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Pickleball vs. Paddle Tennis

These days, there are so many games that are played with racquets or paddles that you may get confused about which is which!

It's easy to do if you've never played one of these games before, but it's worth knowing what differences there are, especially when it comes to those that use paddles.

Two such sports are pickleball and paddle tennis, both of which are growing in popularity and can seem somewhat similar. That said, these games are actually quite unique from one another, and you may find that one interests you more than the other.

Let's take a look at what separates these games.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that came into existence in 1965. At the time, it involved a unique mixture of equipment pieces.

Those involved couldn't find a full set for a single sport to play with.

Developed in Washington state, it didn't take long for the game to catch on.

This sport is played with smooth paddles that are often made of wood, but may sometimes be designed from other materials.

Furthermore, it requires a plastic, hole-filled ball that bounces from one side of the court to the other as players hit it back and forth.

What many people enjoy about this game is that it's an easy one to play at any level. Whether you just want a casual game or a full tournament, the game easily caters to just about any setup.

Furthermore, it's an easy game for children to get into if they aren't ready for the intensity of tennis.

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis

What is Paddle Tennis?

As a game, paddle tennis is very similar to racquetball that is played indoors. The only real difference between the games in that paddle tennis uses a paddle, as the name implies.

Furthermore, paddle tennis is often played outdoors, though in a heavily enclosed area to ensure safety.

To some, paddle tennis may also be known as paddleball. However, that name can also refer to similar kinds of sports.

Like tennis and pickleball, it can be played in either doubles or singles, so there's enough room for two or four people to play at once.

The court is about the same size as a pickleball court, but it is divided up into different sections. These will include the service zone and service boxes, which you'll want to get to know if you plan to play the game.

For further rules, you can also check out the National Paddleball Association website.

Similarities Between the Sports

Unless you play either pickleball or paddle tennis, you may find that the games look extremely similar. There are some key aspects that cause these two sports to look a lot alike.

Things like the court, the equipment used and the way the game is played can make it seem like these are essentially the same sports.

Here are a few of the features of these games that are similar to one another.

Style of the Game

There's a reason these sports can often be confused with one another. Both of these games are played in a similar style. They make use of paddles, whereas other kinds of similar sports tend to use racquets.

Those who don't know the differences between the sports may look at both pickleball and paddle tennis and assume they are the same game.

Furthermore, the games are pretty similar. They include hitting a ball back and forth over a net and keeping score.

However, those who know a little more about both games will be able to recognize that they are quite different from one another.

Size of the Court

Both paddle tennis and pickleball are played on courts of the same size. Typically, this is made up of a space that is 44 feet long and 20 feet in width.

Inside that boundary, the court is also divided into a different setup than you'll find with a pickleball court.

Generally, it's played on a platform that is raised and there isn't a “no-volley” zone that you have to worry about. Instead, there are unique sections that you can learn more about if you decide to get into paddle tennis.

Overall, the courts can appear quite similar to the inexperienced player.

Basic Paddle Design

As previously mentioned, both pickleball and paddle tennis are played using racquets. Overall, these racquets can seem quite similar.

Often they are developed with similar materials and into similar styles.  Because of this, the games may easily be confused for one another.

That said, when you see a tennis-like game being played with a paddle, it may be worth another look. There are some key differences that you're likely to find when you watch the game for a while, or take another look at the equipment or court being used.

It can really be quite fascinating to see the differences.

Differences in the Games

​While there are a few similarities, these games are largely very different.

Just watching the different games for a little while can give you a clue as to what aspects are separate.

These include the kind of ball used in the game.

The way it's scored and the texture of the paddles that are being used.

The following are some key differences that separate these two games from one another.

Paddle Texture

While the paddles used in paddle tennis and pickleball are very similar, they do have a key difference that is worth taking a look at.

This difference is one that greatly separates the games and how they can be played.

This is in relation to the texture of the paddles. While paddle tennis paddles can be textured or sometimes have holes, pickleball paddles have to be completely smooth.

This is such an important difference that pickleball leagues and the like will use a special tool to measure the smoothness of a paddle. Paddles with too much texture can create an unfair advantage.

The Ball

Another key difference is between the kinds of balls used in the games. Pickleball uses a small, plastic ball that appears similar to a wiffle ball.

These balls tend to contain holes and are generally very lightweight. Meanwhile, paddle tennis balls are unique in their own way.

While pickleballs are like smaller wiffle balls, paddle tennis balls are similar to smaller tennis balls.

These balls are typically made of rubber, so they might remind you of ping pong balls. They aren't quite that small though, as they have to be able to travel a court rather than a table.

Scoring the Game

When it comes to scoring, these two games are very different. Paddle tennis scoring is scored in the same way as tennis. If you aren't familiar, each game is made up of 6 point opportunities, scored at 15, 30, 40 and game.

Additionally, it takes six of these games to make up a set.

Meanwhile, pickleball is scored in its own unique way. Generally, the winner needs to reach at least 11 points. On top of that, they need to have 2 points greater than the other player.

Because of that scoring difference, points may sometimes go above 11 before a game is completed.

The Style of Serve

Another aspect that sets paddle tennis apart from pickleball is the serve. In pickleball, rules about the serve are quite strict. Not only is there only one opportunity to serve, but players can also only serve underhanded.

Additionally, the ball cannot touch the no-volley zone while they're serving.

Paddle tennis, on the other hand, is a little less strict. You also only get one opportunity to serve in paddle tennis, but you can serve however you like; it doesn't have to be underhanded.

If you feel stronger in serving overhanded, you can opt to do that as well with no penalty.

Enclosure Design

Both of these sports also include some kind of enclosure. Typically, pickleball will have a fence that helps to keep the ball within the court.

However, there doesn't tend to be a large need for a more intense enclosure than that.

On the other hand, paddle tennis tends to make use of a screen for the sake of enclosure.

It's very much for the same purpose as a pickleball fence, but it's made to keep in a smaller, denser ball that may be moving more quickly than a pickleball would be expected to.


The more you look into pickleball and paddle tennis, the more you'll see just how different the games are.

What is worth keeping in mind is that both games can really keep you on your toes, causing you to have to not only strategize, but also have the coordination to pull your strategies off.

However, you may find that each game has a different feel to it.

After all, there can be different levels of intensity involved in each one. The best way to find out is to spend some time playing each one. You never know, you may fall in love with both.

Last Updated on December 11, 2019