In case you have been living under a cave, pickleball is the latest craze to hit US gyms, parks, and courts. It has been growing in popularity in recent years, and last year's Inaugural Pickleball Slam with Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, John McEnroe, and Andy Roddick capitalized on the frenzy with a live event televised on ESPN. Agassi and Roddick prevailed.
It was a ratings hit for ESPN so ESPN is airing the second edition of the event on Sunday, February 4 at 8:30 PM EST featuring two co-ed teams consisting of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf and John McEnroe and Maria Sharapova.
Tennis players are perceived to have an advantage when it comes to playing pickleball. Agassi is quick to say some significant differences have to be learned, but are tennis players playing pickleball comparable to athletes and gymnasts competing on Dancing with the Stars?
Make no mistake, tennis players have a big advantage in pickleball
Tennis players have the upper hand (or paddle) in this sport. Consider recent examples of retired tennis players like Sam Querry and Jack Sock who make inroads into professional pickleball shortly after retiring from the ATP Tour. Sock retired from the ATP in 2023 and defeated the fourth-best pickleball player in the world last week.
Hand-eye coordination, shot placement, and mental acuity help tennis players pick up the sport quickly. We have an idea what McEnroe and Agassi's skills are from last year's event, but watching women play pickleball will be new and interesting. I would not be shocked if Steffi Graf, the most accomplished tennis player of the four, is the best player on the pickleball court. As for Maria Sharapova who had persistent shoulder issues during her tennis career, one major difference between tennis and pickleball that will benefit her is the underhand serve. Do not forget to tune in at 8:30 PM EST on Sunday, February 4 to watch them in action.