9 Pickleball Tips for Tennis Players

Third Shot Blog

By Third Shot Blog

At all levels, tennis players are branching out and trying pickleball. For many tennis players, pickleball comes naturally. There are many similarities between the sports in terms of technique and court positioning.

However, pickleball can be difficult for beginners, even if they have a tennis background. Here are nine helpful pickleball tips for tennis players getting their start in the sport.

Use short, compact backswings

Many tennis players use large, looping backswing to generate power and spin on groundstrokes. These large motions are not ideal for pickleball.

Short, compact backswings are perfect for generating power and spin in pickleball, where the ball is lighter than tennis. Smaller backswings are also better for disguising speed-ups and countering your opponent’s shots.

Dial back the power

A pickleball court is only 44 feet long, much smaller than a tennis court. Many tennis players have difficulty adjusting to the smaller court and hit the ball too hard and out of bounds, especially on groundstrokes.

Hitting with 70-80% power is a good approach for tennis players adjusting to pickleball. This will help you hit more balls into the court and allow you to hit sharper angles.

Brush up on the ball for topspin

Topspin is crucial in both tennis and pickleball. In the modern tennis game, many players roll over the top of the ball when hitting with topspin, giving them more control over the spin, shape, and trajectory of the shot.

In pickleball, rolling over the top of the ball does not equal more topspin. Without the string bed of a tennis racquet that rebounds and trampolines the ball, rolling over the ball with a pickleball paddle forces the shot path downward, toward the net.

When hitting with topspin in pickleball, drive through the swing path and brush up on the ball with a low-to-high motion. New paddle technologies and materials, such as raw carbon fiber, allow players to hit significant topspin with this technique.

Get to the kitchen

Many tennis players who try pickleball make the mistake of staying at the baseline during points. After all, that’s what they’re used to in tennis: staying at the baseline and trading groundstrokes with their opponent.

In pickleball, most points are won at the non-volley zone (a.k.a. the kitchen), where you can hit more aggressive shots and take time away from your opponent. Even if it’s not what you’re used to in tennis, get to the kitchen as quickly as possible.

Pickleball players in action on a purple and blue suburban court during summer.

Utilize the drop

Speaking of getting to the kitchen, the drop shot (or drop, for short), is the perfect way to do it. In doubles, when both opponents are at the kitchen, a tennis player’s initial reaction may be a strong shot such as a forehand drive or backhand drive to try and pass them or force an error. However, if your opponent is good at volleys, this strategy can put you at a disadvantage.

Instead, make it a point to join them at the kitchen and engage in dink rallies. The drop gives you and your partner the chance to move up to the kitchen. The shot requires subtle touch and technique.

Master the dink

The dink is one of the first things you learn about in pickleball. It’s how you stay in points at the kitchen and set up more aggressive shots and speed-ups.

While the technique is similar to a tennis drop shot, some players struggle with dinks when starting out in pickleball. However, the dink is the key to enhancing your skill set and increasing your pickleball skill rating.

The most basic technique for pickleball dinks is lifting and pushing the ball, as opposed to carving underneath the ball for a tennis drop shot. You don’t need to hit with a ton of spin for an effective dink.

Be patient and consistent

Pickleball points, especially in doubles, can be long and tedious. It’s common for both sides to engage in lengthy dink rallies, waiting for an opportunity to hit a speed-up, flick, or overhead.

A man wearing a dark blue shirt hits a powerful overhead smash shot in a game of pickleball.

In pickleball points, it’s important to be patient and consistent with your shots. Focus on hitting multiple unattackable balls to your opponent in a row. Bide your time and wait for your opponent to pop the ball up where you can hit a more aggressive shot.

Stay in the ready position

Tennis players should be used to the ready position, with their knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and both hands on the racquet with the racquet head up. The ready position is also important in pickleball, where players need to have quick reactions everywhere on the court.

The ready position also helps players hit with good, consistent technique, as the paddle is already up as opposed to having to raise it in the air. Overall, tennis players transitioning to pickleball can do themselves a favor and do what they’re already used to: staying in the ready position.

Be prepared for the next shot

In pickleball, your opponent will return more balls than you think. The smaller court and lighter ball makes it easier to hit more balls into the court than in tennis.

No matter what shot you hit, be ready for the next shot. This is especially true for volleys and speed-ups at the kitchen. Many players lose the point after hitting an aggressive shot because their opponent defended the shot, and they weren’t prepared to hit another ball. Always assume that you’ll need to hit at least one more shot.

In conclusion

Many tennis players have success when switching over to pickleball. There are many shots and techniques in pickleball where having a tennis background is beneficial. However, even tennis players can struggle with pickleball at first. Understanding the basic strategies and techniques can help bridge the gap.

Frequently asked questions

Are tennis players good at pickleball?

Tennis players often excel at pickleball due to the similarities between the two sports. Both sports involve using a paddle to hit a ball over a net, and they share similar strategies and techniques. Tennis players already possess the hand-eye coordination, footwork, and racquet skills needed to succeed in pickleball. Additionally, their experience with reading opponents’ shots and positioning themselves on the court gives them an advantage in pickleball as well.

However, it’s important to note that while tennis players may have a head start in learning pickleball, there are still some differences between the two sports that they need to adapt to. The smaller court size in pickleball requires players to adjust their shot selection and placement. Additionally, the slower pace of play in pickleball compared to tennis may require tennis players to make some adjustments in terms of shot power and timing. Overall though, tennis players generally have a strong foundation that can translate well into pickleball success.

Can tennis players easily transition to pickleball?

Tennis players sometimes have an advantage in pickleball due to their experience with racquet sports. However, there are some key differences in strategy and technique.

How does the equipment differ between pickleball and tennis?

In pickleball, you use a paddle instead of a racquet, and the ball is similar to a wiffle ball. The court and net dimensions are also smaller in pickleball.

Is pickleball more or less physically demanding than tennis?

Pickleball can be less physically demanding compared to tennis because of the smaller court size. However, it still provides a great workout and requires quick movements.

Are there any specific strategies for playing pickleball as a tennis player?

As a tennis player, you already have good hand-eye coordination and volleys, which are advantageous in pickleball. Focus on dinking at the kitchen line and using your net skills effectively.

Can I use my tennis shoes for playing pickleball?

While you can play with regular tennis shoes initially, it’s recommended to eventually invest in dedicated pickleball court shoes.

Are there any resources available to improve my pickleball skills as a tennis player?

There are many online tutorials, videos, and even dedicated pickleball clinics that cater specifically to tennis players looking to enhance their skills in this sport.