Will Pickleball Overtake Tennis?

We know that pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, but does it really have the clout to take on the “head honcho” of the racquet sport world?

Maybe not any time soon.

Recent estimates put the total number of tennis players in the U.S. at 17.9 million. In contrast, pickleball only has 2.5 million. Of course, pickleball is only about 50 years old where tennis has had over a century to grow.

Many players are somewhat happy with pickleball’s niche status, as this not only makes the community feel more tightly-knit, but keeps the game inclusive. As pickleball hotbeds become more common they sometimes necessitate a larger division of players, whether through age, gender or talent.

Tennis swing

Credit: llee_wu

This isn’t always a bad thing as it can keep players of similar skill levels together, preventing frustration, but pickleball did start as a family game, and many cite its equalizing effect as one of its main attractions.

Although pickleball only has a fraction of the publicity tennis does, this doesn’t mean people aren’t taking note. Even the tennis industry itself has realized pickleball’s strengths and potential, with major tennis manufacturers like GAMMA and HEAD releasing their own lines of pickleball equipment.

If these companies believe that building a way into the pickleball industry is worthwhile, then there’s no doubt others will follow suit as the game continues to get bigger.

Interestingly enough, this year there was a “Paddle Battle” held by the USAPA that featured a match between former tennis pros Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick. This event not only capitalized on pickleball’s crossover appeal with tennis, but also touched on the fact that many tennis players move on to pickleball after tennis’ larger court size and faster play become difficult to manage with age.

Pickleball serving

Credit: jalexartis

The tennis vs pickleball debate can get a little out of hand on occasion, with tennis players feeling like pickleball is encroaching on their courts (which is sometimes true) and pickleball feeling like tennis players can dismiss pickleball as too simplistic out of hand (also sometimes true).

But both sports have their strengths and weaknesses, and we believe that the more exposure both give the other, the better. There’s no reason why people can’t play both or act respectfully toward fellow athletes, whether serious or casual, regardless of which they prefer.

Do you think pickleball might actually become larger than tennis in time, or does tennis have too much history behind it for pickleball to share the spotlight on such a broad stage?

Pickleball’s international reach has built as fans have spread their love for the sport around the globe, but only time will tell how big the sport will become.

12 thoughts on “Will Pickleball Overtake Tennis?

  1. I am a tennis player. I am a pickleball player. The pickleball model is just more inclusive. You just show up and can play for hours. You don’t have to have a partner as you do in tennis. People are already there and you just jump in. That is what I think will eventually carry pickleball over the top.

  2. It’s not pickleball that has killed tennis, it’s the Williams sisters. It’s all-Williams sisters all the time at any tournament, not only to the detriment of men’s tennis, but to all tennis. It also helps that it’s much easier to find a pickleball match than a tennis match.

  3. Yes Pickleball will overtake tennis. The Pickleball explosion has happened over the last 5 years and is only gaining momentum. You now have Agassi playing Roddick in Pickleball exhibition. Pickleball grew from 2 million to 8 million in two years.

  4. One other thing about tennis is the greed of cable providers. Years ago you could see the final days of any of the slams on major networks for free. Now you have to pay streaming service or cable providers. Many are just paying for basic internet and do not want to pay espn ect. Pickleball will be free (pickleball channel on youtube). I just say one thing, wake up ATP,WTA and USTA.

  5. All of you have good points. But I disagree with Keith’s point that big athletic types cannot work in Pickleball. Im a uspta tennis pro and have played both sports. Pickleball still is easier to play which is why it is growing faster then tennis. And economics of small courts. I have seen many l clubs and park systems with (clay courts) loosing alot of money because of upkeep/maintenance costs. Pickleball will not loose the money because people are happy with less expensive hard courts.
    As young players get into game it will become major sport as the prize money grows. If a player is top 200 in tennis, they will stay in tennis most likely. But increase the prize money and some will switch over. There are division one tennis players crossing over. Look at Ben Johns and the polish davis cup player playing on pro tour. They are big athletic types.
    Look at the top ping pong players, they are very athletic and play with less prize money then tennis. Asians I think will come to pickleball because of similarities of ping pong and badminton. It is about the money for attracting top athletics. I love tennis but I enjoy Pickleball more.

  6. Pickleball is an amazing sport and great workout . If you like tennis good for you if you like pickleball good for you . Why are people so negative I care if people are happy that’s the bottoms line . I love pickleball and if tennis players knock it then I’d tell just do you . Both sports are great . I think the world is big enough for both or squash or racquetball or whatever you prefer .

  7. Pickleball will absolutely become more popular than tennis. Most of the population is still unaware of pickleball and as the exposure increases it will eventually overtake tennis as the more popular sport. There are too many advantages to pickleball like court size, the learning curve, the physical ability to play the game makes it more inclusive and let’s face it, it’s more fun to play!!!

    • I will play singles tennis as long as I can. Although I’m still a 3.5 hack, I can do a cut serve, put forth a decent top spin deep to my opponents base line, and chase down a cruel shot to my backhand. For cardio and leg strength, it’s a great sport. When I can’t take but two steps without being winded, I’ll take up the whiffle ball. In the meantime, long live tennis.

      • You’re mistaken Guinness. PB singles between a couple of young guys is extremely demanding, perhaps more so than tennis, given the high level of down time there is in a tennis match (retrieving balls, resetting for 2nd serve, changeover breaks, etc.). The skill set for PB is different, but if you work hard you could probably get to a 3.5 hack level in PB also. You might give PB a try before denigrating it.

  8. The inventors of pickleball precisely designed the game as a family sport that would not favor “big, athletic types.” The equipment, court, and rules disqualify pickleball as a bonafide contender to replace tennis. Any game where seventy year olds can compete on even remotely equal footing with players forty and fifty years younger has limited status as a serious sport. It is telling that many of the top pickleball players are former low level tennis pros unable successfully to compete in upper echelon pro tournaments.

    • I totally disagree. I play both sports and tennis and Pickleball use the same ranking system. A seventy year-old 3.0 tennis player can compete with a thirty or forty year old 3.0 tennis player. Pickleball is the same. Your ranking is based on the totality of you skill set such as fitness, shot making and strategy.

Leave a Reply to Robert Mitchem Cancel reply