Turf war: The feud between tennis and pickleball
DALLAS, TX – The struggle for court space between tennis and pickleball players continues to intensify.
Country clubs across the nation are confronted with the question of whether or not it makes sense to convert their beloved tennis courts into pickleball courts to meet the insatiable demand.
Unfortunately, tennis enthusiasts and pickleballers aren't exactly cohabiting peacefully on neighboring courts right now.
There’s tension and feuding, but why?
“I see so many posts decrying tennis, why is pickleball in competition? It’s a different game and both are good,” wrote McCabe.
This is a key point in the argument – they’re different sports. While there are some obvious similarities, they’re vastly different in terms of gameplay, scoring, style, equipment, and strategy.
In short, tennis and pickleball are easy to compare side by side, but definitely not alike.
“Playing both sports helps me play the other better. I see tennis using drop shots again and I see pickleball using topspin. Lobs are so much better disguised in pickleball, but easier to end the point on in tennis. Each sport enhances the other, just as cross training for any sport makes you a stronger player. Peace and harmony for the two sports I love,” continued McCabe.
McCabe is one of many commenters who (bravely) admits to enjoying both sports simultaneously. For some reason, there’s this unspoken rule that in order to enjoy playing tennis, you must hate pickleball, and vice-versa.
Thousands of pickleball players at the amateur and pro levels have a solid tennis background, with the bulk of their pickleball skills coming from a tennis foundation.
“I love both sports and am in no way dissing pickle – this is just what I’ve witnessed at our club. A lot of it has to do with tennis players suddenly having to share court space with pickleball, along with the noise factor,” shared Wendi Johnson Schlesinger.
The noise factor appears to be one of the main points of contention that often comes up, but paddle companies are working to resolve the problem from an equipment standpoint. Pickleball is starting to quiet down.
“Also, I will probably get slammed for this, but a lot of pickleballers don’t understand court etiquette, especially those who have never played tennis. At our club, we share space and pickleballers are constantly walking across the tennis courts, running onto adjacent tennis courts to retrieve balls, etc. I’ve made it a point to add court etiquette into our Intro to Pickleball classes because a lot of the newbies and players in general simply don’t know,” added Schlesinger.
There are significant differences between tennis and pickleball cultures. Here’s one example: proper etiquette for tennis spectators is to remain silent during points. Tennis has a “quiet culture,” but in pickleball, cheering is encouraged all the time.
Tennis is like the older, more experienced sibling in the racket sport family, and pickleball is essentially the younger, scrappy sibling with something to prove.
I understand the annoyance referenced by Schlesinger, but is a ball occasionally rolling into your court really that much of a deal-breaker? Is that the source of this epic battle?
And then, it hit me.
“It’s a turf war,” said Brent Gingerich.
It’s like West Side Story, the Jets versus the Sharks.
Pickleball players are taking over the tennis courts, and the tennis players aren't happy about it. No sharing or co-mingling, and certainly no fraternization.
Pickleball isn't going anywhere. It isn't a fad like some predicted. It’s only growing in popularity with a 15% increase in players in 2023, and an estimated 36.5 million pickleball players in the US.
There are 51,937 courts in the US and the demand for more continues to rise.
Pickleball is infiltrating territory that once belonged exclusively to tennis, and tennis players are upset... and rightfully so.
“If snowboarders and skiers can co-exist on the same slopes, pickleballers and tennis players can do the same,” concluded Jeffery Grimshaw.
But, will pickleball and tennis ever achieve that kind of harmony? Only time will tell.
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