A Few Thoughts on Tennis & Pickleball

Preface – I do not hate pickleball. I don’t like seeing tennis courts at public parks being replaced by pickleball courts. It seems like a park can host plenty of both courts.

A recent debate involving retired pro tennis players caused me to dig a bit deeper into pickleball’s rules and relationship to tennis.

One Possibility – Church League Softball Equivalent?

A lot of people who never played an inning of big-time baseball (you determine what big-time would mean) love Major League Baseball and play in adult softball leagues (to my experience such leagues are hosted at various places of worship). Pickleball could be a way for televised tennis to gain some fans in the same way that adult softball league participants tend to watch MLB with some regularity. People even take these adult softball games pretty seriously (See Costanza, George below). What is the harm in people taking pickleball seriously?

Pickleball Emphasizes Plug and Play While Tennis Requires Expertise

I watched a YouTube video on Pickleball’s rules. Tennis is exceptionally fun and challenging in my view, but it requires a basic skill level to consistently engage in rallies. The wiffleball-style ball makes it easy to keep the ball inside a pickleball court’s lines. But the rules also encourage rallying. A serve must be struck under the waist so it is hard to bother an opponent with a serve let alone hit an ace/service winner. The server must also let the returner’s first shot bounce so there are no serve and volley plays. Points can only be scored when serving so these rules promoting rallies from the server and returner get re-emphasized. Finally, the kitchen area prevents a tall, athletic player with good reflexes and jumping ability from imposing athleticism on an opponent.

Pickleball may bore tennis players or it may be fun. There is room for both reactions in my view.

I don’t think these rules emphasize athleticism. Serving from below one’s waist is not going to give a Karlovicesque advantage. Trying to lob people who are 6’4″/1.93 M is not a concern if there is a kitchen. Still, pickleball does seem to allow for a basic level of play that could be fun on a first attempt. The courts may look a lot alike but the rules of tennis and pickleball emphasize different things. Not every tennis player will have fun with pickleball due to its lower level of challenge, but I think tennis can engage pickleball fans and perhaps grow tennis’s fanbase even if only slightly.

Friend or Foe?

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