What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a sport that has skyrocketed in popularity across the world in recent years. It’s a paddle sport that combines numerous aspects from various racquet sports such as tennis, platform tennis, and table tennis. The result is an extremely fun, social sport that is suitable for ages and abilities. There are tennis courts across the globe, especially at resorts and hotels, that are being converted into 3 or even 4 pickleball courts.
Played on a smaller-sized court or area (like a driveway), inside or outside, with a slightly modified tennis net, pickleball is the perfect combination of the nation's favorite racquet sports.
Basic pickleball rules
The ball is served under-hand diagonally, starting with the player in the right-hand service square. Points can only be scored by the player or doubles partnership, that is serving.
The players on each side must let the ball bounce once before returning it, with a seven-foot ‘no-volley’ zone on either side of the net. The aim of the ‘no-volley’ zone is to stop players from spiking or smashing the ball back to their opponent.
When serving the ball must clear the net and land in the zone diagonally from the service zone. The server continues to serve, alternating sides, until they fault by missing a shot, hitting the net, or playing the ball out of bounds. The game ends when one side wins 11 points, with a lead of at least two clean points.
One of the most important rules of Pickleball is the ‘double-bounce rule’. Each team must allow the ball to bounce before playing their first shot of the point. The receiving team must let it bounce after the serve and the serving team must let the returned shot bounce before playing it back. After these two shots have been played the ball can either be volleyed or allowed to bounce before returning.
Can Pickleball help tennis players?
For tennis players, pickleball is either an extension of the sport they love with many transferable skills and similarities - or it is an abomination of the beauty of tennis. Lots of tennis players could use pickleball to help improve various aspects of their tennis game, especially if injured, or have limited travel, however, they run the risk of picking up bad habits.
The main skill pickleball players need to learn is the ability to play closer to the net and be more aggressive with their game. Although pickleball has a ‘no-volley’ zone around the net the majority of the game is played much closer to the net in comparison to tennis where the game is mostly played on the baseline. As a result, players will start to feel much more comfortable coming short in a tennis match and being more aggressive in their attempt to win a point. However, this can have negative impacts on a tennis player's game if they start coming short too often it could result in them losing points easily.
Pickleball also helps players improve various skills such as hand-eye coordination and reflexes. Hand-eye coordination is extremely important for pickleball players due to the nature of the ball. A pickleball ball is much lighter than a tennis ball and due to the number of the holes in the ball, it is extremely sensitive to external conditions. So, if the game is being played outdoors players must be cautious of a strong gust of wind, therefore their hand-eye coordination and reactions need to be sharp. In tennis the flight pattern is more predictable, therefore, pickleball could help to improve these skills in tennis players.
Another major benefit of pickleball is the fact it is easier on the body in comparison to tennis, while still providing similar physical benefits. As a result, pickleball has become extremely popular with the older generation who are looking to stay active, however, without the physical demands of tennis.
Does playing Pickleball actually make better tennis players?
In short, (despite what the purists might say) yes!
Playing various racquet sports other than tennis will help to improve various aspects of a player’s tennis game. Pickleball is a competitive and social game that will help tennis players to improve the mental side of their game by working out different strategies and tactics.
Additionally, it also helps to maintain the physical side of a player's game, and most importantly, it’s lots of fun!