Over the past few years, the sport of pickleball has seen an explosion in popularity at the recreational level. More and more, local tennis courts around the world have begun converting traditional tennis courts into spaces that can accommodate pickleball. On paper, it is hard to spot a major problem with this overhaul of tennis spaces. However, upon closer inspection, it is blatantly obvious where the problem lies. The main concern is the fact that line after line of scribbled markings have now appeared, superimposed, over a plethora of local tennis courts. The effect?-courts that now suffer from a lack of visibility. While this may not seem particularly worrisome, what is, however, is the encroachment the sport of pickleball is having on tennis as a whole. Is there a need to invade tennis spaces by drawing lines on already-established courts? If pickleball really wanted to grow- the best idea would be to create separate courts for pickleball (the way that futsal does not draw lines over already established soccer fields).
Take for instance Tennis Channel’s coverage of tennis this season. At times, live tennis matches were abandoned in favour of airing celebrity pickleball matches. To boot- a bevy of tennis players have now begun openly competing in and endorsing the sport. Earlier this year, former tennis players Sam Querrey and Noah Rubin switched their allegiance to pickleball. As well, in early October, the likes of golf’s Jordan Spieth and the NBA’s Dirk Nowitski took part in a pickleball exhibition match- live on Tennis Channel. Most surprising in all of this was Tennis Channel’s decision to air an exhibition pickleball match over live coverage of matches. That week, matches were taking place in Gijon, Florence, San Diego and Cluj-Napoca. All four tournaments took place that week- yet the tennis television station decided to cover an entirely different sport. It is short-sighted decisions like this which are inadvertently shooting tennis as a sport in the foot.
Unfortunately- the worst thing about this entire debacle is that this directive seems to be coming from tennis itself. If so- are the powers that be looking to have pickleball as some kind of extension of tennis? There should be no other reason to cross- promote a sport on your flagship platform. Strangely enough- it doesn’t seem to end there. Last week, a handful of current and ex tennis players began investing and endorsing the sport of pickleball. While there is nothing wrong with investing money into different ventures (including other sports)- investing in a direct competitor can be cause for backlash. However- what is more intriguing is whether pickleball believes they can make convert fans to watch pickleball over tennis. Despite this- the sport already has the backing of a number of high profile ex-players, as well as celebrities such as Kevin Durant, Eva Longoria, Tom Brady, Heidi Klum, Patrick Mahomes and LeBron James.
So, all in all, is tennis safe with the increasing movement of pickleball into its territories?