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Pickleball vs Padel - which is right for you?

Pickleball vs Padel - which is right for you?

Pickleball vs Padel - which is right for you?


In this blog we explore the key differences and similarities between pickleball vs padel. They're both excellent racket sports which are relatively new to the UK and growing fast. If you're thinking of trying either of them out, we can help you decide which is the best choice, whether you want to play for fun and fitness or competitively. At pdhsports.com we're big fans of both padel and pickleball - here's our download of everything you need to know about how these two sports compare. 

Pickleball vs padel - the basics

The pickleball name might make you smile, but it's a serious sport in the USA and Canada, as well as a common leisure pastime. Invented in the 1960s as a backyard sport that's easy to play with simple equipment, pickleball has evolved to a sport that's regulated and promoted by the USA Pickleball Association. Adopted by fans in Europe and Asia, pickleball is hitting the bigtime worldwide. Key characteristics of the game are:
- Played on a floor-marked badminton-size court
- Indoor or outdoor
- Uses a mid-height net
- Played with a solid pickleball paddle
- Uses a perforated ball
- Played as doubles or singles
- Games are played to 11 points

Padel has a simpler name, but spelling it can present a challenge. Lots of people incorrectly spell it 'paddle'. Padel (or padel tennis) gets its name from its Mexican origins - padel is a Spanish language spelling. From its invention in late 1960s Acapulco, padel has built a huge fan base throughout South America, the USA, Asia, Canada and Europe, particularly in Spain. Now the sport has broken through in the UK. Key characteristics of padel are:
- Played in a special walled padel court that's fully enclosed
- Indoor or outdoor
- Uses a mid-height net
- Played with perforated paddles
- Uses a felted ball
- Almost always played as doubles
- Match scoring is similar to tennis 

Facilities and equipment

For playing pickleball, you'll need a rectangular court 6.1m wide and 13.41m long, with space around it and a net 86.4cm tall in the middle. There's a no-volley zone (called the Kitchen) marked by a line 2.13m from the net. Each player needs a pickleball paddle with a solid face. Borrow one or choose a cheaper beginner's paddle to start with. Wear comfortable sports clothes and court shoes. Don't forget the perforated balls - called a wiffle ball. You can improvise by chalking out a court on any hard surface and using a lowered badminton net - you don't need to look for an official pickleball court or club.

To play padel, you'll need to find a club or facility that has built special padel courts. Find one in the UK by checking this map. They have enclosed sides, with glass at the back and sections of mesh at the sides for the ball to rebound off. A modified tennis net cuts the court in two. Courts are 20m X 10m and the net is 88cm high in the middle. There are service lines 3m from each back wall and a dividing line bisects the court longways. Comfortable sports clothes and court shoes are needed. You'll play with felted padel balls (slightly smaller than tennis balls) and perforated padel rackets with thick faces.

Pickleball Gameplay

Pickleball is sometimes described as a mix of table tennis and badminton. You play with a hard, perforated plastic ball that travels more slowly through the air than a tennis or squash ball. It can be easier for beginners and mixed ability groups to get started with pickleball because the gameplay is not too fast. But the slower-paced ball means you can have long, satisfying rallies playing either singles or doubles.

How to play pickleball - the basic game:

- You must serve underarm without bouncing the ball before hitting it into the service block diagonally opposite
- You only get one chance at serving - there's no second serve
- In doubles, the person on the right serves first. If the serving team wins the point, the server swaps sides. If they lose the point they don't swap
- You win a point by hitting a serve or shot that your opponent(s) cannot return to your side of the net within the court boundaries
- The ball can only bounce once on each side of the net in a rally
- You may often have a long rally with volleys only, without the ball bouncing

Padel Gameplay

The game of padel is a bit like a blend of tennis and squash. You play using a yellow felted ball that's slightly less pressurised than a tennis ball. The ball can bounce in the court and rebound off the walls. It's a fast-paced game best suited to four players - you can play singles but the speed and size of the court make it difficult. Becuase the ball can rebound off the walls, rallies in padel can be long, intense and very fast. 

How to play padel - the basic game:

- You must serve underarm and bounce the ball before hitting it into the service block diagonally opposite
- You get a first and second serve, like in tennis
- The first serve is from the right side of the court, then the serve alternates from left to right for the rest of the game
- You win a point by hitting a serve or shot that your opponents cannot return to your side of the net
- The ball can only bounce once on each side of the net in a rally
- Rallies can be long and exciting with players darting around the court a lot, because the ball may rebound off the walls as well as the court floor, so it can change direction a lot

Pickleball Scoring

In pickleball, you usually play up to 11 points. The winner must be ahead by at least 2. So if the score reaches 10 all, you keep playing until someone is two points ahead. Only the serving team can score - if the receiving team win a rally, they don't score a point but they take over as servers and can potentially win a point from the next rally.

Pickleball score are called out using three numbers. If the score is 5-4-2, it means the serving side has 5 points, the receiving side has 4 points and the player who was second to serve on the serving team is serving. Pickleball matches play the best of three games - you can win 2 games to 0 or 2 games to 1.

Padel Scoring

Padel is scored the same way as a traditional tennis game. The scores go up from love to 15 to 30 to 40 to game. Players takes turn in rotation to serve for an entire game. If the score reaches 40 all or deuce, the padel Golden Point is played. That means that the receiving side chooses whether the serve comes from the left or right for a deciding point. Whoever wins the Golden Point wins the game. 

Padel matches last for three sets, like in tennis. You can win a match 2-0 or 2-1. The winner of a set is the first side to win six games, two ahead of their opponent. If the score reaches 6-6, you play a tiebreaker game, which is won by the first pair to achieve 7 points. 

Key similarities between pickleball and padel

Pickleball and padel have quite a lot in common. Many racket sports players enjoy playing both.
- Played with bats and balls that are specific to the sport
- Played across a net
- Singles or doubles are possible
- Can play indoors or outdoors
- Everyone must take a turn at serving
- Smashes, volleys, lobs and groundstrokes are all used
- Fast-growing sports attracting a new generation of racket players
- Excellent for fitness, strength and health - both sports encourage cardio and strength building and help improve agility and hand-eye coordination. 

Key differences between padel and pickleball

The two games also have many difference. The basi skills of hitting a ball across a net may be similar, but the scoring, techniques and equipment are not.
- Padel is played on a specially built court with walls - pickleball uses a badminton sized court that you can mark out on any flat area
- Padel uses rebounds off the walls but pickleball is only played off the floor
- Pickleball balls are perforated while padel balls are felted
- Padel is nearly always played as doubles but pickleball works well for singles and doubles
- Padel scoring is very similar to tennis, while pickleball scoring is closer to squash, badminton or table tennis
- In pickleball you serve without bouncing the ball - in padel the ball must bounce once you before you serve
- Pickleball is more accessible for beginners, especially for mixed age or ability players, because the ball moves more slowly. Padel demands more skill initially

Pickleball vs Padel Comparison Table


 

Pickleball

Padel

Type of court

Play anywhere flat - mark out your own court

Play on special courts with walls for rebounding

Scoring

Play up to 11- similar to squash, badminton or table tennis

Score 0-15-30-40 in games and sets - similar to tennis

Skill level

Easy for beginners and mixed ability groups to enjoy

Higher skill level and more rules and techniques to master

Speed of play

Slower, because perforated ball travels slowly - more time to react

Faster, because pressurised ball travels quickly when hit with powerful bats

Complexity

Easy to grasp, as the ball travels back and to over the net

Harder to follow, as the ball can rebound off court walls as well as crossing the net

Popularity

Fast-growing, especially in the USA, and now attracting players in Europe and Asia, plus celebrity attention

Well established national sport in Europe and Latin America, growing very fast in USA and UK


What you will need to play pickleball vs padel

Pickleball and padel both require specific equipment to play. If you're just trying them out, there's no need to spend a lot. You may be able to borrow rackets or paddles and balls from the nearest club or from a coach when you first start. But once you have made a commitment to play, you'll need as a minimum:
- a padel racket or pickleball paddle
- padel balls or pickleball balls
- court shoes suitable for the playing surface
- comfortable sports clothing

As you progress, you may want to add more equipment or buy more advanced rackets and paddles. At pdhsports.com we've put together a great range of equipment and essentials for padel and all the kit you need for pickleball, whether you're an improving or an advanced player.

Padel equipment recommendations

For beginners, we recommend an all-round racket with a large head and sweet spot, to help you build confidence and accuracy. Supportive padel court shoes will help you move quickly around the padel court and avoid slipping.

As you progress, more sophisticated padel rackets will give you more power and precision. You'll discover your own style of play and can choose a racket that has the right weight, balance and level of comfort. You may want to customise your racket using overgrips, so the handle feels comfortable and secure in your hand. 

Multipacks of padel balls are great value. A padel equipment bag is useful for carrying your racket, balls, shoes, clothing and essentials to the club. Racket sports clothing is designed to give you freedom of movement in the padel game. All these items make great gifts for padel players, if you're looking to treat someone to a present!

Pickleball equipment recommendations

Pickleball beginners will find a light, all-round paddle with a large head and sweet spot a good place to start. Keep your footing on the court with a pair of supportive court shoes, so you can run and jump with confidence and take the strain off your feet and ankles with good padding and shock absorption. 

There's a wide range of more advanced pickleball paddles to choose from as you improve your skills. You'll need one or more plastic perforated balls. You may want to customise your paddle to fit your hand perfectly using overgrips. If you're playing on the go, a portable pickleball net is a great way to make sure you can set up a court wherever you are. 

As with any racket sport, the better you get and the more you're enjoying your play, the more value and benefit you'll get from other clothing and accessories. A sports bag for all your pickleball kit is useful for transport and storage as well as protecting your paddle. Racket sports clothing keeps you cool and comfortable when you're playing an energetic game. Pickleball players will appreciate any of these items as gifts!

Pickleball vs padel: which is right for you?

Pickleball and padel are both exciting and enjoyable racket sports. Now you know more about the gameplay, rules and equipment, perhaps you have a strong feeling about which one you'd like to try. If you're not sure, why not try both?

At pdhsports.com we're big fans of both padel and pickleball. You can play both to a high level or enjoy them for a leisurely game with friends.

If you're looking for a racket sport that you can play almost anywhere and is super easy to pick up as a beginner, pickleball may be the best choise. With a portable net and some chalk, you can mark out your own pickleball court on any hard surface - or use a badminton court and lower the net. 

But if you love the thought of a fast-paced racket sports game that's played on a special court and includes rebounds off the walls, padel will definitely tick your boxes!

Either way, we have all the equipment you need to get started and keep pace as you evolve your pickleball or padel skills! Visit our padel store or our pickleball store to find our hand-picked range of leading brand rackets, paddles, balls, shoes, clothing and accessories. 

FAQs

1. Is padel tennis easier than pickleball?

It depends what you're used to. If you have played tennis, squash or racketball before, you may find padel feels quite easy, becuase the scoring and gameplay is similar to tennis and the rebounding is familiar to anyone who's played in an enclosed squash court. But if you're used to playing badminton or table tennis, or if you haven't played racket sports before, pickleball might be easier for you. Pickleball has a reputation for being a very accessible sport thats good for beginners and mixed abilities: the pace of the ball is slower than in padel and the game was designed to be inclusive and easy to take up.

2. Is padel the fastest-growing sport?

It's a very fast-growing sport! Whether it's the world's fastest depends which statistics you read and when they're dated. Lately it's had a popularity boost because celebrities like David Beckham and Andy Murray have been playing. UK news reports quote a figure of 25 million players worldwide, with 6 million in Spain. In the UK there are around 90,000 players. The count is rising rapidly and 400 courts should be open by the end of 2023.

3. Can you use a padel racket for pickleball?

All racket sports use slightly different rackets and bats. So if you want to play padel, you'll need a padel racket, which is a perforated, solid racket with a short handle. Pickleball paddles are generally thinner, smaller and lighter.

4. Is it a pickleball racquet or padel?

The bat used in pickleball is usually called a paddle. Padel is a different sport. It's a bit confusing because the Spanish word for a paddle is "padel". People tend to describe the bat used in padel as a racket (or racquet, to use an alternative spelling).