Pickleball vs. Paddle Tennis – What’s The Difference?

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These days, there are so many racquet or paddle games it can be easy to confuse which is which? It’s easy to get turned around if you’ve never played one of these games before.  Two such sports are pickleball and paddle tennis, in which both games use a paddle.

While they seem somewhat similar, these games are actually quite unique from one another. Once you understand the distinctions you may find that one interests you more than the other. Let’s take a look at what separates these games.

Pickleball vs. Paddle Tennis

Related Reading: Platform Tennis Vs PickleBall

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball was developed in 1965 by three fathers from Washington state. This sport is played with smooth paddles that are often made of wood, but may sometimes be designed from other materials. This game requires a plastic, hole-filled ball that players hit back and forth over a net.

What many people enjoy about this game is that it’s an easy one to play at any level, including children who are not ready for tennis. Whether you just want a casual game or a full tournament, the game easily caters to just about any setup.

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis

What is Paddle Tennis?

Paddle tennis, also called pop tennis is often played outdoors in a heavily enclosed area to ensure safety. It can also be played indoors like racquetball. To some, paddle tennis may also be known as paddleball. 

Like tennis, it can be played in either doubles or singles, so there’s enough room for two or four people to play at once. Scoringing is similar.  Winning the set is also similar to tennis. For further rules, you can also check out the National Paddleball Association website.

Similarities Between the Sports

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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

Overall, the courts can appear quite similar to the inexperienced player, but that would be a mistaken assumption at first glance.  The differences make both games appealing for players to switch up.

A paddle tennis court measures 44’ x 20’. The court is  divided into service zones and service boxes. The court is on a raised platform. The pickleball’s court is set up differently. It is played on a badminton court. The measurements are a minimum of 30’ x 60’.

The net is 34” lower in the center. From the net area there is a “no-volley” zone called the kitchen.  From this area you cannot return a direct volley. The ball must bounce first if you don’t want to lose a score.

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.

Read also: How to Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court

Differences in the Games

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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 have holes and are generally very lightweight. 

Paddle tennis balls are depressurized tennis balls 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 balls within the court. Paddle tennis relies on the screen 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.