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In the world of racket sports, padel and pickleball are two of the fastest-growing games.

Pickleball is the fastest-growing racket sport in the US, while padel has become the fastest growing racket sport in the world.

With these national and international sensations, it’s only a matter of time before people begin to compare padel vs. pickleball.

There’s no real way to say whether one of the sports is “better” than the other.

Even though they’re both racket sports, the game play for both is extremely different.

Different demographics tend to gravitate toward each sport as well.

Padel vs. Pickleball

An Overview

Padel and pickleball are both played with rackets and balls. But though the setup might look similar when you first glance, there are huge differences.

These differences persist down to the roots of the games.

Pickleball is an evolution of badminton, while padel is an evolution of tennis.

Both the form and structure of the games is different. That’s without even starting on the differences in the court setup.

You can’t substitute the rules and boundaries of one game for the other.

If you have a background in padel, you’ll still have a steep learning curve with pickleball, and vice versa.

Game setup and play

Pickleball is played on an open court with no opportunities for the ball to rebound.

But padel is played inside a court with glass walls.

The ball can bounce and reverberate off the glass walls, which complicates the game play and the strategy.

Both games can be played with doubles, so they’re ideal if you’re a fan of team sports.

But only pickleball can be played with singles.

Padel was designed for teamwork, and the game moves too quickly for one person to handle the entire court alone.

There are some rare instances in which a singles court might be built for padel.

But this is the exception to the rule.

Basically all official tournaments and most official playing areas mandate partners matches.

Another difference between the games is the boundaries. With a game of padel, everything inside the court is “in bounds.”

Not only do you not have to worry about hitting the ball out of bounds, you can bounce it off the walls and factor those angles into your strategy.

With pickleball, some parts of the court are prohibited.

You can’t step outside certain lines unless you’re dealing with certain parts of game play.

You have to serve from behind the base line. The ball can’t be hit over certain lines, or the opposing team gets the point.

Equipment

Pickleball and padel use vastly different equipment.

A padel racket is perforated and thick.

Pickleball paddles are more similar to ping pong paddles, with a textured edge that doesn’t have any perforations.

Padel balls appear extremely similar in size and design to tennis balls. But there is a key difference.

A padel ball doesn’t bounce as high as a tennis ball, which adds an extra challenge when you’re trying to return a partner’s serve.

Like a tennis ball, it moves quickly through the air.

Pickleball, on the other hand, uses an extremely lightweight plastic ball that’s been perforated by air holes.

The lighter weight and drag of the air causes the ball to move much slower than a tennis ball.

It’s even slower than a ping pong ball, with a motion that’s more similar to a badminton birdie than anything else.

Each sport has a long rally.

The length of the rally in pickleball is because the main strategy is to keep the ball in play.

Since the ball moves so slowly through the air, the goal isn’t to overcome the opponent so much as wait for them to slip up.

In padel, the ball stays in play because of the glass walls.

The walls allow the ball to bounce more before it hits the court, and there also isn’t the chance to hit the ball “out of bounds.”

However, the game is a lot faster and more chaotic than pickleball.

Pickleball feels like standing on a life-size version of a table tennis top. Padel feels like being on a smaller tennis court.

The courts for both games are divided in half by a net.

Pickleball courts have lines on the floor that look similar to a badminton court.

Padel courts are divided into quarters similarly to a tennis court.

Court sizes

Pickleball and padel courts have very different setups. Each is defined by official regulation rules.

A padel court must meet these requirements:

  • 20 meters long and 10 meters wide
  • Rectangle is divided at the midpoint by a net
  • Service lines are on both sides
  • The court is divided into equal quarters by dividing each side of the net in half
  • Painted court lines must be 20 centimeters in width
  • Courts with a roof must have at least 6 meters of roof clearance
  • A glass, cement, and mesh fence encloses the court
  • The blocks show where the ball needs to bounce following a service

A pickleball court must meet these requirements:

  • 6.1 meters long and 13.41 meters wide
  • The court is divided in half by a net
  • The “kitchen” (no volley zone) is marked 2.13 meters away from the net on either side of the court
  • Court dimensions are similar to badminton
  • Net must reach a height of 0.91 meters
  • A center line divides the service areas on the left and right
  • The blocks show where the ball needs to bounce following a service

Padel courts are significantly larger than pickleball courts, even though they’re smaller than tennis courts.

Overall, the faster game play makes padel a high-cardiovascular activity that’s favored by athletes looking for a workout.

Pickleball is favored by less athletic people looking for a fun way to move their bodies.

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