A comparison between Padel and Pickleball is bound to happen. While Padel is by far the fastest growing racket sport in the world, Pickleball is the fastest growing racket sport in the USA. How much of an overlap is there? I took to Google to find out.
What is the difference between padel and pickleball? Even though pickleball and padel may look similar at first glance, the truth is that they evolved from completely different sports. Pickleball evolved from badminton while padel evolved from tennis. This means very different court dimensions, scoring, and rules of play.
Similar Yet Vastly Different
These two games may at first glance seem to be similar, but in reality, they hide important differences in both structure and form.
Each of these games has its own unique set of rules, ways of playing and scoring, so you will need to get to know what each of them is about before you can start playing.
In fact, the two sports are played on courts that look very different from each other.
In padel the ball can be hit after it has bounced and hit the transparent glass walls, meanwhile, in pickleball, you play on an open court where there is no option to have a ball rebounding off the glass.
If you enjoy playing doubles, both games will be ideal for you. However, you should know that the rules of padel mandate playing doubles on a standard padel court. There are a few purpose-built singles courts for padel but the vast majority are doubles courts. In contrast, pickleball is not similarly restricted, you are able to play either singles or doubles on the same court.
One key difference between the two sports that need to be taken into account is that in pickleball you will have prohibited areas of the court, yes, there are areas on your side of the court that you not permitted to step on except in some rule exceptions. This is essential since not knowing this could lose you many points.
Although some may look similar at a casual glance, the two sports use very different equipment.
The face of the padel racket is thicker and perforated while the pickleball padel has a solid face. You can see these differences in greater detail in my article what is a padel racket.
The ball used in padel is very similar to tennis, with the difference being that padel balls have less pressure so they bounce lower. I covered this in my article about the difference between a padel ball and a tennis ball. The World Padel Tour uses the Head Padel Pro ball in most of their tournaments. You can find my list of recommended padel balls here.
While in the Pickleball, you use a perforated plastic ball that moves a lot slower through the air.
Both sports tend to have long rallies. In pickleball, it is due to the slow wiffleball, while in padel it is the surrounding walls that keep the ball in play.
Playing pickleball gives you the feeling of standing on a large ping pong table, while padel feels like you are on a short tennis court.
In both games, the court is divided by a net. In pickleball, there are lines on each side of the court that resemble badminton, while in padel the lines are like those used for the service blocks on a tennis court.
The Differences In Court Dimensions
One of the first things that caught my attention, is how different the courts are.
Characteristics of the paddle tennis court
- · Your court must be 10 meters wide by 20 meters long
- · It is a rectangle divided in half by a net
- · Both sides of the net have service lines
- · The net and service area is divided by a line in half resulting in two equal blocks
- · The painted service lines are 20 centimeters wide
- · Covered courts must have a minimum roof clearance height of at least 6 meters
- · The sides of the court are enclosed by a combination of a glass/cement wall and wire mesh fence
- The service blocks in padel indicate where the ball must bounce after a service
If you want to find more information about padel courts, I wrote an in-depth article that you can find here.
Features of a pickleball court
- · The court measurements are 13.41 meters wide by 6.1 long
- · It has a net that divides half of the court, similar to that of padel
- · In the area close to the net on both sides of the court, there is a no volley zone (called the kitchen) and is marked 2.13 meters from the net
- · Its court has dimensions the same as of badminton
- · Net height of 0.91 meters
- · There is a center line that divides the right and left the service area
- The service blocks in pickleball indicate where the ball must bounce after a service
If you want to find more information about this, go to the following link.
What About The Rules?
Besides the court dimensions, there are clear differences between the rules of padel and those of pickleball.
The easiest place to start when comparing the rules is the start of any point, in other words, the service.
In both games, you play the service by hitting the ball below your waist level. In padel, you must bounce the ball before hitting it while in pickleball you must hit the ball without any bounce in much the same way as the service in badminton.
In pickleball, only one service attempt is allowed, unless the ball clips the net on the way over, in which case you will have the opportunity to repeat your service. Conversely, in padel, you have a first and second service mimicking how the service works in tennis.
During the service in pickleball, both feet must be behind the baseline and at least one foot must be in contact with the court surface. Compare this to padel where the baseline is a solid glass or cement wall. Therefore the padel service is played from between the baseline and the line marking the edge of the service block.
Where there are similarities in the service is that in both games the service is played diagonally, aiming at the clearly marked service block in the opponents’ court. Also, players begin their turn at service by playing from the right-hand side of the court.
How Are The Games Scored
A game of padel is scored the same way as a three-set game of tennis, inclusive of tie breaks. The only time where padel scoring deviates from tennis is when deuce is called during a game. Where tennis needs 2 clear points won to clinch the game, padel uses the golden point. To find out all about the golden point in padel, here is the article that I wrote to explain it in detail.
On the other hand, pickleball uses a scoring system loosely based on badminton (its sport of origin) the objective of the game is to be the first player or team to have at least 11 points, of which they must have at least two points as an advantage over those of their opposing team.
Where in badminton it is the first player/team to score 21 points win the game. The difference being that in badminton you can score a point as well as gaining the service on a point where your opponent was serving whereas pickleball you can only win points on your own service. If your opponent is serving and you win a point the score does not change, the service and ability to start scoring points comes to you.
In pickleball, if the score is tied at 10 points each, the game is continued until one of the two players/teams has an advantage of 2 points.
Difference In Playing Techniques
In Pickleball the level of difficulty is not considered particularly high, as the whiffle ball flies more slowly therefore, tactics will be more important than power.
Conversely a padel ball flies faster that a whiffleball which means that technical skill has a greater influence on the outcome of a point.
Relative Fitness Demands
A pickleball court is 16.5% smaller than a padel court.
However don’t be fooled, rallies in the game are very long because of a slow-moving perforated plastic ball and a smaller court. This means that you will be in constant motion as long as you don’t entangle yourself with your playing partner.
Contrast this with padel where in spite of having a larger court, the rebounding ball off the wall will keep the ball in play for longer, thereby increasing the length of the rallies.
So the jury is still out on which of the two is more taxing on your fitness, but for different reasons.
The Impact Of Four Walls Or Not
Playing within the 4 walls of a padel court is a unique attraction of the sport. Even if you miss a shot, the ball can come back off the wall and give you a second chance at hitting the ball.
The more you play the easier it will become to adjust to the technique using the walls in the shots you play.
This is something not possible on a pickleball court.
Speed And Agility
However, the appeal of Pickleball is still fascinating, in that the game revolves around a constant volley.
This requires maximum concentration on the ball as well as on your opponent’s movements. From what I can tell, you need to use team tactics together with speed and agility to try and force your opponent into the no-volley zone.
Do You Prefer Singles Or Doubles
For many, this is the decisive factor in choosing the one over the other. Pickleball has become popular because you can play either singles or doubles.
In padel, the general rule is that you play doubles with the exception of a handful of purpose-built singles courts that I have seen in some parts of France. Making the default version of the game doubles within four walls makes padel a very social game.
It is a matter of personal taste. If you only want to play singles then pickleball will be your logical choice.
Comparing Level Of Technical Difficulty
Both sports have their own levels of technical difficulty. Something that I have said before about padel applies equally well to pickleball. These sports are relatively easy to learn but deceptively difficult to master.
For example, both courts are relatively small, which makes it easy to cover the area.
Both games use a racket that has a short handle while being comfortable and light. This makes ball control easier for novice players.
Pickleball and Padel do have their differences. However, both are fun and give you the benefit of being physically active.
If the opportunity presents itself to learn both, then do so. Where I live there is no pickleball available, but I have played padel with pickleball players and they have been able to pick up the fundamentals very easily. I see no reason why the same cannot work in reverse.