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Pickleball: does tennis have a new antagonist?

The emergence of pickleball and the rise of champion Vivienne David.

Pickleball racket

Try to shrink a tennis court, enlarge ping-pong paddles, add the fun of padel, and the unpredictability of badminton, and you have created the perfect pickleball formula.

The first appearance of pickleball

A sport born in America in 1965, thanks to Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, has seen a surge of players in the post-pandemic period, especially among Generation Z.

According to Ernie Medina, USA Pickleball ambassador and certified coach of the Professional Pickleball Registry,

Pickleball is so popular because it is more reminiscent of maxi ping-pong than mini tennis

and underscoring the growth of the sport is the number of countries participating in the Pickleball Federation, which now has 37 countries.

Rules & court

One of the reasons for the rapid rise of pickleball is related to the ease of learning the rules of the game and its basic concepts. The rules that distinguish this sport from its cousins tennis and padel are mainly related to the presence of an area on the court where it is not possible to hit the ball on the volley, also known as the “non-volée“; in addition, it is necessary to bounce the ball after the serve.

Pickleball racket and ball
Pickleball racket and ball

The smaller playing rectangle, compared to the more classic tennis court, and the smaller size of the racket make the sport extremely dynamic and technical enough for those who play it and obviously compelling for spectators.

Two other distinguishing factors of the pickleball are the small size of the racket and the material of which it is made mainly of fiberglass; the material of the ball also changes, as it becomes plastic and has 26 holes.  

The goal is to make the sport an Olympic discipline, and in fact, even Vivienne David predicts that pickleball in 10 to 20 years is definitely going to be in the Olympics.

Vivienne David and her story

Current champion Vivienne had her first approach to pickleball quite casually in 2013 during a demonstration day, and although she came from the world of tennis and felt comfortable on the court, she had to contend with some differences in the rules.

As she claimed, “I ran through the kitchen trying to close the court like in tennis: the closer you are to the net the better. Well, they said, ‘Oh, this is a foul,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean this is a foul.

She also soon discovered that “there’s a lot more to it than just hitting the ball hard and trying to dominate with power, there’s a lot more like finesse and touch involved, which I wasn’t really that kind of player in tennis. So that intrigued me.” From that moment, just six years passed until Vivienne David won her first World Pickleball Championchips in 2019 and will become a pro player in 2020.

Prior to her excellent results in doubles, the young Vivienne says she first approached singles and only later “I broke into doubles just because it was more like tennis and I felt like it came a little easier to me, so I spent a lot of hours practicing on groundstrokes, moving around, picking my targets, and that’s how I ended up competing in a tournament in 2019, the World Kickball Championships.

“I ended up winning that tournament, against a lot of big names“.The climb to the top of the rankings was rapid, to the point that even the player would not have expected such successes. Turning her gaze to the future Vivienne points out that

I’m just curious to see what hard work will bring me.

There is no specific clothing to practice this discipline, but it is important to pay proper attention to the footwear to be used, as it is essential to take advantage of shoes that are capable of providing support in multidirectional movements with a rubber sole. Therefore, it is not recommended to use running shoes, which are instead designed for frontal propulsion.

In particular, a pair of tennis shoes or similar sports are suitable, as they possess a wide sole and heel support, ensuring proper ankle stability. Such as the shoe worn by professional player Vivienne David, Head Revolt Evo 2.0, which manages to provide high performance, light weight and high cushioning, especially with the lateral control technology ensures lateral stability in slides.

Pickleball shoes used by Vivienne David
Vivienne Shoes – Head Revolt Evo 2.0

Also as a result of the fact that in many countries the rise of padel has slowed the progress of pickleball, the growth and development path of the sport is still long, but there is every reason to hear a lot more about it.

You may also be interested in the following articles:

Discovering padel: a fun and unique racket sport

Discovering padel: a fun and unique racket sport

The padel trend: origins, rules, appropriate shoes

Shoes for sports: which ones are the right ones?

Shoes for sports: which ones are the right ones?

The importance of choosing the right shoes for optimal sports performance and comfort.

Soles (and shoes) are not all the same

Soles (and shoes) are not all the same

By learning to distinguish the differences and characteristics among different soles, it can help you choose the right shoes.


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