Pickleball’s popularity is increasing at a tremendous rate. It’s an easy to play sport which isn’t as demanding as tennis and thus has attracted a lot of suitors from different demographics.
Pickleball players are mostly over 50-years old, however, that doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of young players. Pickleball’s simplicity has attracted a lot of young people towards it as well.
Especially for tennis and badminton players who prefer lower intensity are increasingly leaning towards pickleball in an attempt to stay fit and make it big.
Rise of Pickleball as observed on Google Trends between 2004-2019
In our previous blog titled, “Pickleball vs Tennis”, we covered all the aspects which separate the two sports. From balls and paddles to the net surface and court size. In this post, we’re going to answer a few key questions that we’re being bombarded with. These include:
- Is pickleball a good progression for tennis?
- Is pickleball easier than tennis?
- Will playing pickleball hurt my tennis game?
- Is there any ex-tennis player playing pickleball?
Pickleball – Is it a good progression for tennis?
The simple answer is, Yes.
Many intermediate and advanced tennis players who are at the tail-end of their career have benefited a lot from playing pickleball primarily because pickleball isn’t as demanding as tennis. Furthermore, the cross over from tennis to pickleball is much simpler.
While the paddles are smaller, the balls don’t bounce as high, and the court is smaller, the same basic principles of movement from tennis apply in pickleball.
A lot of people see their shots in tennis become a lot better by playing pickleball first. Pickleball is very easy to pick up and is easy on your joints. That gives you the perfect introduction to tennis.
Strokes: Strokes in pickleball are quite similar to that of tennis. However, it’s more of a placement than power. In tennis, you need to strike the right chord between power and balance but in pickleball, placement can get the job done nine times out of ten. If you’re a pickleball player who wants to progress towards tennis, this is perfect! You’ll have the control over shot placement you need in order to win match after match.
Volleys: One of the most beloved shots in both pickleball and tennis is the volley. Players love to serve and rush towards the net in an attempt to hit a volley. Hitting volleys in pickleball and tennis are remarkably similar.
Dropshots: Pickleball’s favorite shot is the drop shot. It’s aesthetically pleasing as well as more than capable of helping you earn some points. Especially when playing singles game, your tennis dropshots will considerably improve through pickleball.
Angled shots: Since the pickleball playing surface is much shorter, the shots need to be more precise and well-timed. Playing on a pickleball court allows you to hit angled shots with precision. If you loved angled shots in tennis, you’ll love executing them in pickleball as it’s more challenging.
Lob shots: If you’re familiar with hitting lob shots in tennis, you’ll certainly enjoy hitting those while playing pickleball. Since the pickleball court is smaller, you have to be precise and cheeky at the same time. Unlike tennis, the chances of losing points due to a mistimed lob is much more in pickleball.
Low shots: Another aspect where you’d find a considerable challenge is when you hit those low shots. Since tennis balls have higher bounce as compared to pickleball ball’s getting under the ball and executing a shot is less tricky. However, if you do have a hang of it then using pickleball to progress towards tennis won’t be a problem for you at all.
Is pickleball competitive?
Many people looking to jump ship from tennis think that pickleball doesn’t have the competitive aura. Little do they know that this sport is backed by TV contracts, international tournaments, and professional endorsements. Over 2000 athletes compete in a single event and a seven-day National Tournament in the US alone is witnessing 40% rise each year in terms of participation.
Interest in pickleball based on sub-region in the US
In the US alone, there are 6 major competitions such as the World Pickleball Open, US Midwest/Southern series, Minto US Open Pickleball Championship, Hawaii Open, California Indoor Championships, and Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships.
Out of these competitions, the Minto US Open Pickleball Championship has live coverage and is inarguably the most popular tournament alongside World Pickleball Open.
The reason why I’m sharing these details is that you can rest assured that at any given age, you can kickstart your dream to become a professional pickleball player.
As for prize money, a winner of the national tournament can bank up to $50,000-75,000 and if we add sponsorship bonus, the sum can rise up to over a $100,000. These prize purses aren’t small and the incentive pools they come with can make any tennis player rethink their decision about retiring or playing tennis just for fun. Switching to pickleball makes more sense than ever.
Is pickleball easier than tennis?
At the end of it all, they are different sports and so they should be judged across different aspects of each sport. I chose to answer this question by dividing it up into several criteria and then asking the question again: is pickleball easier than tennis (at these criteria)?
Movement: Personally, if by easy, you mean less movement, then yes, pickleball is easier. However, when it comes to promptness and overall agility, it’s required to be on the same level as that of tennis.
Tennis boasts a bigger court which demands more movement as compared to pickleball. Furthermore, back and forth shots are more frequent in tennis as compared to pickleball where rallies don’t last longer than 5-6 shots.
Power: Many people have a misconception that power-hitting is all there in pickleball. That’s not true. Again due to the smaller court, shot placement matters much more in pickleball than tennis. Yes, the back and forth is less as compared to tennis but simple well-placed shots can win to points overpower hitting which often results in unforced errors.
Physical Fitness: Pickleball courts are smaller than tennis court thus you can save a lot of energy. However, when it comes to servers, shot placement and overall technique, it’s not simple. Especially, when you’re playing a singles game, you have to be on top of your toes since you’ve to cover the distance. Similarly, if you’re involved in the doubles game, your net game should be strong.
Overall though, tennis clearly requires more physical fitness than most pickleball matches.
Complexity Level: Remember, games in pickleball are often lost due to unforced errors. Thus, mentally it’s much more frustrating than tennis in my opinion. In tennis, you are required to avoid double faults but in pickleball, you also have to contend with the no volley zone requiring you to stay a certain distance from the net when hitting the volley.
All said though, pickleball and tennis are almost equal in complexity with pickleball perhaps having the slight edge.
Intensity and Injuries: This one is easy. Pickleball isn’t as physically as demanding as tennis meaning play is generally less intense and there are definitely less injuries. Pickleball requires less movement and is often played at the same pace except the forward movement. Contrastingly, tennis players are required to run in all possible directions and often have the risk of outstretching trying to hit a shot which is distant. Across the board, it’s consistent. Pickleball definitely results in fewer injuries than tennis.
Will playing pickleball hurt my tennis game?
Based on my experience, the answer to this question is definitely no. While playing pickleball, certain aspects of your game will improve whereas others will get affected. A lot of the basic movement and shots are very similar to each other. Moving from pickleball to tennis and back and forth means you simply have to change your power output. Because pickleball has a smaller court, you have to hit lighter. When you grab your tennis racquet though, remember POWER so that you can smash the tennis balls and drive your opponent back.
Areas where pickleball can hurt your tennis game
Stamina: As a tennis player, you’re required to cover the ground for each point. Moreover, the larger court size helps to build a considerable amount of stamina. When you start to play pickleball extensively, you aren’t required to cover as much ground and thus if you’re thinking to return to tennis from a hiatus, you’ll initially feel lack of stamina. However, that’s not a major concern, as, within a few weeks, you’ll be back in full swing.
Positioning: Pickleball, especially doubles game is generally played at the net. Pickleball encourages the players to move closer to the net so you can attempt half volleys and command the proceedings. However, this practice doesn’t work in tennis as the court size is larger. We’ve seen the likes of Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal chipping the ball over their opponent’s heads and win points by putting them in a difficult position.
Power: Pickleball is more of shot placement rather than power. While you often see tennis professionals serving in the range of 80-110mph, that’s not the case with pickleball. Thus, if you play pickleball over an extended period, you’ll need time to adjust yourself when you get back to tennis. That’s because in pickleball emphasis is laid on placing the serve to avoid an unforced error.
Areas where pickleball can strengthen your tennis game
Precision: Paddles are much smaller in size as compared to a tennis racquet. Even the pickleball balls are smaller and lighter. Thus, hitting a shot in pickleball and scoring a point with it is fairly difficult as compared to tennis. When you learn shot placement techniques and execute shots such as dinks, you improve your overall precision which can help your tennis game.
Balance: Inarguably, one of the toughest aspects of pickleball is abiding the kitchen. Understanding the No Volley Zone and keep your body off of it. The Kitchen Rule has helped me improve my overall balance when trying to hit half volley shots in tennis. It made me much more comfortable moving forward whenever I played tennis. Becoming proficient with dinking shots in pickleball has helped my tennis game considerably.
Shot Selection: Playing pickleball helped me understand the difference between soft, drop, finessed and angled shots. Not only did I learn these shots but I also started to place these efficiently on either side of the net.
Ex Tennis Players Playing Pickleball?
As far as professional tennis player switching is concerned, Wimbledon Doubles Champion JoAnne Russell and Cammy MacGregor alongside Enrique Ruiz and Kaitlyn Christian are few well-known tennis players who’ve switched from tennis to pickleball. Apart from these players, there’s Dan Curry, who made it to the Australian Open in 1978.
Differences between Pickleball and Tennis
As mentioned earlier, we have a detailed blog on the Differences between Pickleball and Tennis. However, if you don’t have the time to read that, you can read the summarized points below.
|Serves||Each player in the team gets to serve at least once||Each player serves in a particular game|
|Scoreboard||Has three numbers: Your team’s score, opposing team’s score and whether you’re serving or returning.||Has three numbers: Sets, Games, and Points|
|Court Dimension||Similar in both singles and doubles competition||Different for both singles and doubles competition|
|Serve||Overhand serve not allowed||Only overhand serve is allowed|
|Atmosphere||Loud play, cheers accompanied by music||Focused, Silent accompanied by claps upon points scored|
|Playing Area||Can be played indoors and outdoors||Generally played outdoors|
|Shots||Body shots are intended||Generally, shots are aimed away from the player|
|Intensity||Pickleball isn’t as intense as tennis||Tennis requires a great amount of conditioning|
Apart from these general points, there’s a considerable difference between tennis racquets and pickleball paddles, pickleball and tennis balls, court size, net size, shot execution and overall speed of the game.
Regardless of which sport you decide to play, I hope this blog helped clarify the biggest differences between pickleball and tennis. If you’re new to pickleball and are keen on learning in-depth about the sport, feel free to browse our website to drive home some valuable points.