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How to Beat Tennis Players at Pickleball

by Jason Flamm on

As much as BIG tennis likes to trash talk pickleball, there's no denying that more tennis players are making their way over to the 44x20, especially on the pro level.

Part of the reason is that when tennis players actually play pickleball, they realize it's a lot of fun. Another big reason they tend to come over is that the skills they've spent their entire life developing translate very well to pickleball.

Basically, it's more fun to play something when you're good at it, and besides Genie Bouchard and Sam Querrey, most tennis players start out pretty darn good at pickleball.

Just kidding, Sam and Genie – we appreciate you.

While this influx of tennis players is exciting and ultimately great for the sport, those without a tennis background may need help learning how to deal with them.

Let's discuss how you can beat tennis players at pickleball.

Tennis skills that translate to pickleball

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." To beat our enemy, let's first get to know what makes them a formidable foe.

Great groundstokes

Tennis players are known for their powerful groundstrokes, which also translate well to pickleball. These shots tend to be flat and fast, making them difficult for non-tennis players to defend against. The really good players can shape the ball, too, which makes an apparent out ball land safely inside the lines.

A better forehand than you

Anyone trained in tennis has practiced every kind of forehand shot imaginable hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Whether off a groundstroke or a volley, their tennis background gives them a huge edge over most pickleball players who don't have that type of experience producing powerful forehand shots.

Court coverage

A tennis court is almost twice the size of a pickleball court. Tennis players are used to chasing down balls and sprinting greater distances when playing. Often, they have great footwork and better stamina, allowing them to cover a pickleball court quickly and efficiently. Because of this, tennis players are often more athletic (see Jack Sock) and have some immediate success, especially in singles pickleball.

How to win against tennis players

There are likely a dozen other skills we could name that translate well from tennis to pickleball, but let's not give them too much credit without making them earn it. Instead, let's now discuss what tennis players lack when transitioning to pickleball.

The serve

The serve is a fundamental part of tennis, and most players spend countless hours perfecting their technique. However, the serve has more limitations in pickleball – you must swing underhand, and the ball can only go so fast. This adjustment can take some time for tennis players accustomed to focusing on speed over placement in their serves.

If anything, the pickleball serve puts both players on equal footing rather than giving one player the edge over the other. However, you can certainly learn to use your pickleball to serve as a weapon.

Is Pickleball Becoming What It Doesn’t Like About Tennis?
Tennis and pickleball are quickly becoming sport rivals. Why does the tennis community look down on pickle? Our Johnny Barth examines.

The third-shot drop

There is absolutely no reason to use a third-shot drop in tennis. This is where pickleball players can give themselves an edge in a match. Instead of trying to outdrive your opponent – who likely has a better volley than you – drop your shots in front of them and force them into a soft game they're not used to playing.

Let out balls go out

Perhaps the best shot you can use against tennis players is no shot at all. Depending on how adept the player is, many of their drives will likely go out – if you let them. If you see them taking a big backswing, try to get out of the way and make them prove to you that they can keep the ball in.

Once you let a few fly out of bounds, you'll take away some of their confidence. Then, you have them right where you want them.

That's it: how to beat tennis players at pickleball. Remember, don't beat them too badly though, or they might return to tennis and take their courts back.

Just kidding. They'll just whine and say, "Pickleball is stupid, anyway."

You'll know the truth.


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