Pickleball vs tennis? There is no competition. Tennis is still one of the biggest sports in the world boasting over 1 billion fans worldwide. But little old pickleball is catching on across the globe. Learn about the differences between the two sports and why pickleball is only going to get bigger and bigger.
Read on or jump ahead about the Pickleball vs tennis battle.
The Difference Between Tennis and Pickleball
Tennis is a classic sport, created in 1874 and it is played by an estimated 87 million people worldwide. Tennis has a long history, originally known as “lawn tennis” and played by Victorian gentlemen in Britain. The game has evolved but traditional elements of tennis remain intact for tournaments such as Wimbledon, where for example, strict dress codes still apply.
Tennis can also be perceived as a “rich man’s sport” because of its apparent exclusivity and specialized clubs for socializing and play. This may not be the case, but playing the sport competitively can be very expensive. Also interesting to note, the average age of a tennis player in the US is 40 years old.
Pickleball is a classic sports mashup – taking elements from various racquet sports while adding new unique ideas to the mix (like a “kitchen”). Created in 1965, pickleball is gaining popularity. It’s easy to pick up and play as a new low-impact sport for any skill level. The average age of a pickleball player in the US is 55 years old.
Pickleball is a great sport for anyone that has never played a racquet sport before. But it’s not unusual for a tennis player who has since hung up their racquet to start playing pickleball. Let’s find out why.
Why is Pickleball a Good Progression for Tennis
Pickleball is a good progression for tennis as it flexes different muscles and builds on existing skill sets. The pickleball court is smaller, the serve is underarm and the power required to play is reduced. A tennis player will need to focus on restraint and ball placement while utilizing spin and slice shots to gain an advantage over their opponent.
Pickleball is also a great progression for any racquet sport. The physics of the pickleball paddle hitting the ball is different and takes some time to adapt. Like playing with a larger ping pong paddle and a heavier ball, the paddle absorbs the impact but sends the ball flying. This can take some time to master but it creates a new challenge for any tennis player that may have given the game up. For this reason, pickleball is a good, low impact progression for tennis.
Why Is Pickleball Becoming a Competition for Tennis
Pickleball is becoming a competition for tennis as a battle is being waged across tennis courts in America. Tennis courts are being used for pickleball, and some tennis enthusiasts don’t like this fact. Some stories are reported in the media about confrontations between the two opposing groups.
However, pickleball can be seen as an extension of tennis. Pickleball is over 50 years old but it is being introduced as a new sport to many across the world. Makeshift courts and places to play are being assembled using old badminton or tennis courts. Some countries like the US have actual pickleball courts available for players. As the sport matures and more people play, it could potentially be a competition for tennis. But for now, it has a long way to go to get to the participation levels of tennis. However, grassroots growth, increased interest, and a professional league will all help pickleball become more popular as time goes on.
Why is Pickleball Better Than Tennis
In my humble opinion, pickleball is better than tennis because it is a mashup of various racquet sports that are NOT tennis – to make the game more interesting AND better than tennis. Pickleball is also easier to play, and here are three reasons why pickleball is easier to play than tennis.
Tennis is still amazing to play and watch, but Pickleball is like a musical mashup. It uses elements of the past, introduces a “kitchen” and plays like it’s a new sport that is actually over 50 years old. It’s new enough that if you mention it, most people may not have heard of it and ask “pickle what?”.
These curiosities and contradictions make Pickleball the Pepsi of racquet sports. The sport of a new generation, pickleball was made popular by baby boomers but younger players are starting to pay attention. Increased TV and media coverage have helped to attach a “cool factor”, and heck, the Kardashians are playing pickleball. That can only help escalate the popularity and promote how much fun the game is.
What Sports Have been Mashed up to Create Pickleball
Pickleball is a classic sports mashup. It uses elements of the following sports to create this new, old sport. In Pickleball…
- The Paddles are similar to table tennis (just bigger)
- Pickleball court size is similar to badminton.
- The ball is a “wiffleball”, which is used in a sport called Wiffleball (a scaled-back baseball)
- Serves are underarm and must bounce before being hit – like in paddle tennis
- Scoring is similar to badminton or ping pong.
The unique part of the game, other than the name is the introduction of the “kitchen”. Or non-volley zone. This came as an evolution within the game to eliminate a player from standing at the net and just smashing the ball.
Why Is Pickleball More Popular Than Tennis
It may seem like pickleball is more popular than tennis but unfortunately, it isn’t. There has been increased media coverage for pickleball, as Hollywood stars and celebrities get involved in the business of the game and sponsor the professional leagues. The increased media coverage reports on the interesting name with curious news stories. The sport has started to gain popularity, but it is nowhere near the level of tennis in regard to popularity.
However, there is an overlap between tennis and pickleball players. In this day and age, prestige and tradition are disregarded as old relics. Sports with a deep sense of historical significance such as tennis may start to lose popularity. More modern, accessible sports such as pickleball may take over because of its pick-up-and-play simplicity.
Why Is Pickleball Killing Tennis
Pickleball is not killing tennis but it is the new kid on the block of professional sports. New fans that love the sport will make the claim that it is killing tennis, but the facts remain. Tennis has over 100 years of history, worldwide popularity, and established tournaments that fans have been watching and enjoying for decades.
Pickleball has a long way to go and it could be years before pickleball hits this level of popularity. Countries like the United States are taking up the sport of Pickleball at a rapid rate. They have the population, the money, and the physical space to facilitate and sustain increased interest in a niche sport like Pickleball.
The Final Verdict – Pickleball vs Tennis
Pickleball vs tennis? Can’t we all just get along? Interestingly, tennis has increased in popularity, with some mind-blowing facts about the increased popularity of the sport.
- Tennis has over 1 billion fans globally.
- The ITF reports that 87 million people play tennis worldwide
- Tennis viewership has increased 33% in the last year, averaging 881,000 viewers in prime time in the US.
Pickleball is no slouch, for a new game that started in 1965. Here are some interesting facts about Pickleball.
- Pickleball was named the fastest-growing sport in the United States by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).
- It was played by an estimated 4.8 million players in the US in 2021.
- It is predicted that pickleball will have approximately 40 million players by the decade’s end.
- The MLP (Major League Pickleball) was formed in 2021 and currently consists of 12 teams with further expansion planned by celebrity team investors.
- Pickleball is likely to be introduced into the Summer Olympics in Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028.
As you can see, the new kid on the block will continue to grow and could go from fastest growing sport to one of the most played sports. Pickleball can cross over to a mainstream sport, played by all ages worldwide. These are exciting times for pickleball and pickleball players across the globe!
The Aussie Pickleball Bros can see both angles of this debate, with one of the bros being an ex-tennis player that now plays pickleball. While another bro never played a racquet sport before but totally loves pickleball more than anything.
Despite the debate, it’s an exciting time to be a pickleball player. Drop a comment below and let us know what you think.
The Aussie Pickleball Bros.