Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis

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You may have seen a variation of tennis using a smaller ball played with a solid paddle instead of a racket. You may have even been invited to play pickleball. Is it the same sport as tennis? Is it the same as paddle tennis? Are there differences between pickleball and paddle tennis?

Pickleball and paddle tennis may appear to be similar sports but are completely different. They are both based on tennis but have different rules and gameplay. They also use slightly different paddles and different sizes and shapes of balls. The courts look similar but are also different sizes. They are both scored in completely different manners. 

Below we will look at what similarities pickleball and paddle tennis have and the differences between both sports.

Pickleball

Pickleball

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by four men in Washington state. It uses smooth paddles made of wood. During the play of pickleball, a plastic ball with holes in it is hit back and forth over a net. Pickleball is an easy game to set up and play. It can be enjoyed by any age level and is popular to play with young children who are unable to play tennis.

It has been on the list of fastest-growing sports in America since 2010. In 2021 and 2022 it has grown by over 40% and is played by over 4.8 million people. There are predictions it can reach 40 million players by the end of this decade. The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976 in Washington state.

Paddle Tennis

Paddle Tennis

Paddle tennis, also known as paddleball, can be played indoors like racquetball or played outdoors in an enclosed area. It can be played as singles or in a doubles team of doubles. The scoring and winning are similar to tennis. It is played with a single solid paddle and a depressurized tennis ball.

Paddle tennis was developed in 1915 in Manhattan, New York. The first tournament was held in 1922. By 1941 there were over 500 cities playing paddle tennis. The game was revised to the modern version by Murray Geller to include a larger court and an underhand serve to become more appealing to adults.

Similarities between Paddle Tennis and Pickleball

Both paddle tennis and pickleball can look very similar to casual observers. Many of the key aspects of the sport can seem very similar. The court, the equipment, and the gameplay can all look alike. Below we will look at each aspect to examine its similarities and differences to be able to differentiate both games from each other.

1. Game Play

Game Play

Both paddle tennis and pickleball are variations of tennis and have similar gameplay. They were both derived from tennis. They both use paddles, while tennis will use a racket. In both sports, you must hit a ball over a net to your opponent’s court in an effort to keep them from returning the ball.

The ball must touch the court on your opponent’s side without them being able to return it to score a point.

2. Scoring Systems

Scoring Systems

The score for paddle tennis is kept in a similar manner to tennis. Each game has a 6-point scoring opportunity. They scored at 15, 30, 45, and game. It will take 6 games to complete a set.

Pickleball has a much different scoring system. The winner will need to reach 11 points and have 2 more points than their opponents to win each game. Due to the need to win by 2 points, games may go over the 11 points needed until they are 2 greater than their opponent.

3. When You Can Score

Pickleball is also different from paddle tennis in that you can score. Only the serving player or team has the ability to score. If the serving team is able to cause the opposition to fail, they will score a point. If the serving team is unable to return a volley at any time, the defender will get the opportunity to serve but does not get to score a point.

During paddle tennis, players have the ability to score on either offense or defense. This will lead to more scoring opportunities and can lead to a faster-paced game that can be more exciting to play or watch.

4. Court Set Up and Size

Court Set Up and Size

Both courts for paddle tennis and pickleball have a net to separate each side of the court. The entire court of each is open to gameplay for all the members of each side. Pickleball will typically have a fence or other enclosure surrounding the court. Paddle tennis will have a smaller screen or indoor enclosure to keep the smaller faster moving ball on the court.

The court size can appear similar but they are quite different. They are played on different size courts. Paddle tennis is played on a 44’ x 20’ court. Pickleball is played on a 30’ x 60’ badminton court. The pickleball net is 36 inches tall and the paddle tennis net is only 31 inches tall. There also is a no volley zone where you can’t return a direct volley.

The no volley zone on a pickleball court extends the first seven feet from the net back towards the court. Balls are not allowed to be returned from this area over the net to your opponent’s court. Paddle tennis also contains a backcourt. It consists of the last three feet of the court in between the service line and baseline.

Each court will contain 4 service areas of play. Neither Paddle tennis nor pickleball utilizes the double alley found in single-play tennis matches. The entire width of both courts is in bounds.

5. The Paddle

The Paddle

Both pickleball and paddle tennis are played with paddles. They are made of the same material and can have a similar shape and design. They are both also made from the same materials. This can add to the confusion of the differences between each sport.

Although the paddles in both games have a similar appearance, the texture of each is quite different. In paddle tennis, they are textured and sometimes will have holes in them. They must remain under 17 inches in length.

The paddles used in pickleball are completely smooth. They are slightly larger and have a maximum of 17.5 inches in length. Pickleball paddles with too much texture are considered illegal and can cause an unfair advantage.

6. The Balls

Though there are some similarities in the games, the balls used in each game are quite different. Pickleball uses a small plastic ball that is similar to a wiffle ball but slightly smaller in size. It was originally played with a wiffle ball, but specialized smaller balls have been created to phase out play with the larger wiffle ball.

Pickleball

Some balls with smaller holes have been developed for outdoor play but any official ball can be used indoors or outdoors.

Paddle tennis uses smaller tennis-looking balls that may remind you of a ping pong ball. They are made fully of rubber and slightly larger however since they must travel the length of a court rather than a tabletop.

Paddle tennis ball

7. Serving the Ball

The serve in each game is different from the others. In pickleball, the serve is governed by many rules. There is only one serve opportunity, but the players may only serve underhand. The ball may not touch the no-volley zone when serving. The score must be announced by either the official or if there is no official the player serving the ball before it is served.

Paddle tennis is less strict with the rules for a serve. You also only get one opportunity to serve but it may be overhand or underhand. Some areas may use a restraint line that is 12 feet back from the net. During the service, all players must remain behind the restraint line until the ball has been served.

8. Two-bounce rule

The pickleball serve must land within the diagonal court on the opponent’s side. This is known as the service in court. The receiver must allow the ball to bounce in the court before they are able to return the ball.

After the return, the original serving player or team must allow the ball to bounce on their side of the court before they can return it. This is known as the two-bounce rule. After the two-bounce rule, the ball does need to touch the court to be returned.

Paddle tennis has a similar rule in that both the serve and return must bounce on the court but it is not as restrictive as the rule in pickleball. It just requires both the serve and return volley to bounce in the court before they are able to be played.

Conclusion

To the casual observer, pickleball and paddle tennis may appear to be similar games. The more you learn about each will explain the differences in both of the games. They are both based on tennis but use different paddles and their own unique ball. They are played on similar courts but the pickleball court is slightly larger. The scoring systems of each game are quite different.

Both paddle tennis and pickleball were invented in the early 1900s. Paddle tennis gained a lot of its popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Pickleball has been the fastest-growing sport in America since 2021 and currently has over 4.8 million players. It is expected to have more than 40 million by the end of the century.

FAQ

Are Paddle Tennis and Pickleball the Same?

Although they both may look similar and be played on similar courts paddle tennis and pickleball are two distinct sports. Paddle tennis is played with a small deflated rubber ball similar to a tennis ball. Pickleball is played with a plastic ball similar to a wiffle ball. They are each scored differently. Paddle ball is scored in the same manner as tennis whereas pickleball has its own scoring system.

Can Pickleball be Played on a Paddle Tennis Court?

The courts for pickleball and paddle tennis are similar but each has a different court setup. The paddle tennis court is 44’ by 20’. The pickleball court is 20’ by 44’ They both have different non-volley lines with the pickleball line at 7 ft and versions of the paddle tennis court at 12 ft. The paddle tennis court also has a 3-foot service line in its backcourt.

The nets are also different heights. The paddle tennis net is 31 inches and the pickleball net is slightly taller at 36 inches.

Are Overhand Shots Allowed in Pickleball?

Pickleball does allow the use of overhand shots during its gameplay. The use of overhand shots is prohibited on the serve. All serves must underhand shots and must make contact with your paddle at or below your waist area to be a legal serve. The score must also be announced before the service by either the official or the player serving the ball.

How was Pickleball Named?

Joan Pritchard, the wife of one of the inventors of pickleball, gave it its name. She said it was because it was a combination of many different sports. It had reminded her of a pickle boat crew that had the oarsmen picked from the leftovers of the crews of other boats.

It was rumored to be named after their family dog, but Joel Pritchard had stated that the dog, Pickles, was born after the invention of the game and named for the game, not the other way around.

Can You Use Tennis Rackets to Play PickleBall or Paddle Tennis?

Pickleball and paddle tennis both use paddles rather than rackets to play each game. They are half the size of a standard tennis racket. Both rackets are solid but are not interchangeable for either sport either. The paddle tennis racket can have texture and holes drilled in it.

The racket for pickleball is slightly smaller than the paddle tennis racket and must remain completely smooth. Any texture to the pickleball racket is thought to give an unfair advantage to the offensive players.

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