Pickleball Court vs Tennis Court: What’s the Difference?

Third Shot Blog

By Third Shot Blog

Pickleball and tennis are two extremely popular paddle and racquet sports that offer engaging gameplay and physical activity. While there are several similarities between the two sports, there is one difference that stands out more than others: the court.

What is the difference between a pickleball court and tennis court? How do these differences affect gameplay? And can you set up your own pickleball court on a tennis court? Read on to find out.

Pickleball court size vs tennis court size

The primary difference between pickleball courts and tennis courts lies in their size:

  • A standard pickleball court is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long. (6.1 meters x 13.4 meters)
  • A standard tennis court is 27 feet wide and 78 feet long. (8.2 meters x 23.8 meters)

As you can see, pickleball courts are approximately one-fourth the size of tennis courts. The smaller size of pickleball courts makes the game more accessible to players of all ages and abilities, and it requires less physical exertion to cover the playing area compared to tennis. The compact dimensions of a pickleball court are well-suited for the slower-paced, strategic nature of the game, while tennis courts are designed for the more powerful and athletic style of play characteristic of tennis.

Pickleball net vs tennis net

Another notable difference between pickleball and tennis courts is the net.

A pickleball net is 22 feet wide and 36 inches high at the posts. The net extends over the center of the court, which is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide. In the middle, there is a 2-inch sag, making the net 34 inches high in that spot. The net is attached by two 24-inch-tall posts on either side. Overall, the net should be at least 21 feet 9 inches long, extending from one post to the other.

The standard length for a tennis net is 42 feet. The net poles are typically placed 3 feet outside the outer lines of a doubles court, making the net length 42 feet from pole to pole. The net is 3 feet 6 inches high at the ends, and 3 feet high at the middle. The standard tennis net dimensions are set by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The net should be 3.5 feet at the sides and 3 feet at the center. There are also nets for singles courts, which are 33 feet wide by 3 feet high.

So not only is the court size smaller in pickleball compared to tennis, the net height and length differs as well.

Non-volley zone in pickleball

Another element that separates pickleball from tennis is the non-volley zone (NVZ), also known as the kitchen. Players cannot hit the ball out of the air when one or both feet are within the NVZ. Doing so results in a lost point.

The kitchen extends 7 feet from either side of the net in pickleball. The non-volley zone is a 14-foot area in the middle of the court. The zone covers the entire width of the net and extends backward from it for seven feet into the territory on either side of the net.

How pickleball court dimensions affect gameplay

With a smaller court, smaller net, and a non-volley zone, how do these things affect gameplay in pickleball?

  1. Points are typically much longer compared to tennis, in terms of shots hit and time elapsed.
  2. In doubles, most points are won at the kitchen. Both sides engage in dink rallies, waiting for an opportunity to attack.
  3. Around-the-post shots (or, ATPs) are much more common in pickleball compared to tennis.
  4. Put-away shots such as overheads are more easily defended because of the smaller court size and lack of compression and bounciness of the pickleball.
  5. There is a high emphasis on spin and control to reduce unforced errors with the smaller court size, especially in singles.

Can you create your own pickleball lines on a tennis court?

With some tape, and a temporary net, you can set up your own pickleball court on top of an existing tennis court!

For the tape, use bright, visible colors such as white, yellow, or a light orange or red. No one wants questionable line calls because of hard-to-see lines. In many cases, painter’s tape will suffice. However, several pickleball equipment retailers sell tape specifically for marking pickleball court lines.

Similarly, you can purchase an affordable portable net from most pickleball retailers. Popular brand options for nets include ONIX, Gamma, and Vulcan.

Two portable pickleball nets placed on a tennis court making room for two games being able to be played.

When marking the lines with tape, make use of the tennis court’s existing lines. A great example, if you’re setting up one pickleball court on a tennis court, is making use of the center and back service lines to create two service boxes and one kitchen line of a pickleball court.

Another tip, if you have some handy, is to use sidewalk chalk to pre-mark the points where you need to tape. The last thing you want is to re-tape the lines because one of them is off by a few inches.

In conclusion

There are several similarities between tennis and pickleball. They’re both fun, strategic racquet and paddle sports with widespread appeal. There are, however, several differences, one of them being the court itself. A pickleball court is much smaller than a traditional tennis court, leading to longer points and most action happening at the kitchen.