Whether you’re a tennis player who has started gaining an interest in pickleball, or if you’re simply trying to decide which of these two similar sports you should pick up and play, the biggest question most people will ask is which one is easier to get the hang of.
The truth is that, despite there being a few shared similarities between them, there are also a good amount of differences that you should know about since these drastically affect how easy each sport is to pick up and how long it will take for you to become a skilled and experienced player.
Here is the full breakdown of all the significant differences between tennis and pickleball that make one of these sports a lot easier to play than the other.
Is Pickleball Easier To Play Than Tennis?
While they are both very similar in how they are played, there are many key differences between tennis and pickleball that set them apart and make them unique as their own sport, and it is these small but important differences that make pickleball a much easier game to play than tennis.
Most players who have taken the time to learn both tennis and pickleball will agree that it’s not only easier to get into pickleball as a beginner player, but a new player will also be able to rise up the ranks much easier and get a hang of the more advanced techniques much more quickly, despite the fact that pickleball is a much faster-paced game compared to tennis.
Let’s take a look at what these major differences are and how they affect an average match of pickleball for the players involved.
Most pickleball courts are 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, making them nearly half the size of a tennis court.
This means that you won’t have to be racing around the court as much just to catch a ball as you normally would in a game of tennis.
A quick and sudden movement is enough in pickleball for you to be able to return a ball with ease, especially if you’re playing a doubles match where most of the court will be covered by a pair of players on each side.
After seeing a tennis racket being used so freely on tv by professionals, it comes as quite a surprise when you come to hold one for yourself and realize that it’s actually a lot heavier than expected.
Not only does it take a good amount of practice to become accustomed to a tennis racket so that you can begin to move it around without putting any strain on your wrist or arms, but the added weight also makes it much more challenging to determine how hard you’re hitting the ball, making for some awkward shots and serves.
In contrast, pickleball uses paddles which are usually made of light composite materials, making them much easier to swing compared to rackets.
The balls used in pickleball are also made from harder plastic, making them extremely durable but also much easier for a player to hit with just the right amount of power on their swing.
The non-volley zone, commonly referred to as the “kitchen”, is the area of the court that stretches 7 feet from the net and is designed to prevent players from volleying a ball right after it has been served.
This kind of move is called a “smash” in tennis, and it is when a player rushes right up to the net in order to hit the ball back to the server before it even touches the ground, making for a lightning-fast response which is incredibly difficult to return.
This type of technique is seen as unfair on the much smaller court of pickleball since the players would have even less of an opportunity to react, so the kitchen serves the purpose of ensuring that a game remains fair and enjoyable for everyone involved.
While there are a few ways players will get around the rules of the kitchen, such as jumping over it to volley a ball rather than physically standing in it, these are considered very high-level techniques that are rarely seen in the average pickleball (see also: How Big Is An Average Pickleball, And Why?)game.
When someone is trying to get to grips with tennis, they will usually begin by practicing a lateral swing where the tip of the racket is pointed towards the side of contact with the ball.
This type of swinging technique is often seen as the most basic way to strike a ball in tennis, but because of how precise you need to be with the positioning of the racket and the amount of power you put behind your swing, it takes a tremendous amount of practice to become fully accustomed to this technique.
When it comes to pickleball however, players will instead usually take the pendulum position when they are first getting started in the sport.
A pendulum swing is when the paddle hangs low and the tip is pointed to the ground throughout the swing.
A pendulum swing does not require you to be as accurate as you would need to be in tennis when taking a lateral swing, and since the paddle is also far more lightweight than a racket, it makes it easier for a player to determine exactly where the ball is going to land when they hit it.
It should be noted that many pickleball players are still encouraged to learn the lateral swing as they become more experienced, but when starting out, the pendulum swing is the much better method of introducing new players to the game since it is an effective technique that isn’t too intimidating to learn.
While there are definitely risks of a player picking up an injury in both tennis and pickleball, it is far less common in pickleball simply because you won’t have to travel as far which can end up putting a lot more pressure on your legs and joints.
The heavier rackets also make players much more susceptible to becoming inflicted with a wrist or hand injury, especially when hitting a similar type of swing repeatedly which tennis players will tend to do in longer rallies.
Because of how fast and reactionary a game of pickleball is, this does mean that you will be switching your feet and ankles to different directions constantly which can be harmful if done incorrectly or too much, but you also won’t be putting as much pressure on your legs as you would in tennis where you are constantly running around and putting more weight on a specific leg to get ready to run to the other side of the court.
All in all, while many would compare pickleball and tennis, there are many smaller details in how they are played that make for a much different experience, and a much easier one if you choose to pick up a paddle and get into pickleball.
Thanks to the layout of the smaller court, the easier-to-handle equipment, and the basic techniques being much easier to master, pickleball is considered to be much more accessible for newcomers compared to tennis.