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Why Is It a Paddle in Pickleball and a Racket in Tennis?

A collage of pickleball paddle and tennis racket.

For pickleball, players do not use a racket, but a paddle. Let’s take a look back at where this game all started. It was 1965 on the Island of Bainbridge that pickleball first got its name as it was being played back then for the first time as a combined game of badminton and table tennis. As you know, in table tennis, players use the help of a paddle, but in badminton, they use a racket.

Even though pickleball is known as the combined sport of table tennis and badminton, it was established that the racket used in the game of badminton was not conducive to pickleball’s dinking side. Therefore, the creators of the game of pickleball used ping pong paddles instead.

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The Surface Area

A red pickleball paddle and ball on the court.

The wood surface of the ping pong paddle is hard enough to slam the ball when needed. In addition, it is hard enough to dink the ball over the net smoothly. However, the ping pong paddles were not able to be used on a full court game.

Therefore, players had to improvise by making their own paddles, which were quite similar to the ping pong paddles. It had a larger surface to help players with the ease of playing and the reach.

The Innovation

Due to this, the game was pushed further, adding room for innovation, and so more companies were making pickleball paddles to serve the players better. Even the big-name brands of tennis rackets were trying their hands at fulfilling the market. If you have watched a pickleball match or tournament, you probably couldn’t help yourself in thinking that it looked like a tennis game.

However, once you start playing the game yourself, you will realize how different it is. Of course, both games appear to be similar, but they actually are not. Let’s compare by first taking a look at the paddle.

What Is Paddle in Pickleball?

Pickleball has seen its share of growth in recent times. Of course, we have already determined that the game is played with a paddle instead of a racket as in the games of tennis. The easiest way to explain why a paddle is used instead of a racket is that the former allows players to serve better because of how it is constructed.

The construction

A man preparing to serve on a tennis game.

The core of the paddle is made using synthetic honeycomb and a surface layer made with fiberglass. This allows players the ability to have a more powerful swing. On the other hand, tennis rackets are constructed with nylon.

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The pickleball paddle has a maximum size of 24 inches, as it relates to the length and width. The tennis racket is usually larger. You can hold the paddle using one hand, but with the tennis racket, players have to use both hands, most of the time.

The Various Types

A pickleball paddle with unique design.

Not all players use the same technique to play the game of pickleball. However, the design of the paddle is important to support each player’s game. Some paddles shape differently than others while others are noticeable by their designs, colors and thickness. Each player must try the various types to make sure that it works for their game play.

The Comparison

Two tennis rackets left on the concrete court.

The most noticeable difference between pickleball and tennis is found in the rules of the game. According to the USAPA, the paddle should:

  • Not have holes
  • Not have any indentation
  • Not have any rough texture

If it does, then players would have to give the ball an extra spin. Moreover, the paddle is not supposed to go over 24 inches in size. The distance from the edge guard and the hitting surface cannot be over 17 inches long. The tennis racket, on the other hand, only has a regulatory size factor. The racket should be under 29 inches long or 12.5 inches wide. Let’s recap.


A physically fit woman playing pickleball.

The three main differences between the paddle in pickleball and the racket in the game of tennis are:

  1. The materials
  2. The size
  3. The construction

The pickleball is noticeably smaller in size. Paddles must be made with the hitting surface in mind. It has to be solid. The tennis racket has an outer frame made with strings. For that reason, tennis rackets would not be conducive to the game of pickleball, since the surface of the paddle has to be firm and solid, void of strings.