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Pickleball Vs Tennis Compared, + Which Is Harder?

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Almost everyone is well aware that tennis can be a fantastic workout. However, access to tennis courts and learning how to play tennis can be expensive and inconvenient, depending on where you live and your financial and logistical limitations. 

Pickleball has become the fastest-growing sport in the United States and has a lot of overlap with tennis, so it can be more approachable and affordable.

But, is pickleball like tennis? What is the main difference between pickleball and tennis? Will you get a better workout with tennis vs pickleball or pickleball vs tennis?

In the article, we will discuss how to play pickleball, and then we will look more closely at the similarities and differences between pickleball vs tennis, aiming to help you decide whether pickleball or tennis is best for you.

We will look at: 

  • Is Pickleball Like Tennis?
  • What Is the Difference Between Pickleball and Tennis?
  • Which Sport Is Harder: Pickleball vs Tennis? 

Let’s get started!

Pickleball balls and rackets.

Is Pickleball Like Tennis?

Before we consider the primary differences between pickleball and tennis, it helps to look at the similarities or areas of overlap between these two sports.

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States, exploding in popularity amongst all age groups, but adults and seniors in particular.

Even some tennis players have been converting over to playing pickleball vs tennis due to some of the benefits of pickleball vs tennis.

This has further borne validity and clout to pickleball as a viable and valiant alternative to tennis.

Pickleball and tennis are both court-based racket/paddle sports that involve hitting a ball with the racket or a paddle over a net to an opponent who is supposed to try to volley the ball back.

However, there are differences between pickleball and tennis, such as the size of the court, equipment, and the rules of pickleball vs tennis.

Tennis rackets and tennis balls.

What Is the Difference Between Pickleball and Tennis?

Although there is some overlap in the style of sport between tennis and pickleball, there is more than one singular difference between the two.

The four major differences between pickleball and tennis are the equipment used, the size of the court, the rules of the game, and the accessibility of the sport.

Let’s take a closer look at the main differences between pickleball vs tennis:

#1: Tennis vs Pickleball Equipment 

One of the most apparent differences between tennis and pickleball is the look and feel of the equipment itself.

Pickleball equipment is much lighter and more compact than tennis equipment. 

For example, pickleball paddles are lightweight, and the pickleball balls are low-bouncing plastic balls that are more comparable to wiffle balls than tennis balls.

In contrast, tennis is played by holding a heavy racket and hitting high-bouncing, felt, and rubber-covered balls.

Two people playing pickleball.

Pickleball Paddles vs Tennis Racquets

Although it may not seem like a big difference, the average pickleball paddle weighs between 7 and 9 ounces, while the typical string weight of tennis racquets hovers closer to 11 to 11.5 ounces.

This 2.5-4.5 ounce difference in tennis racquet vs pickleball paddle weight may not sound like much, but it actually equates to a 24 to 42% lighter paddle for pickleball vs tennis racquets.

Due to the differences between tennis racquets vs pickleball paddles, pickleball equipment is cheaper, easier to carry and stow, lighter, and more manageable to handle for beginners and seniors who may lack grip strength, shoulder strength, and arm strength.

Pickleballs vs Tennis Balls

Another major difference between pickleball equipment vs tennis equipment is the balls used.

The balls used in pickleball are plastic and have holes like whiffle balls (but far more holes than wiffle balls, and they are heavier). 

Pickleball balls are lighter and less bouncy than tennis balls.

When comparing head-to-head tennis balls vs pickleball balls, tennis balls weigh about an ounce more and bounce twice as high as pickleballs do.

Specifically, US Pickleball requires sanctioned pickleballs to weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces and bounce 0 to 34 inches when dropped from a height of 78 inches.

The International Tennis Federation requires tennis balls to weigh between 1.975 and 2.095 ounces and to bounce 53 to 60 inches when dropped.

A tennis serve.

#2: Pickleball Vs Tennis Rules and Gameplay

There are differences in the rules and gameplay between tennis vs pickleball.

Pickleball Serves vs Tennis Serves

A pickleball volley serve is underhand and is usually considered much easier than a tennis serve because it is less technical than the overhead tennis serve, the pickleball ball and racquet are lighter, and the serve is less technical. 

Pickleball also has a drop serve, which more closely resembles a tennis serve, but is still different. It can be hit underhand or overhand, but the ball must fall from the player dropping it by gravity alone, and it has to bounce first, so it’s usually underhand because pickleball balls don’t bounce too high.

Another difference in the rules for tennis and pickleball is that pickleball has a two-bounce rule, which means that the receiving player or team must allow the ball to hit the ground once before they hit it back over the net and the player who is serving or the serving team must also allow the pickleball ball to hit the ground once before they return it back over the net in a volley.

A person hits a pickleball.

There is also a “non-volley zone“ on the pickleball court, which is also called the “kitchen.“

This is a region that extends 7 feet from the net into each side of the court along the entire width of the pickleball court.

A pickleball player cannot stand in the kitchen or non-volley zone while volleying, and the ball cannot land in this area when serving. The purpose of the kitchen sound is to prevent crowding the net and smashing the ball.

This is one way in which pickleball is less competitive or intense than tennis.

Pickleball Scoring vs Tennis Scoring

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.

In pickleball, the first player to 11 with at least a two-point margin of victory wins the game, and only the player or team serving can earn a point.

A person setting up to serve in tennis.

Which Sport Is Harder: Pickleball vs Tennis? 

Before we look at whether you get a better workout playing pickleball or tennis, let’s first consider if it is harder for a beginner to learn tennis or pickleball.

Tennis is a highly technical sport with a lot of gameplay rules and sport-specific skills, and pickleball has quite a few rules as well, but the skill level is easier, making it easier to learn the basics and get started playing pickleball vs tennis as a beginner.

Furthermore, the smaller pickleball vs tennis court size means that you not only have much less distance to cover chasing down errant pickleball balls and tennis balls (cutting down on the physical demands and running involved in pickleball vs tennis practice and games), but you also have a smaller “territory“ to cover and defend.

This can help you focus and track the pickleball ball more easily and reach/move quickly enough to hit the ball back when playing pickleball vs tennis.

This feeds into the fact that in terms of which workout is harder, between tennis and pickleball, tennis is the clear winner.

A person reaching for a tennis ball on the court.

Tennis requires much more running, power, and endurance, athleticism, strength, speed, jumping ability, and fitness.

Pickleball is still a great workout, but it is more about shot placement rather than power hitting, and the much smaller pickleball court vs tennis court necessitates far less running.

Another reason why pickleball is potentially more beginner-friendly than tennis is that the pickleball ball does not bounce as much as a tennis ball. 

This makes it easier to anticipate where the pickleball ball will ricochet and how it will travel both when you hit it off of your paddle as well as when it bounces off of the walls or floor. 

Additionally, the speed of travel of the pickleball ball is much slower than a tennis ball, though both sports require agility.

Overall, it can be argued that the primary difference between tennis and pickleball is that pickleball is more accessible than tennis both from a financial and logistical standpoint as well as from a fitness standpoint.

When comparing the cost of equipment, coaching, and renting court space, it is much less expensive to participate in the sport of pickleball vs tennis. 

Pickleball is also more relaxed, lighthearted, and social than tennis.

To help support your tennis or pickleball performance, check out our upper-body workout guide here.

Four people touching rackets and the beginning of a pickleball game.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and 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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