Gimbo-
      I was introduced to pickleball by an uber tennnis playing friend whose physical ability was side tracked by illness. Pickleball has helped her to stay active and competitive which has been a huge boost for her health and morale.
      When the day comes that you are side lined by a blown out knee, shoulder or wrist, or other condition, (and it will, unless you drop dead in the midst of an Elite and Sophisticated Tennis League Tournament) you’ll welcome the opportunity to get back onto the court and play pickleball.
      It is also easily played from a wheelchair, with a few modifications to the rules.
      If you tennis folk are so well off and special why don’t you PAY to play tennis at your own private club, where people who can afford proper lessons can mingle with those of their own demographic.
      Why should the city of Loveland pay for your private place to play tennis unsullied by the less than noble recreations of working class people?
      Heaven help you if you find yourself playing on a court with plumbers or school bus drivers.
      And if your pipes freeze or burst, sewer backs up, don’t call on them to help, even though they do a darn fine job, they aren’t sophisticated tennis players.
      And please don’t ask them to drive your grandkids to school, because even though they put their heart and soul into their route, they never had the money for proper tennis lessions.

  6. “Plummer’s or school bus drivers” Really?

    “Never learned to play tennis.” Really?

    “If these people never had the money for proper tennis lessons why should we suffer.” Really?

    I have no skin in the game other than I write/respond often on 55places and your comments are rude and crude…especially for someone who apparently had the “money for proper lessons.” Too bad you didn’t use some of that on your people skills.

    I live in Sun City AZ (a senior community), and we’ve had these same battles; only we found civility was far more attractive than thumbing your nose at people. Using each others courts isn’t the best solution, so finding space and money where you both win is way better.

    That means you collectively work together. The bad news for you is if you have 1000 tennis players now, in a handful of years pickleball will overtake you and then what? If it’s simply numbers that count, how long before they overrun you?

    These battles have been fought all over the country. You may want to take a look around and see how others have handled it. We built 20 pickleball courts, 8 under roof and at the same time added a new 10 court tennis complex.

    Obviously we had the money. In many other cases the two competing sports found solutions that included fund raising and made the effort to work together.

    Don’t mean to be rude, but insulting the pickleball players only insure your problems continue.

  7. Live and let live. Tennis players can be flexible and deal with an extra set of lines which pretty much run parallel as opposed to those in multi purpose gyms. If you play Badminton or Pickleball in a multi purpose gym you have to deal with lines of different colors and Basketball curved lines and so on.
    You are more flexible than you can imagine, when you have to be. You know the tennis courts are much bigger and the others are inside of your courts. It’s really easy. I play all of them and it’s second nature.

  8. Gimbo….I’m with Bill……Really?
    I have played college tennis, professional tennis (in my youth) and until a year ago played 5.0, until blowing out my shoulder. I’m college educated and work for a fortune 500 company. I also play pickleball. So don’t be so quick to judge the pickleball demographics. It’s a great game and very competitive for all ages. I also have a 5 handicap in golf and based on your miniature golf comment you obviously don’t know much about that sport either.

  9. It is not about who will overrun whom, but rather how can we find ways to play our desired sports without encroaching upon others. So far, it seems this new sport, with the cult-like following, is picking up some steam in middle schools and among the Baby Boomers. I hope it is not a fad sport that goes the way of all fad sports, i.e., racquetball. When all the fervor dies out, the courts will sit empty. Tennis is a time-honored sport, and it is necessary for students to practice so they can get access to scholarships for college. There are fewer courts available for tennis players as soccer and other sports take over the locations of former tennis courts. I am a baby boomer, and the one thing I know for sure is that we as a group tend to be self-focused. Those most vocal about Pickleball seem to be those of my age group. Sports are for people of all ages, and not just for aging seniors who have knee injuries or can’t play tennis. I think we need to think of all athletes regardless of their age or abilities.
    (former Tennis Coach and Physical Education Teacher)

    1. Consular Yes, you are so right on a lot of what you say. I feel for a lot of tennis players being deprived of public courts to play on. Pickleball by its nature and design is a paddle sport with a voracious appetite. An appetite for tennis courts (slightly used/idle) and players.
      I play both as well as badminton and table tennis and feel fortunate to be able to engage in different ones. The similarities and differences among them is quite fascinating and certainly can be explored. One critical aspect is the radical differences among their equipment including the projectiles.

  10. Pickleball and POP tennis have much in common. Both are parasite sports with lines drawn on tennis courts. POP tennis has wisely changed for the better, now with same scoring and net height as tennis. Dimensions as 10 and under tennis. (21X60) Only one underhanded serve.
    Pickleball is great for seniors, but they need to consider changing scoring, it’s a joke. Net 34, why not 36 ? It’s just a tennis net, why change ?
    Dimensions, 20X44 is badminton, consider 21X42 and get along with tennis courts everywhere. Do the math and see the diff. Draw a 7 ft no volley line and you’re in business. It’s never too late to show common sense and consideration for the tennis courts you’re playing on.

  11. This looks like such a fun way to stay active! I’m writing an article for a Pickleball website, and I was wondering if Pickleball and tennis nets are the same thing? Hoping someone can help me out with this- since it will be helping others to get to know the game. Thank you!

  12. Bad move for pickleball originators to decide on different court dimensions/net height than the tennis service box and net. Many tennis players warm up by playing “mini tennis” (played in service box only) and that’s probably how pickleball got started. They just replaced our lively-stringed rackets and intentionally-bouncy tennis balls with solid paddles and a satisfyingly-whackable whiffleball. It’s not a bad plan, I will undoubtedly give pickleball a try, but probably not until my tennis days are over. I’m not smart enough to play two racket sports – too confusing!

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