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“Well, it’s like tennis — but not.” 

If you’ve been playing pickleball for any time at all, you’ve had to explain it a time or two. Most players like comparing it to other familiar sports, with tennis as a popular example. 

So if your pickleball-curious friends keep asking, “But how is Pickleball different from tennis?”, this resource is for you. 

Court differences

The most visible difference between pickleball and tennis is the court setup. 

While tennis players volley on a 78’ court (27’ wide for singles and 36’ wide for doubles). Pickleballers play both singles and doubles on a smaller 44’ x 20’ court. 

These dimensions were inspired by Badminton, but with an added twist: pickleball courts have a 7-foot no-volley zone on either side of the net. That’s the Kitchen, and it’s one of the most unique indicators of a pickleball court. 

Rule differences

Pickleball rules may remind you of tennis but make sure to catch these important differences!

While a tennis match is divided into games and sets, pickleball matches are played as a single competition to 11 or 15 points. If a team reaches 11 points (or 21 points in a tournament), but is only up by 1, the game continues until a team is winning by 2 points. 

If that sounds like a short game, here’s another catch: unlike tennis, only the serving pickleball team can win points. Each serve is performed underhanded, where the server’s paddle cannot swing above their waist. 

The Double Bounce Rule: When receiving a serve, players must let the ball bounce before returning. The serving team, likewise, must let the ball bounce before returning. Only after those two bounces can volleys begin. 

The Double Bounce rule helps to equalize advantages between the serving and receiving teams, as well as contributes to longer rallies. 

Equipment differences 

The most recognizable element of both Pickleball and Tennis is the ball. 

Tennis balls have a rubber core, covered in felt, and pumped with pressurized air for higher bounce. Pickleballs are light, hollow, and plastic, with more ability to catch the air — ATP anyone? 

A Pickleball net stands 36’’ tall, with a regulation sag to 34’ in the middle of the net. (And those inches can make or break your rally!) 

You won’t see any strung racquets on a pickleball court. The shorter court calls for smaller, composite paddles with ample striking surface. 

Pickleball paddle cores consist of a hollow, honeycomb construction, most weighing between 7-8 oz.  The handles are shorter, which contribute to more control. 

These paddles should be powerful and solid, but not weigh down the player’s arm - check out Nettie's classic and pro paddles, perfect for beginners and experts alike

We’re all in this together 

From the court setup, to the game play, to the sport equipment, pickleball and tennis have distinct and interesting differences. What do they have in common? A lot of passionate players. 

Whether you’re a tennis player looking for a new game or a pickleball player inviting their friends to a match, the most important thing is to get out on a court and start playing