WATCH: The draft for the first MLP season—featuring some of the world's best pickleball players and most famous celebrities—took place in Las Vegas, and aired live on Tennis Channel.


When I first meet Trisha Goyal, the millennial CEO of cult-favorite tennis app Break The Love, we had just finished taking a pickleball lesson and had gotten an early look at the so-called fastest growing sport in the United States.

Fast-forward six months, and my first (recreational) pickleball season is in the books, while Goyal’s Break The Love has rapidly expanded its online platform to serve the growing interest in the sport through strategic partnerships. The brand partnered with Equinox in The Hamptons over the summer, and recently teamed up with YouFit Gyms to take indoor pickleball to 28 nationwide locations (and counting).

If tennis is booming, then pickleball is blowing up, and entrepreneurs like Goyal are taking the opportunity to help lay the foundation for the latter’s future by solving the pain points that both racquet sports have in common.

“I started Break The Love with something that was a personal pain point for me, which was that it was difficult, logistically, to play tennis—when it comes to finding players and finding a space to play—both in urban and suburban areas,” Goyal tells Baseline, speaking from a pro pickleball event in Orlando.

“What we see in pickleball, of course, is that it's a fast growing sport in America. So what you have now is a similar pain point: You have to meet demand and there’s not enough supply of spaces to play.

“We see it as a bit similar to tennis, except that in pickleball we’re definitely a little more focused on finding spaces to play and providing instruction for new players to learn the game.”

Trisha Goyal founded Break The Love, an app for finding tennis and pickleball opponents and reserving courts, in 2019.

Trisha Goyal founded Break The Love, an app for finding tennis and pickleball opponents and reserving courts, in 2019.

The tug-of-war for playing space that casual pickleball players often face has led many to get creative, like taking over a public tennis court or a playground, or setting up in someone’s driveway. But the demand has also caused developers to sit up and take notice: YouFit Gyms, for example, never had a racquet sports category until it began outfitting its locations with purpose-built pickleball courts and partnering with Break The Love to get players in the door.

The demand goes beyond the traditional tennis-player-turned-pickleball-curious, says Goyal—who has seen engagement on her platform's pickleball bookings and services grow exponentially since she first launched Break The Love in 2019.

A graduate of NYU’s Stern School of Business, Goyal put her product management skills to work when she found herself struggling to find regular tennis match play after moving from New York to Connecticut for an ESPN job. Her options were limited to becoming a member of an expensive brick-and-mortar tennis club, or having to navigate the headaches of league play through Facebook or Meetup groups and text chains, and then traveling to meet strangers at inconvenient locations or booking courts herself.

“I saw that in order to play tennis, you needed a few things: You need people to play with at the same level as you, you need a place to play, and obviously you need your equipment,” Goyal recalls. “And if you don't have those things, then you're just not playing this sport.

“I saw platforms that had tried to solve the 'book a court' or the 'find a player' part, but there wasn't one platform that did both.”


Now with 120,000 users and counting, Break The Love bridges that gap by becoming a one-stop shop that connects players at all levels with courts, coaches, and local competition into a “virtual tennis club”. The company, which raised a $2.5 million seed round in January, has partnered with Wilson Sporting Goods and American Express, and its 2022 activations have been spotted everywhere from WTA Finals in Fort Worth to Miami during Art Basel.

Goyal and Break The Love are among a wave of entrepreneurs looking to bridge gaps in pickleball too—eventually aiming to turn recreational pickleball players into consumers of the pro game, where leagues and teams have courted millions in venture capital and celebrity investors. In tennis alone, current and former players including James Blake, Kim Clijsters, Naomi Osaka, Prakash Amritraj and more are backing Major League Pickleball teams, while Tennis Channel recently aired the 2023 MLP Draft live from Las Vegas.

“I think there's kind of two sides to [the pickleball boom], right? There's the recreational side and the pro side, and right now we're seeing a lot of investment from celebrities on the pro side,” Goyal says.

“But in order to be in sport, you need a pro circuit. Being able to have all these mass market celebrities backing the pro circuit, that just makes it more interesting for the end consumer to get engaged with pro pickleball in general."

Goyal at Lillet and Break The Love’s "Pickleball & Refresh Lounge" at this year's Art Basel.

Goyal at Lillet and Break The Love’s "Pickleball & Refresh Lounge" at this year's Art Basel.


Despite the big names and headlines, recreational-level interest hasn’t yet translated to massive crowds or record television ratings for pro pickleball events. But according to Goyal, the celebrity angle—the chance to see owners like LeBron James or Tom Brady in the stands at an Anna Leigh Waters match during the next MLP season, for example—will continue to grab and keep the public’s attention.

“They both feed into each other,” Goyal says. “The investment that’s happening on the recreational-development side, as well as the investment happening on the pro side by all the celebrities naturally feed back into each other. It all really increases the interest, the demand, participation and activity around the sport.

“We definitely see that path, and we think it all comes down to the recreational player, and growing the fandom and participation on the recreational level in order to drive growth on the pro circuit.”

While pickleball’s burgeoning pro circuit continues to court the influencers, Goyal aims to keep doing the influencing—encouraging both tennis and pickleball lovers to continue engaging with the sports they love by removing as many barriers to entry as technology can solve.

“In terms of what we can do with technology, I think there's three pieces,” she said. “There's technology around player levels and booking platforms. That's one space, but two other things that can really drive the growth of tennis are around sustainable infrastructure and different formats. Courts are expensive to build and take up more space, and there are people who want to play, but don’t necessarily have the appetite to compete in a full match…

“New technology in general, I think is really important to grow in this sport. Next year, we really want to invest in our tools to help our court providers empower their businesses, and do so in a really scalable and sustainable way in the process.”