Passion for tennis and pickleball

Left to Right, front row: Linda Linegar, Jackie Kline and Mary Hlushko; back row: Larry Gray, Peter Bidwell and Greg Hlushko

Left to Right, front row: Linda Linegar, Jackie Kline and Mary Hlushko; back row: Larry Gray, Peter Bidwell and Greg Hlushko

Nancy Teeter

Is one sport better? I interviewed seven SaddleBrooke residents passionate about both pickleball and tennis to find out. Peter Bidwell, Larry Gray, Greg Hlushko, Mary Hlushko, Kathy Jensen, Jackie Kline and Linda Linegar have long tennis playing histories. Most have played tennis for 40 plus years and, except for Larry Gray, play both sports regularly. None had played pickleball before 2007.

Clearly these folks love tennis, so I asked why they also regularly play pickleball. The responses from all seven were very similar to Jackie Kline’s: “I love playing both because they each offer something different. Pickleball is short, compact movements and (in) tennis you run full out, so I get a different kind of workout from each.” Greg Hlushko stated, “The two sports are similar as you have to watch the ball closely and hit it on the move. Pickleball is fun because it is easier to learn and play than tennis, but it does require more subtle tactics, control and strategy.”

The two games differ in serve, no volley zone and court size. The serve is a reason why Larry Gray now exclusively plays pickleball. “The tennis serve is an overhead delivery of the ball where velocity and placement of the ball are desired, and it’s a weapon to earn an easy point.” Peter Bidwell added, “The underhand serve in pickleball is defensive, giving the receivers the opportunity to take the net.” The no volley zone (“the kitchen”) makes pickleball unique. Mary Hlushko told me, “In tennis you can be right at the net; having to stay out of the kitchen makes pickleball different to learn.” Linda Linegar could not recommend one sport over the other but added, “It may be easier to play pickleball because the courts are smaller and not as much movement is required.” Believing both are great racket sports, Jackie Kline said she would introduce new residents to both. She finds more chatter and giggles during pickleball games. Both provide an opportunity to meet new people and develop friendships.

Both clubs welcome new players with programs to facilitate matching players to their level. Kathy Jensen recommended new players try Pickleball drop-in as a great way to meet new people, find others with similar abilities, practice, improve by playing with better players and arrange casual games. Both SaddleBrooke clubs’ websites provide full information about facilities and membership.

As for the future, everyone interviewed expressed excitement that new pickleball courts may soon be available. Peter Bidwell opined, “Tennis will certainly be around. You have pro tennis, youth academies, high school, college teams and USTA. My guess is that pickleball will continue to grow, particularly for our demographic.” Mary Hlushko is grateful for the nearly endless opportunities in SaddleBrooke. “At this age, being able to be active and enjoy the strong friendships through both sports is quite a gift. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in retirement communities, but it is wonderful that we have access to both tennis and pickleball.”