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Padel vs Pickleball: How different are these fastest-growing sports?

pro player on court
(Picture Kerry Pittenger)

In the world of racket sports, Padel and pickleball are rapidly emerging as the fastest-growing sports in the world, captivating players of all ages. But what sets these two apart? 

Pickleball is played on a smaller court with a solid paddle and a unique perforated plastic ball, whereas Padel is played on an enclosed court. Padel may resemble tennis, with its net in the middle and a similar scoring system. 

Understanding how Padel and pickleball are different becomes essential as these sports explode in popularity, especially if you are deciding between either one.

Differences Between Padel And Pickleball

AspectsPadelPickleball
Court Dimensions20m long, 10m wideEnclosed with 3-4m high back walls and lower side wallsNet height varies44 feet long, 20 feet wideOpen layout, similar to badminton courtNet height: 36 inches at ends, 34 inches center
Rackets and PaddlesSolid, stringless racketLength: ~45.5 cmWidth: ~26 cmWeight: 340-385 gramsSolid, larger than ping-pong paddlesLength: Max 17 inchesWidth: 7-8 inchesWeight: 6-14 ounces
BallsSimilar to depressurized tennis ballRubber core with felt-like materialPerforated plastic ball, similar to wiffleball. Has about 26-40 holes
Gameplay and ScoresSingles or doublesUses underhand servesBall can bounce off wallsScoring similar to tennisSingles or doublesUses underhand servesNo volleys allowed in ‘kitchen’ areaScoring to 11 points, win by 2.
IntensityMore intense due to enclosed court and reboundingLonger rallies, quick reflexes, and strategy requiredLess intense, due to smaller courtNon-volley zone limits power plays, emphasizes precision

Padel vs Pickleball: Court Dimensions

Padel combines elements of tennis and squash. It is usually played on an enclosed court with walls. These walls play a vital part in the game, as you can hit the ball off them, similar to squash.

The Padel court is slightly smaller than a tennis court. A standard Padel court measures 20 meters (65.6 feet) in length and 10 meters (32.8 feet) in width. 

The back walls are typically 3 to 4 meters high, and the side walls start high and then drop down to a lower level close to the players. 

The net stretches across the middle of the court, similar to tennis, but the specific height regulations can vary a bit.

Pickleball is often likened to a blend of tennis, badminton, and table tennis and is played on a court about the size of a badminton court.

A pickleball court is 20 feet (6.1 meters) wide and 44 feet (13.4 meters) long, which is the same size as a badminton court. This makes a pickleball court smaller than both a standard tennis court and a padel court.

A pickleball court is not enclosed by walls, unlike Padel. It has a flat, open layout. The court has lines that designate the service areas, baseline, and sidelines. 

The net in pickleball usually has a height of 36 inches (91.44 cm) at the ends and 34 inches (86.36 cm) in the center. It’s slightly lower than a tennis or Padel net.

Padel vs Pickleball: Rackets And Paddles

Padel uses a solid, stringless Padel racket, which is smaller and more compact than a tennis racket. They are usually made of carbon fiber, fiberglass, or foam.

  • Length: Usually around 45.5 cm (17.91 inches), including the handle.
  • Width: Usually around 26 cm (10.24 inches) wide.
  • Thickness: Maximum thickness of 38 mm (1.5 inches).
  • Weight: Usually between 340 and 385 grams (12 to 13.6 ounces).

You may find Padel rackets in various shapes like round, teardrop, and diamond, each offering different benefits. Round rackets are more control-oriented, while teardrop and diamond shapes offer more power.

Pickleball players also use a solid paddle slightly between the size of  a ping-pong paddle and a tennis racket.

These paddles were traditionally wood, but modern versions are crafted from lightweight, high-tech materials like graphite or composite.

  • Length: Maximum of 17 inches (43.18 cm), including the handle. Most paddles are around 15 to 16 inches (38.1 to 40.64 cm) in length.
  • Width: Usually ranges from about 7 to 8 inches (17.78 to 20.32 cm).
  • Thickness: No standard thickness, but most range from 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1.27 to 3.81 cm).
  • Weight: Usually between 6 and 14 ounces (170 to 397 grams).

Generally, a pickleball paddle is designed for the sport’s requirement for quick, sharp movements and strategic play on either side of the court.

Padel vs Pickleball: Balls

Like a depressurized tennis ball, the Padel ball is slightly softer and has less bounce. You’ll notice this when playing on the enclosed Padel court; the ball doesn’t rebound as much as a regular tennis ball. 

  • Diameter: About 2.36 to 2.63 inches (6 to 6.77 cm).
  • Weight: About 1.9 to 2.2 ounces (54 to 63 grams).
  • Construction: Padel balls are made of a rubber core covered with a felt-like material and given less pressure than tennis balls.

The softer bounce of a Padel ball also demands a different strategy when playing the sport, especially when the ball bounces off the back walls. It also made the game less intense than tennis.

Pickleball uses a perforated plastic ball, often compared to a wiffle ball. This design causes the ball to move through the air differently, with less speed and spin than a padel or tennis ball.

  • Diameter: Usually around 2.87 to 2.97 inches (7.29 to 7.54 cm).
  • Weight: Usually between 0.78 to 0.935 ounces (22 to 26.5 grams).
  • Construction: Made of hard plastic and perforated with 26 to 40 round holes. 

Its unique design also impacts how pickleball is played, especially on the smaller court. The ball’s flight is slower, making the game more about precision and less about power, ideal for beginners and players of all ages.

Both balls also make different sounds. The Padel ball, with its depressurized nature, produces a duller thud, whereas the pickleball’s hard plastic composition creates a distinctive, higher-pitched pop. 

This sound is integral to the experience of the game and something that players and fans of these sports instantly recognize.

Pickleball and Padel: Gameplay and Scores

Padel can be played as both singles or doubles. However, doubles are more popular. The game combines elements of tennis and squash, allowing you to play the ball off these walls, similar to squash. 

This adds a unique tactical layer to Padel, where you’re not just playing against your opponents but also strategically using the walls to your advantage.

In Padel, the serve must be executed underhand. The server must let the ball bounce on the ground once before hitting it, ensuring the contact point is at or below waist level. Like tennis, the ball must also land diagonally opposite the service box.

The scoring system in Padel follows the traditional tennis format, which is familiar to many racket sports enthusiasts.

Pickleball can also be played in singles or doubles. A pickleball serve is also underhanded, but the paddle must be below the waist, and the ball must be hit upwardly. This rule ensures that serves are not overly aggressive.

After the serve, the ball must land in the service box diagonally to the server, and it cannot bounce in the non-volley zone (the ‘kitchen’). The ball must also bounce once on the opponent’s side, and the return shot must also bounce before being played.

This rule is unique to pickleball and slows down the game’s pace, preventing players from volleying the ball directly after the serve.

A key aspect of pickleball is the “non-volley zone” or “kitchen,” a space near the net where you cannot volley the ball. This rule prevents players from becoming too aggressive at the net, thus promoting longer rallies. 

Pickleball also has a unique scoring system. A game usually averages 11 points and must be won by two points. Only the serving side can score, which makes holding the serve crucial.

Padel vs Pickleball: Intensity

Generally, Padel is more intense than pickleball. The nature of the court in Padel significantly ramps up the game’s intensity. 

The enclosed court with walls, like in squash, means the ball is in play more often and can be rebounded off the walls.

This feature makes for longer rallies and demands quick reflexes and strategic thinking. You’re not just playing against your opponents but also against the environment. This constant engagement keeps the intensity high throughout the match.

In contrast, pickleball is played on a smaller court akin to a badminton court, which requires less ground to cover. This generally makes pickleball less intense. 

The non-volley zone or “kitchen” also prohibits players from volleying the ball in this area, creating a strategic, chess-like aspect to the game. Rallies in pickleball can become intense battles of placement and precision rather than sheer power.

Another factor contributing to the difference in intensity is the ball used in each sport. Pickleball instead uses a perforated plastic ball that moves slower and requires more strategic placement, slightly reducing the game’s overall physical intensity. 

Padel uses a depressurized tennis ball, which moves slower than a regular tennis ball but faster than a pickleball. This mid-range speed suits the enclosed padel court, maintaining a consistent intensity.

Should You Play Pickleball or Play Padel?

Deciding whether to play Padel or pickleball depends on your preferences in racket sports. If you’re a squash or tennis player keen to experiment with something similar, you may prefer to become a padel player. 

The scoring system is like tennis, and it’s a fantastic choice for those who favor the dynamics of tennis but seek something new.

On the flip side, pickleball is more akin to badminton and table tennis. If you prefer a game that emphasizes strategic placement over power, pickleball is a better sport. 

Pickleball also appeals to players with less physical ability, such as the elderly or those with sports injuries.

Regardless of your choice, the main thing is to ensure you have fun while playing the two sports. While deciding, why not check out some of the best pickleball paddles for beginner players?

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About Dan Langston

With experience in the ecotourism industry and time well spent as a fly fishing guide in the remote absaroka mountain range for 6 years, Dan brings a unique perspective on customer service to the digital world. As the operator, Dan is now committed to revitalizing Pickleball Portal and plans to build a support system for content creators and provide helpful information for the pickleball community. dan@pickleballportal.com

13 thoughts on “Padel vs Pickleball: How different are these fastest-growing sports?”

  1. Do you know of any science or technology papers that compare the performance of paddles WITH holes vs paddles WITHOUT holes and the effect on their sport? There are a number of sports that use paddles, some solid, some with holes, is there a scientific reason that supports either use? I have been able to find a number of papers for Tennis; Badminton; Racquetball; and Squash, but none that address this issue for Paddleball; Beach Tennis; Padel Ball; POP Tennis; Paddle Tennis; Pickleball; or Platform Tennis. Any scientific, or practical (experience) reason for or against holes?

    Reply
    • Hi Leon,
      That’s a really good question!
      I got curious and started searching but wasn’t able to find any studies.
      Let me know if you find anything-Matt

      Reply
  2. Matt, I continued my research and found one paper that directly addresses the use of perforated paddles and solid paddles in Paddle; Padel; and Platform Tennis – “Some Observations On The Flow Physics of Paddle Rackets” by Francisco J Huera-Huarte. It is a very technical paper, comparing and evaluating a number of different hole patterns. I think that it is worth reviewing, but believe that his conclusions are based on aerodynamic flow measurements and need to be compared to what different players experience and feel using paddles with those various hole configurations to validate his in-lab testing.

    Reply
  3. I have a question, if you can answer can you email me answer.

    In tennis hitting against the wall is great practice, you cannot do that with pickleball, BC ball will crack. Is there a substitute ball I can use so the ball will not crack and I can hit against the wall?
    focusedusa@yahoo.com

    Reply
    • We have a practice wall on our courts we share with tennis and use it for warmups and practice. We do not break any balls doing that. All though I suppose if you really banged one hard to the wall it might crack, but not sure why you would do that.

      Reply
  4. I’m good to purchase one of those new Padels and try it with the racquetball we already use when we play One Wall Paddleball

    Reply
  5. Hi, I’m handicapped.
    Do you think this would be a
    Good game for me. Tennis is out now unfortunately and pickle ball is just too much bending up and down. Aside from that I’m good to go. Please advise thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Rippee. If you can tolerate the bending, I think pickleball could be a viable option, at least one that is better than tennis. I would recommend only playing doubles and getting a good pair of shoes specifically for pickleball so that you de-risk any injuries. We have an article for pickleball shoes here. You may also want to check out Dc Zach.

      Reply
    • Hello Wendy,

      They also make an attachment to go on the bottom of the handle of the pickleball paddle to make it easier to pick up the ball and not bend quite as much. An example of this can be found on Amazon under the name: Pickleball Ball Retriever Picker Upper. I have a friend who has back problems who use these.

      Reply

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