The PPA has planned a full swing of tournaments throughout the United States in 2022.

Like a lot of tennis players, I was skeptical when I was asked to try pickleball. The name was funny, the strokes were basic, the sound of the ball was harsh, the court seemed kid-sized. Was this really “the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.” that I’d heard so much about?

But like a lot of tennis players, I saw pickleball’s appeal after a few days on that kid-sized court. It was fast, it was fun, and I could get a game going with my dad and niece without having to take lessons or practice any shots. Pickleball’s buzzing courts reminded me of the vibe around tennis facilities in the 1970s.

There was even, I learned later, a benefit to my tennis game. After a week of carving out dinks and angles, I began to find new openings for those shots on the tennis court. Which made me wonder: We’ve heard so much about tennis players moving to pickleball; can the transition work in reverse? Can a player improve in each sport by playing the other?

It’s a question that Ed Sarausad, a USTA league player turned pickleball enthusiast from Washington, has asked himself recently.

“I never tried a drop shot from behind the baseline and come to net in tennis before,” Sarausad says. “But pickle opens new dimensions.”

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Many pickleball players like Kyle Yates and Ben Johns (right) got into the sport through tennis; the opposite is increasingly true for many new tennis players.

Many pickleball players like Kyle Yates and Ben Johns (right) got into the sport through tennis; the opposite is increasingly true for many new tennis players.

Last year, Sarausad thought about getting involved in pickleball league play, but discovered the concept hasn’t caught on.

“Leagues were a way to make tennis more social,” he says, “but pickleball already has an inherent sociability. There’s a class of pickleball players who are competitive, but informality is part of its appeal.”

That sentiment is echoed by Karen Ikeda, a tennis-and-pickleballer in New York.

“There’s more laughing in pickleball,” Ikeda says. “You’re closer together on the court, and there’s a little less at stake.”

With growth comes change, and pickleball is undergoing both. According to Sarausad, one big obstacle it still faces is the misconception that it’s only for seniors. Did you know that Anna Leigh Waters was a national champion at 14?

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A lot of skiers worried snowboarding would take over, but they’re both going strong. Ed Sarausad, USTA league player turned pickleball enthusiast

Pickleball is also seen as the enemy by tennis players who have watched as their courts have been chopped into smaller, pickle-friendly spaces. Sarausad believes the two can coexist peaceably.

“A lot of skiers worried snowboarding would take over,” he says, “but they’re both going strong.”

Maybe pickleball can even remind tennis players what we love about our sport. For Nikola Aracic, a Florida teaching pro, that includes the changing sound of the ball on the strings; the game’s flowing, powerful groundstrokes; its traditional clothes; and the satisfying fact that it isn’t easy.

“You have to work really hard,” Aracic says, proudly, of tennis. “You have to put in the same amount of work that better players have in order to reach their level.”

There’s something to be said for a game that’s easy to pick up, and for one that’s hard. Give both a chance, and you might have the best of both worlds.