Nathan Washam of the Bay Area works in software sales and enjoys playing pickleball in his spare time. In the following article, Nathan Washam compares pickleball to tennis – and discusses how these popular racquet sports are vastly different.
Pickleball was born on a sunny Saturday afternoon in 1965, when congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell had just finished playing golf and wanted to have fun with their family. The Pritchard residence had a badminton court, but there weren’t enough rackets for everyone. Instead, they improvised using ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball cut with holes.
From its humble beginnings as the lovechild of ping-pong and badminton, as of February 2023, USA Pickleball now has 70,000 members, growing by 30% from the previous year. At the same time, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for three consecutive years.
Nathan Washam says that while similar to tennis as a racquet sport, pickleball and tennis have distinct differences that suit varying preferences, fitness goals, and playing styles.
Nathan Washam Explains Court Differences
One of the biggest differences between the two sports is the court size. Tennis courts are longer and wider, typically measuring 78 feet in length and 36 feet in width and can be played on various surfaces such as clay, grass, and hard packed courts.
Meanwhile, pickleball is only about ¼ of a tennis court, and the ball bounces best on hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt. Since pickleball courts are smaller, beginners can easily cover the entire court, letting them focus on strategy and accuracy.
Nathan Washam explains that with its roots as a family game in the backyard of a congressman, Pickleball is often played in doubles making it fantastic for building friendships and connections with others. The smaller court and slower pace makes it easy to pick up regardless of athletic ability, creating a friendly and supportive atmosphere on the courts.
Pickleball: solid paddle, and a plastic ball with holes
Tennis: strung racquet, and a felt-covered tennis ball
Nathan Washam of the Bay Area says that pickleball has uniform equipment, while the varied string configurations in tennis racquets let players tailor their equipment to their style. Furthermore, the different kinds of tennis balls and court conditions make predicting the ball’s trajectory part of the game. For players that seek a mentally challenging game, tennis has the upperhand.
Pickleball: easy to pick up due to the smaller court and slower pace
Tennis: requires advanced skills, including greater athleticism and shot-making abilities
One of the most significant advantages of pickleball is its accessibility to a wide range of players. The smaller court and lighter ball are easy on the joints, making it a popular low-impact yet engaging sport.
On the other hand, tennis is one of the most celebrated sports worldwide. Ability to compete at the highest levels, like the Grand Slam tournaments, come with recognition and prestige.
Pickleball: easy to learn and master basic techniques
Tennis: requires time and practice to develop fundamental skills
Nathan Washman states that pickleball is relatively easy to pick up, making it great for those looking to try a new sport. Within a short time, players can become competitive and experience the joy of a well-played rally.
Whereas tennis players continuously improve and refine their skills, offering a lifetime of learning and development. The journey of mastering various strokes and tactics can be deeply rewarding.
Nathan Washam of the Bay Area explains that in tennis, the player must serve diagonally into the opponent’s service box, and the serve must clear the net and land within the service box. There is no specific serve style.
For pickleball, the player must serve underhand and hit the ball below the waist, and the serve must land in the opposite service box diagonally.
Tennis has a point system, where the server gets two chances to get the ball over the net and if the opponent fails to return the ball, the server gets a point. There are six opportunities to score called a set.
Nathan Washam says that in pickleball, points can only be scored by the serving team and the first to score 11 points with a two-point lead wins the game.
The Real Score
Whether it’s a perfectly placed pickleball dink or a tense tennis rally, both racquet sports will contribute to skill development, a healthy lifestyle, and personal enjoyment.
Remember, the real question isn’t “which sport is best?” rather it’s “which sport is the best fit for me?”