Badminton Vs Tennis: What Are The Top Differences + Which Is Harder?

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reviewed by Katelyn Tocci
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Classic racket sports like tennis and badminton are very popular around the world, and even though they are both racket sports, they have plenty of distinctive differences between them.

So, which of these two sports is harder, tennis or badminton? What are the primary differences between tennis and badminton? Do you burn more calories playing badminton vs tennis or vice versa? 

In this guide, we will compare badminton vs tennis and get into detail about the main differences and similarities so you can have a clear understanding of each of these racket sports and in the end, which one is harder.

Let’s get started!

A badminton racket and balls.

Badminton Vs Tennis: A Detailed Comparison

Before we look at the differences between badminton vs tennis and try to decide which racket sport is harder, let’s discuss some of the similarities.

Both badminton and tennis are played with a racket and net on courts, and both of these sports require skill, fitness, and strategy. 

Badminton Vs Tennis: Fitness and Skills Needs

In terms of the skills and fitness required, there are also many similarities between tennis and badminton, as both sports require excellent agility, speed, hand-eye coordination, and technique.

Both of these racket sports also use rally point scoring, which means that players can score points even when they are not the one serving. 

When deciding whether tennis is harder than badminton or if badminton is harder than tennis, the comparison becomes more complicated as a “harder“ sport can mean different things.

People playing badminton.

There are different skills and fitness attributes that go into determining how difficult it is to learn to play a sport, how vigorous the workout is, and how much skill and technique are required to become “good“ at tennis vs badminton.

In general, badminton is a little harder to learn if you want to master all of the different strokes. 

It also requires more raw speed and agility because the court is smaller, and the shuttlecock has a faster projectile, which requires you to change direction and move about the court more quickly when playing badminton vs tennis.

On the other hand, tennis requires more muscular strength because of the higher weight of a tennis racket vs badminton racket and tennis ball vs badminton shuttlecock.

Additionally, the aerobic endurance required is higher for tennis vs badminton, especially when playing singles tennis, because the larger size of the tennis court vs badminton court mandates more running in a game of tennis.

Both sports require explosive power, but with badminton, the speed of your force development is more important and impactful, and with tennis, the strength or force is more of a factor.

Let’s look more specifically at some of the factors that go into determining whether badminton or tennis is harder to play and a more physically-demanding workout.

A person playing tennis.

Running

Because of the larger size of the tennis court vs badminton court, tennis players will usually do more running over the course of a game. This requires good aerobic endurance

Speed and Agility

Both sports require lots of sprinting and speed as well, but the smaller court size with badminton vs tennis and the faster projectile speed of the badminton birdie vs tennis ball generally means that you have to be even quicker when playing badminton.

This is both in terms of outright running speed as well as your ability to change directions quickly, which is characterized by your agility.

Footwork

Good footwork is important for any racket sport, including tennis and badminton. However, the specific footwork demands for badminton vs tennis are different.

With badminton, there are lots of short, sharp changes of direction, along with some chasse, running, and jumping.

Playing tennis requires lots of running and chasses movement, along with some sliding and lateral shuffles, but minimal jumping.

People playing badminton.

Tennis vs Badminton: Length of Games and Rallies

Another factor to consider when trying to determine if tennis or badminton is a harder workout is the length of the game, the length of the rallies, and the inherent breaks in the game where you can theoretically rest briefly.

In general, when comparing the length of a tennis game vs a badminton game, tennis games are much longer.

A tennis match for elite players usually lasts anywhere from 1 to 3 hours though notably, the longest tennis match in history lasted eleven hours and five minutes!

Even putting these extreme outliers aside, the 1-3 hour average tennis match length at the elite level exceeds the badminton match length, which is generally between 30 minutes and 90 minutes, potentially spanning up to two hours.

The length of a badminton match tends to vary more than with tennis due to a wider range of styles of play and disciplines of badminton vs tennis. 

A person playing tennis.

Furthermore, the longest badminton match in history was only two hours and 41 minutes long, which, of course, is quite long and physically demanding, but falls within the average length of an elite tennis match.

One important thing to note here is that although the length of a tennis match vs a badminton match falls in favor of tennis being harder because a tennis game is longer, badminton tends to be more of a continuous play, whereas there are breaks in between points in tennis that add up to a lower percentage of playing time during a tennis game.

A study by The Wall Street Journal that looked at active playtime in different tennis matches found that the average tennis match has about 17.5% active play time while the rest of the 82.5% of the time, the tennis players are taking breaks between points, resetting, toweling off, changing ends of the court, setting up, etc. 

Although there hasn’t been as much of an in-depth analysis on the play time during a badminton match, badminton experts attest that there is less downtime in badminton vs tennis, and players are likely active more like 30-50% of the time.

For example, badminton players only have 30 seconds of a break when the first player gets to 11 points, and there is only a two-minute break in between each game.

However, tennis rallies tend to be longer than badminton rallies due to the slower speed of the ball and larger court size in tennis vs badminton.

Overall, both sports require good aerobic endurance and stamina.

People playing badminton.

Tennis Shots vs Badminton Shots

Tennis and badminton each have different types of shots.

Some of the top tennis shots include top spin shots, overhead serves, lab shots, drop shots, and slice shots. 

Badminton shots include the forehand serve, backhand serve, drop shots, smash shots, net shots, drive shots, clears, and lifts.

There are more shots to learn in badminton, so this takes more practice and technique, but in terms of shot difficulty, the heavier tennis racket and tennis ball make for the need for more power, and controlling the spin on a tennis ball is also more difficult. 

Badminton shots do require explosive power but more finesse than brute power and strength relative to tennis shots.

Winning Tennis vs Badminton Based On Scoring

Due to the differences in badminton scoring vs tennis scoring, it is generally harder to come back from mistakes in badminton vs tennis.

A badminton match is the best of three games, with each game played until one player scores 21 points.

In tennis, the first player to win four points wins a game, and points are counted with a scheme that goes 0, 15, 30, and 40, and face-off in a deuce. 

Then, the first player to win six games wins a set, and the player must win two sets to win a tennis match.

A person getting ready to serve a tennis ball.

Badminton vs Tennis: Courts

There are several differences between badminton courts vs tennis courts, namely in the size of the court, the space around the court, and the surface of the court.

In terms of the size of the court, a tennis court is almost 1.5 times larger than a badminton court. 

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) regulations for the size of badminton courts dictate that the badminton court must be 6.1 meters wide (20 feet) for doubles and 5.18 meters (17 feet) for singles with a length of 13.4 meters (44 feet) for either.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules state that a tennis court needs to be 10.97 meters (36 feet) wide for doubles and 8.23 meters (27 feet) wide for singles, with a length of 23.77 meters (78 feet) long.

Tennis players also spend more time outside the court bounds, especially during singles.

There are also many more approved surface materials for tennis courts vs badminton courts.

The ITF allows for clay, grass, carpet, and hardcourt tennis courts, all of which affect gameplay and how the ball and your body respond as you move about the court.

In contrast, the BWF only allows for a wooden spring floor covered with an approved playing mat, which is typically made from PVC or another synthetic material.

At lower levels of play, there is some variability with playing badminton on fully synthetic badminton courts or fully wooden courts, but this is not permitted at the elite level.

Two people playing badminton.

Badminton vs Tennis: Calories Burned

The number of calories burned playing tennis vs badminton is likely similar as long as the style of play is the same (singles, doubles).

According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, the METs for general tennis play is 7.3, whereas doubles is only 6 METs, and singles at a competitive level is 8 METs.

General badminton is 7 METs, whereas social badminton is only 5.5 METs, but competitive badminton is 10 METs.

According to Nutracheck, for a player who weighs 65 kg (144 pounds), casual social badminton burns about 152 calories per hour, moderate intensity badminton burns about 200 calories per hour, whereas competitive badminton burns about 435 calories per hour.

In contrast, general tennis burns 435 calories per hour, doubles tennis burns 362 calories, and singles burns 507 calories per hour for a 65 kg person.

Curious to learn about other sports? Check out our guide to the hardest sports in the world here.

Tennis balls and a racket.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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