Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis vs Padel - Key Differences

Posted on September 15, 2023
Illustration of people playing pickleball

When it comes to pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel, they all are gaining in popularity and seem very similar, but they all have unique differences. It is a good idea to identify these key differences when choosing which ones you would like to play based on your skill set, the equipment available, and the courts you may be able to access.

Although they all share similarities with tennis, padel takes on the characteristics of both squash and tennis, and pickleball derives from badminton. They are all generally considered a racquet sport, although they all use solid paddles to play.

What is Pickleball?

Pro PPA pickleball tournament

Pickleball is a sport that contains characteristics of badminton, tennis, and ping pong. This sport can be played indoors or outside on a court similar in size to a badminton court. It is almost like a life-size ping pong game that can be played inside or outside.

The rules are relatively simple, and the game requires less skill, making this an excellent match for players of all ages and skill sets.

What is Paddle Tennis?

POP tennis championship at venice beach in 2017

Paddle tennis is a sport often referred to as POP tennis. The game was re-branded to be called POP tennis, so there was less confusion when discussing paddle tennis and padel. Many actually thought that both were the same game. Although adapted from tennis, it still has quite a few differences. 

The paddle tennis court is considerably smaller than the courts used in traditional tennis. There are also no double lanes, and the net is lower than in conventional tennis. 

The other difference is right in the name of the game. Paddle tennis gets played with a paddle instead of a tennis racquet.

What is Padel?

Two men playing padel

This racquet sport is a mix between tennis and squash and is another one that is fun for all ages and skill sets. This sport is less about physical abilities and more about strategy. The court is about a third of the size of a regular tennis court. The court is also enclosed, allowing the ball to be played on the walls. 

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis vs Padel - Key Similarities

There may not be many similarities between pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel, but there are a few. The significant similarity between them is that they are all played with paddles, even though they are all generally considered to be racquet sports. 

Although it is a similarity that they all play with paddles, the paddles are not the same at all. They are all made of different materials and are of different sizes. Some paddles even have perforations. The other similarity is that they all use a ball and are played on a court.

Pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel are all played on a court with a net, although these courts are all different. They vary in shape and size and padel even has usable walls around the court that make for a very different game.

It seems as though there are more differences than there are similarities. It is mostly just the names of each that get them confused with one another. We will examine the critical differences between pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel.

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis vs Padel - Key Differences

While there were a few similarities between pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel, there are several significant differences. Each of these games is unique and completely separate. Please continue to read to see where they differ.

Court Dimensions

One major difference between the three games is the courts on which each game is played. The differences may not be pronounced other than padel utilizes walls.

Pickleball vs Paddle Tennis vs Padel court sizes compared

Pickleball Court

Pickleball Court Dimensions

The pickleball court is similar to a doubles badminton court and contains a net down the middle. Similar to tennis, this net goes down to the ground but is lower in height than traditional tennis.

The pickleball court dimensions are 20 ft by 44 ft and contain a 7ft non-volley zone located on both sides of the net that runs the width of the court. This non-volley zone makes it impossible to hit the ball right at the net.

Paddle Tennis Court

Paddle Tennis POP Court Dimensions

The paddle tennis courts have a dimension of 50 ft wide by 20 ft long and are similar to a traditional tennis court.

Padel Court

Padel Court Dimensions

The dimensions for padel courts are 32 ft 10 in wide and 65 ft 7 in long(with a tolerance of 0.5%). These dimensions make them longer than the courts used in pickleball and paddle tennis.

The court is also enclosed, adding a new wall-bounce dimension to the game. The enclosed court contains a net down the middle. 

Equipment

When it comes to playing pickleball, paddle tennis, or padel, they all require different equipment. The balls vary in size and pressure, and even the paddles are created differently.

Pickleball equipment vs paddle tennis and padel equipment illustration

Pickleball Equipment

The balls used for pickleball are larger than a standard tennis ball and are hollow and full of holes. A ball used for pickleball is commonly called a Wiffle ball, although a standard pickleball is actually heavier, and the holes are more round than the oblong ones on Wiffle balls. 

Pickleball paddles are solid and can be made of a few different materials. Although initially made as solid wooden paddles, they're mostly made of other materials like graphite or polymer. Paddle tennis also uses solid paddles, although they are slightly different.

Paddle Tennis Equipment

The paddles used for paddle tennis are solid and usually made of polymer or graphite, and sometimes the paddles may be perforated. The balls are different as well.

The balls used to play paddle tennis are depressurized tennis balls. This ball is used because it is the same size as a tennis ball but has an internal pressure of 75% to accommodate the smaller court and smaller paddles.

Padel Equipment

Despite pickleball and paddle tennis rackets being very clear to tell apart, the differences stop here. POP and padel use the same racquets and balls despite being totally different games. This is super convenient, should you want to try out both sports.

Scoring

When it comes to the scoring differences between pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel, the major one is how the points are earned.

Pickleball Scoring

The scoring system in pickleball is very similar to tennis, except you cannot earn points unless you are on the serving team. Those on the receiving end are not able to earn points.

The game lasts until 11 points, and the winning team is ahead by two points. If the two-point lead is not achieved, the game will continue until it is.

Paddle Tennis Scoring

Paddle tennis is essentially just tennis played on a smaller scale with a paddle. This game is scored the same as tennis except for only one underhand serve.

Padel Scoring

When playing padel, scoring the game is the same as it is during tennis, although the walls are part of the gameplay.

The ball always has to bounce on the playing field before hitting the wall or fencing.

Serving Rules

Each of these games has its own set of rules, including how the players are allowed to serve the ball. Some games are more strict, while others may be more in line with serving during a standard tennis game.

Pickleball Serving

In pickleball, players can only serve underhanded. The ball cannot touch in the no-volley zone during a serve. The player only receives one serving opportunity.

Paddle Tennis Serving

In paddle tennis, each player only gets one serve, which a player can serve in any manner. A serve without stipulations is excellent for someone who does best in ways other than underhand.

Padel Serving

Players may serve twice, but it must be underhand and at or below the waist.

Singles or Doubles?

In pickleball, you can play both singles and doubles. Since playing singles is generally more challenging, it is often preferred to play doubles. The rules remain the same regardless of play type.

In paddle tennis, you can play both singles and doubles. Regardless of how you choose the play, the court is the same size. The size of the playing area makes the game more challenging than a game of singles; therefore it is less preferred.

Padel was originally created to be a doubles sport. Although it could be played as a singles game, it is not recommended. Playing a singles game would make it hard to return the ball, with the court being 30% smaller and considering the game's speed. Due to the difficulty of playing singles, padel is not officially considered a singles game.

Which requires more/less skill?

Compared to traditional tennis, it seems like pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel are all more accessible games for everyone. They seem to require less skill and power than playing standard tennis. This is due to the court sizes and the equipment needed to play. 

Although some courts may be smaller, that does not mean they require less agility. Some of the top players come from a tennis background, indicating that the games function similarly. Sometimes a smaller court may mean running more since the rebound time of the ball is much shorter. 

Other Similar Sports

There are more games like pickleball than just paddle tennis and padel. If you are looking for more ways to play that are similar, look at these three options.

Beach tennis

Beach tennis is a lot like it sounds. Beach tennis is a sport that is a mix between tennis and volleyball.

It is played on the beach on a court similar in size to a volleyball court. The rules are almost the same as tennis, although a paddle is used, and the ball has less pressure. 

If you want to, you can easily utilize a POP paddle for beach tennis.

Ping pong

Ping pong is another game similar to pickleball. Another name for ping pong is table tennis due to the similarities in the rules.

Ping pong is a game played on a scaled-down tennis court table. Players will volley very light and small plastic balls back and forth to get the opposing team or player to miss.

Badminton

Badminton was one of the inspirations for pickleball. It involves using a racquet to hit a shuttlecock over a net to the opposing side.

Badminton is generally played outside in backyards as a way to get the whole family playing together. What pickleball and badminton have in common is their ease of use for everyone and the size of the courts are similar.

Platform Tennis

Platform tennis is another game played with paddles and a net. Scoring for platform tennis is exactly like tennis.

The major difference between the two is that the court for platform tennis is smaller and up on a platform. This platform allows room for it to be heated so players can still play the game outside, even during the cold winter days. 

Final Thoughts

Although pickleball, paddle tennis, and padel all seem similar, they have fundamental differences. They are played with different rules, balls, paddles, and even the designs and dimensions of the courts are different.

With all of these differences in mind, there can be a game that works for everyone.

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The Author
Melvin Robles
I'm Melvin. The author and editor of PickleballGuide. I've played pickleball since 2014 and tennis since I was ten. I hope you enjoy your time on here.
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