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6 Tips for Tennis Players Transitioning to Pickleball

News Stacie Townsend 10-31-2022

In the past, tennis players may have been reluctant to step on the pickleball court, whether because they thought playing pickleball would hurt their tennis game, they thought pickleball to be “inferior” or an “old person’s game,” they just did not know enough about the sport, or otherwise. However, as the world continues to find out how much fun the sport of pickleball is, these former stereotypes are falling away, and tennis players are now converting to pickleball, or becoming two-sport athletes (tennis and pickleball), in droves.

Plus, these tennis players are finding that they have very quick learning curves when playing pickleball. This is because the skills that tennis players have developed—for instance, how to hit a groundstroke, court positioning, understanding of spin and angles, etc.—are transferable to the pickleball court (in addition, the sport of pickleball has a pretty flat learning curve, which is one of the reasons that so many people are drawn into the game and community).

With that said, there are some common mistakes that tennis players make when transitioning to the pickleball court. If you are a (current or former) tennis player and looking to take up the pickleball, consider the following 6 tips to be even more successful when transitioning to pickleball:

  1. Move In to the Non-Volley Zone Line – In doubles tennis, it is common for the strategy to be for one partner to stay back and hit groundstrokes from the baseline, while the other party stay at the net and attack with volleys. In doubles pickleball, the strategy is very different. Instead of staggering on the court, it is generally important to stay linked and in tandem (in other words, to stay at the same depth in the court) in order to limit any angles. Plus, even more important is to move in to the Non-Volley Zone line and hold the line. This is because your chances of winning on the pickleball court go up if you can get to the Kitchen line. So, as soon as you comply with pickleball’s two-bounce rule (i.e., both the serve and return of serve must bounce and cannot be volleyed out of the air), move in to the Kitchen line with your partner and hold the line. 

6 Tips for Tennis Players Transitioning to Pickleball | Pickler Pickleball

  1. Use Top Spin – Oftentimes, tennis players have a tendency to hit with slice when volleying the pickleball—particularly, at the Kitchen line. Due to the backspin on the pickleball with a slice, this generally slows down the pickleball, which gives the opposing team an opportunity to react and even counterattack. Rather than hitting with slice, tennis players should consider hitting with more top spin. Top spin generally results in a more aggressive shot against opponents, as the ball can be attacked from a lower height above the ground, and the ball will spin towards opponents and accelerate into the ground.
  1. Stay Compact and Use a Short Backswing – Tennis players are used to longer racquets, heavier balls, and a longer distance to hit the tennis ball. So, bigger swings—notably, bigger backswings—are necessary to help players hit the heavy ball with the heavy racquet a far distance. However, pickleball is unique. The paddle is shorter and more compact, the ball is lighter (it literally is a whiffle ball), and the distance is almost cut in half. As a result, pickleball requires different strokes and techniques. One of the key differences is that pickleball requires shorter backswings. The more you limit your backswing, the faster reaction time you will have, the more consistent your shots will become, and the more you will be able to disguise your shots on the pickleball court. 

6 Tips for Tennis Players Transitioning to Pickleball | Pickler Pickleball

  1. Get Comfortable in the Dink – One of the cornerstones of pickleball is dinking. However, unlike groundstrokes, overheads, and other shots that are common on the tennis court, dinks make many tennis players feel uncomfortable because it is a new skill. However, the tennis players that have some of the most success are ones that embrace and practice dinking and can get comfortable hitting dink after dink (without panicking or getting impatient), while at the same time playing to their strengths (which is traditionally the “fast” game).

6 Tips for Tennis Players Transitioning to Pickleball | Pickler Pickleball

  1. Use a Ready Position to Maximize Reaction Time – Since so much of the sport of pickleball happens at the Kitchen line—which is only 14 feet from one side of the Kitchen to the other side—there is minimal time to react to the pickleball. Given this lack of time to react, it is important to be as efficient as possible in your movements. One way to be efficient is to start from the best ready position, so that you eliminate any wasted movement from your starting point to your point of contact with the pickleball—which may mean a different ready position than tennis players are used to on the tennis court. 

6 Tips for Tennis Players Transitioning to Pickleball | Pickler Pickleball

The general goal is to have the greatest coverage of shots (that are staying in the pickleball court) in the least amount of time possible. To do this, most pro pickleball players have their paddle face at 10 or 11 o’clock if you imagine that you are standing on a clock face (or 2 or 1 o’clock position if you are a lefty). Your opponent should be able to read the face of your paddle, as you should be in a semi-backhand position.
 
Also, to note, most pro pickleball players use a continental grip (although some prefer other grips and have success with them), and there is a current trend amongst pro pickleball players to drop the paddle height to about your belly button (as opposed to the “traditional” paddle height of about chest level).
  1. Master Lateral Movement – Lastly, one other important difference between tennis and pickleball is how your move around the court. Because of pickleball’s unique Kitchen rules (i.e., no volleys in the Kitchen) and the size of the pickleball court compared to a tennis court, pickleball has more lateral movement than tennis. In other words, since so much of the sport of pickleball is played at the Kitchen line, it is important to learn to move laterally along the Kitchen line in order to comply with pickleball’s Kitchen rules and to hold the line to put pressure on your opponents. In contrast, tennis has less lateral movement and more crossover steps and movement on angles. So, when transitioning to pickleball, focus on mastering your lateral movement, which will help you be more efficient at the Kitchen line.

For all of the tennis players that are transitioning to pickleball, welcome to the pickleball court! We hope these tips help accelerate your success on the pickleball court.

6 Tips for Tennis Players Transitioning to Pickleball | Pickler Pickleball

WANT MORE PICKLEBALL TIPS AND STRATEGIES?

Struggling against aggressive players on the pickleball court? For instance, those pickleball bangers? Learn 7 strategies on how to defeat the banger now.

7 Strategies on How to Defeat the Banger in Pickleball | Pickler Pickleball

Plus, if you want more pickleball tips and strategies on every aspect of your pickleball game, check out Pickler’s online video lesson collection called My Pro Pickleball Coach. My Pro Pickleball Coach is a fraction of the price of one clinic or even one lesson, and features over 140 video lessons (over 7 hours of instruction!), as well as a corresponding e-book. These online video lessons are available on demand 24/7 and breakdown every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including pickleball drills, strategy, and advanced concepts, so you will play your best pickleball.

Online Pickleball Video Lessons | Pickler Pickleball

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