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How to Transition From Tennis to Pickleball

How to Transition From Tennis to Pickleball

  • While both tennis and pickleball share strategy and skills, there's a learning curve for tennis players. This guide offers tips for a smooth transition from the tennis court to the pickleball "kitchen."

A tennis player walks onto the pickleball court…

It sounds like the start of a rowdy joke. Instead, it’s a fairly common pickleball origin story. 

More than 23 million people played tennis in 2022, according to a study from the Tennis Industry Association. With pickleball often alongside – or in some cases, on – tennis courts, it’s only natural that some tennis players become a little curious about the game. 

From the outside, it looks like tennis and pickleball have a lot of similarities. And though both sports share some similar strategies and require similar skill sets, there is certainly a transitional period for tennis players who try their hand at the sport. 

Whether you’re a tennis player picking up a pickleball paddle for the first time or a pickleball expert trying to help your tennis-playing friends learn the game, here’s everything you need to know about transitioning from playing with rackets to playing with paddles. 

Understand the New Rules

Sure, tennis and pickleball involve a court, a net, and a ball. For most tennis players, though, that’s where the rules similarities end. From serving to scoring to the famous kitchen, the court layout and scoring structure take some getting used to. Tennis players should familiarize themselves with the new rules, and experienced players should be patient as they learn. 

Focus on Grip

Tennis players know having the right grip can make a big difference in your play on the court. Pickleball is the same way, and it might take some time to find the grip that feels most comfortable for you. Some tennis players prefer to use a similar grip size to their tennis racket for their pickleball paddle, while others prefer something smaller. And, of course, adapting your favorite tennis grip, whether that’s eastern, western or continental, to pickleball can take some time, too.

The key to making this shift, of course, is plenty of practice and match play. Work with a coach who can walk you through the different grips and teach you how to identify and develop the right grip for you. 

Embrace the Dink

Pickleball has its own set of unique shots. Tennis players often have excellent groundstrokes and strong volleying skills. Dinking, though, is a new concept. It can be hard to slow down and hit a “soft” shot after hitting with force. 

Tennis players should prioritize learning about pickleball shots like dinks to help them fully embrace the game and be successful. Learning the strategy behind the dink and when to use it can go a long way to making the transition to pickleball a lot easier. 

Learn the Importance of the Third Shot

The third-shot is important to how points develop, and every player has a different approach based on their skillset. 

The two-bounce rule keeps players from rushing to the net right after they serve, which can be a hard adjustment for tennis players. It’s important to wait for the serve and the return to bounce before hitting a shot, and use the third short to transition forward. Whether you prefer a third shot drop or a third shot drive, learning how to make the most of this crucial shot can help take your game to the next level.  

Take It Slow

Having tennis experience will help you transition to pickleball, but it won’t make you an instant champ. As with any new sport, it takes time to learn the strategy needed to win and truly transition from tennis to pickleball. Take every opportunity to play with people of all skill levels to help you learn, and consider taking an introduction to pickleball lesson at your local club or park. 

Then, try your hand at open or group play by heading to a local park or signing up for a session at a pickleball facility. These events are great ways to learn the ropes, make some friends, and learn about the pickleball scene. 

Then, it’s time to take some lessons! Since tennis players have some transferable skills for pickleball, it can be easy to play regularly without taking a lesson or getting high-level instruction. Working with a coach will help you learn the ins and outs of pickleball strategy and truly make the transition from tennis. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you’re shifting from tennis to pickleball, schedule plenty of time to practice and stick with it! If you’re trying to help a friend transition from tennis to pickleball, take some time to play alongside them to help them learn the rules and talk them through the strategy. It takes some time, but you’ll end up with a fierce doubles partner!

Did You Play Tennis Before Pickleball?

It’s very common for tennis players to transition to pickleball, fall in love with the game, and become some of the sport’s biggest advocates. Truly transitioning from tennis to pickleball can take some time, but the effort is well worth it. 

Are you transitioning from tennis to pickleball? Let us know below! 

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