What is the difference between Pickleball and Paddle Tennis?

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball was first introduced in 1965 by three fathers- Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum in Bainbridge Island, which is a quick ferry ride from Seattle, Washington. It was first played using smooth paddles that were often made of wood materials. 

This sport can be played in either doubles or singles and it is usually played on a rectangular 20” x 44” court that is pretty much the same as a badminton-size court. 

It is one of the fastest growing sports in the US and it has become more popular because of its exciting yet relaxed style similar to tennis. In fact, a lot of parks and recreational clubs have added pickleball courts to cater the enthusiasts of this sport. 

You can check out my post on the history of Pickleball for more information.

What is Paddle Tennis?

Paddle Tennis was introduced on New York playgrounds in the early 1920s. It was invented by Frank P. Beal, a New York City official. Since then, it grew into a popular sport and it is also called platform or pop tennis. 

This sport is frequently played outdoors in a very enclosed area to ensure the safety of everybody. But it can also be played indoors like racquetball. 

Just like playing tennis, paddle tennis can also be played either doubles or singles. Instead of rackets, paddle tennis uses short-handed, rectangular wooden bats or paddles with a slow-bouncing ball of sponge rubber. 

Rules and scoring are similar to tennis but adults are only allowed one serve. 

Similarities Between the Sports

Style of the Game

A lot of people get confused with these two sports. But pickleball and paddle tennis are played in the same manner or style. Both sports use paddles to play it, and they include hitting a ball back and forth over a net that divides the court and keeping a score. But even if they have a similar style of playing, still it has major differences in terms of scoring, style of serve, and a lot more which will be explained further in this article. 

Size of the Court

If you are a first time player, you would make an assumption that courts are quite similar for both sports. But a paddle tennis and pickleball courts are quite different in terms of dimensions. 

A paddle tennis court has a dimension of 44’ x 20’. The court is divided into two sections: the service zones and service boxes. The court is on a raised platform. The court is a rectangle divided in half by a net, and both sides of the net have service lines. 

A pickleball court has a minimum dimension of 30’ x 60’. Its court is set up differently and it is usually played on a badminton court. The court has a net that divides the court into two. There is a no volley zone called the kitchen in the area close to the net on both sides of the court. 

Basic Paddle Design

Both pickleball and paddle tennis use racquets when playing. Generally, these racquets are similar to each other, as well as the materials and styles. Some players would get confused with the paddle design because they look similar in terms of the shape, size, and materials used. But if you look closely, there are some key differences that you will notice especially when you watch the game. 

The paddle design for paddle tennis is more stringent, whereas a pickleball paddle is more flexible in terms of its length and width. You will learn more about these two paddle designs as you go along with this article. 

Differences in the Games

Paddle Texture

As mentioned earlier, both paddles are quite similar to each other in terms of its style, size, and shape. But one of the key differences between these two is the paddle texture of its surface. 

The paddles used in paddle tennis have a rough texture and have holes in them that allow the air to pass through them. Also, it allows the ball to compress into the surface to produce a spongy effect when tossing the ball.

Meanwhile, a pickleball paddle has an extremely smooth surface. Its core is usually in a honeycomb shape that generates power without adding weight to the paddle. In fact, the officials use devices that would detect the smoothness of the paddle surface to ensure that it is completely smooth. 

The Ball

One of the major differences between pickleball and paddle tennis is the ball. At first glance, you may think that both sports use the same balls, but as you take a closer look you would realize that they aren’t the same. 

In pickleball paddle, players use small plastic balls that are very similar to wiffle balls which are usually filled with holes and are lightweight. The balls are hard and don’t compress which explains why they offer low bounces. 

On the other hand, paddle tennis balls are depressurized and big, and they are the standard tennis balls that are made from quality rubber. 

Scoring the Game

The scoring methods in both sports are totally different from each other. 

In paddle tennis, the scoring method looks similar to tennis. To win the game, the player has to score four points and they are to be scored at 15, 30, 40, and game. 

And to win a set, the players have to lead two games against the opponent and a tie is decided by a tie-breaker round. 

Whereas in pickleball paddle, the player that garners 11 points first, wins the game. But both teams may agree to end the game at 15 or 21 points. But the winning player should have at least 2 points more than the opponent which explains why the points go slightly above 11 points. 

The Style of Serve

In paddle tennis, the style of serving is not very strict. The player can serve as he/she likes. He or she can serve either underhand or overhead, but he or she has only one opportunity to serve otherwise the service is turned over to the opponent. 

Meanwhile in pickleball paddle, the style of serving is very strict. For a serve to be considered as permitted, it must be underhanded, made in a low to high motion, and the impact of the paddle and the ball must be under the waist. The wrist must also be positioned higher than the paddle face upon contact. If the following serving rules are not met, the service becomes illegal. 

But both sports have the same rules that the serve has only one opportunity at a time. 

Enclosure Design

Both the playing areas of these sports are usually in an enclosed area, but there is still a major difference. 

The pickleball game generally has a fence that surrounds the area to help keep the ball within the playing court. 

Whereas in paddle tennis, there is a specialized screen to help keep the ball in because the tennis ball tends to be faster than that of pickleball. Also, paddle tennis is bigger than pickleball and it is the very reason why it can accommodate 4 people in a game. 

Whether you are playing in an open or enclosed area, you will still have a lot of fun playing these two sports. 


Nicole is a pickleball enthusiast who started playing pickleball in 2017. Always trying to improve her game, she shares helpful tips and tricks for people wanting to learn to play pickleball. Its an obsession.

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