The net plays a crucial role in both pickleball and tennis, and must meet certain regulation standards according to their respective sports organizations. These standards include both an appropriate height and an appropriate width.
The height of a pickleball net is less than the height of a tennis net. A pickleball net is 36 inches high at the side posts and 34 inches high in the middle, whereas a tennis net is 42 inches high at the side posts and 36 inches at the middle. Both kinds of nets have a similar composition and setup.
This article will discuss the height of a pickleball net and compare that to the height of a tennis net, along with some similarities and differences between the two. Read on to learn more about how the nets are regulated, and about how you could adapt a tennis net for pickleball use in informal settings.
Related: Check out my exclusive play-tested paddle list here!
Pickleball Net Height vs. Tennis Net Height
The pickleball net and tennis net are very similar in height, but the tennis net is slightly higher.
According to the governing body of the USAPA, the pickleball net is 3 feet high at the side posts and 34 inches in the middle. Meaning there is a slight dip or sag down the middle. This is common in all sports using a net.
However, in tennis the net is 42 inches high at the side posts and the dip or sag down the middle brings the height of a tennis net to 36 inches.
So, the simple explanation is that a pickleball net is slightly lower at the posts and down the middle compared to a tennis net.
It's that difference in net height down the middle between pickleball and tennis that matters the most because that's where most of the game is played. That's where a lot of the action is.
Two inches lower at the center may not seem like much, but for someone coming from a tennis background, it's noticeable.
The strategy of "aim down the middle" rings true for both sports because of this net sag but it's especially true for pickleball.
The bigger difference between a pickleball net and a tennis net is the width. A tennis court is about twice as wide as a pickleball court, at 42 feet for a doubles match and 33 feet wide for a singles match.
Pickleball Net Height Standards
In the United States, pickleball court standards are set by the USA Pickleball Association. These standards include specifications for the court, the lines, and the net, and can apply to both indoor and outdoor courts.
A pickleball court is 20 feet wide, both for singles matches and doubles matches, with a margin of ten feet surrounding the court lines. The poles that support the net should be set two feet out from the outer perimeter, spanning a total of 22 feet.
The net itself should be 21 feet 9 inches long, extending from one pole to the other.
The net should measure 30 inches from top to bottom, and be suspended to reach a height of 36 inches at the sidelines, and 34 inches at the center of the court. At the center, a strap is recommended for easy adjustment to regulation height.
Like a tennis net, a pickleball net should have a 2-inch white tape over a metal cord running through the top of the net.
The posts holding a pickleball net in place should be 3 inches in diameter or smaller, the same size as the second set of poles you’d use in a singles match for tennis.
Tennis Net Height Standards
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) states that tennis courts must be 27 feet wide for singles matches and 36 feet wide for doubles matches, with a net that is placed three feet outside the course in either case. This means that a tennis net will be 33 feet wide for singles matches, or 42 feet wide for doubles matches.
In most sports shops, a 42 foot wide tennis net is standard, because most tennis clubs don’t have separate courts for singles matches. See for example the Vermont 3.5mm DT Championship Tennis Net, which meets regulation standards.
The side posts of a tennis net must be three and a half feet tall, holding the net up to a height of 3 feet in the middle of the court. The center of the net needs to be attached to the court with a 2-inch strap.
For singles matches, an extra post is placed on either end of the court, placed 3 feet outside single court lines. For doubles matches, only the one pair of side posts are used, placed 3 feet outside the doubles court width.
These side posts should be either 6-inch-sided squares, or be cylindrical with a 6-inch diameter. The extra posts added for singles matches should be 3-inch-sided squares or be cylindrical with a 3-inch diameter.
The mesh of the net must be small enough that the ball can’t go through, and is usually made of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or Polyvinyl Ethylene (PVE). A tennis net must also have a metal cable or cord running through the top, which connects to the side posts. It must be covered with a white band, the same as the middle strap, and should be between 2 and 2.5 inches.
Comparing Pickleball and Tennis Nets
There are many similarities between pickleball and tennis nets, so much so that in informal settings, a tennis net can be repurposed for use in a pickleball game. However, there are also a number of differences, and in a formal setting, you’ll see two different kinds of nets being used.
Pickleball Net vs. Tennis Net Similarities
The following are some similarities between pickleball nets and tennis nets:
Pickleball Net vs. Tennis Net Differences
The following are some differences between pickleball nets and tennis nets:
Can You Use A Tennis Net for Pickleball?
While it’s possible to make use of a tennis net and readjust it for pickleball use, you can purchase a net made just for pickleball, like a portable pickleball net.
In fact, I do this all the time. The use a portable pickleball net from PickleNet and love it! It's the one pictured above. It's fairly lightweight, easy to carry and a single person can set it up in under 5 minutes because the pieces are labeled and there aren't many of them.
When using a tennis net to play pickleball, there are a few things to consider. Because a tennis net is larger than a pickleball net, you can simply shorten it with a converter like the Convert a Net Tennis Net Converter.
However, you’d have a harder time converting a pickleball net into use for tennis, even though they’re very similar in height. The width of a pickleball court is so much shorter than the width of a tennis court that it wouldn’t reach across, even for a singles match.
The True Story Behind The Pickleball Net And Its Height
I had to include this little fun fact into this article. The makings of pickleball and its rules is a fascinating story. It's full of funny little quirks about how the rules finally came to be.
One of my favorite stories is about how the net height in pickleball came to be 36 inches at the sides.
One of the founding fathers of the game, Joel Pritchard, would stand at the net and make sure the net came up to his waistline. His waistline was 36 inches.
In the game's infancy, a badminton net was used. If the center of the net came up to Joel's waist, it was legal. Simple as that.
And it stuck, to this day all portable pickleball nets are 36 inches high at the ends and 34 inches at the middle. The legend of Joel Pritchard's waistline lives on forever.
Pickleball Net vs Tennis Net Height - Conclusion
A pickleball net is shorter than a tennis net, but as we've discovered, not by much. In informal settings, you could get away with using a tennis net for pickleball or vice versa.
But for regulation tennis matches or pickleball matches, it’s important to use the correct net height, even though they only differ by six inches at most.