Pickleball & Tennis Ball Speed and Reaction Time

Pickleball is fast. Tennis is fast. We know that. Both sports test every fiber of our eye-brain reaction skills. But how do they compare to one another?

First let’s compare the court length. Baseline to baseline in tennis is 78 feet. Pickleball is 44 feet, almost half the distance. How does this affect reaction time? For purposes of comparison, let us use a ball speed of 40 miles per hour, which is a ball speed commonly reached by intermediate pickleball and tennis players.

A 40 MPH average height groundstroke tennis ball travels baseline to baseline in about 2 seconds. Buckle up your seatbelt pickleball players because pickleball baseline groundstrokes cut your reaction time in half – just one second! That’s not much time when you consider how you have to react to your opponent’s shot which includes determining the incoming ball’s direction, speed, arc, and spin!

Let’s analyze this further. On each side of the net, one-half second passes with a groundstroke hit at 40 MPH. Tom simplify what this means, pickleball players must use the half second that the ball is still on their opponent’s side of the net to determine the incoming ball’s direction, speed, arc, and spin! By the time the incoming ball has crossed the net coming your way, you will not have turned in the direction you have to move and started to prepare your racquet. Then, as you move to the ball (note that the ball has not even bounced yet!), you will need to not only position your feet on balance to hit the shot, but you will also need to decide how and where you will hit that same ball back over the net!

Final thoughts? Don’t let anyone tell you that pickleball is an easy sport to play. And, don’t let anyone tell you it is a difficult sport to play either! It may be easier than tennis to start playing for the average person, but know this. It is a fast game requiring split-second decisions!

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