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Best Pickleball Paddles for Competitive Players

Best Pickleball Paddles for Competitive Players

Best Pickleball Paddles for Competitive Players

Are you ready to take your pickleball talents to the big leagues? If so, your first move should be seeking out a new paddle for competitive players.

But what dictates whether or not you’ve reached the competitive level of pickleball players? Take a peek at this pickleball skill level rating chart below. It’s judged on a scale of 1 – 5.5+, made based on mastery of control, consistency, and flexibility, with many other details falling into each of those sections. Competitive players will be in the 4.5-5.5+ range.


Pickleball Rating System


A rating of 1.0 - 2.0 is given if you are just starting to play pickleball & just starting to understand the
rules of the sport. A 1.0 is given to someone with no other sports background when joining pickleball.


A rating of 2.5 is given if you have limited experience playing pickleball. You can keep a short rally on
the pickleball court and you have a basic understanding of the rules (in particular, if you can keep the
score properly).


A rating of 3.0 is given if you (A) can generally hit forehands, volleys, serves and returns with medium pace,
with minimal ability to sustain a dink rally. Generally you lack consistency and control; and (B) you
understand the basic strategy and rules of pickleball, including that you can keep the score properly.


A rating of 3.5 is given if (A) you can hit forehands, volleys, serves and returns with pace and moderate
control. Your dinks and drop shots have limited control, and you're developing backhand shots but avoiding
if possible. You have moderate consistency and control, and have started varying your shots between the
hard and soft game. (B) You understand the overall strategy and rules of pickleball, including stacking, to
sustain rallies. You have begun entering pickleball tournaments.


A rating of 4.0 is given if (A) you generally hit forehands and serves consistently with depth and control. You
hit backhand shots with moderate success. Your dinks and drop shots have more consistency with depth
and height. Overall, you have consistency and control in your shots. (B) You firmly understand the strategy
and rules of pickleball. You have a broad knowledge of rules, have become aware of your partner's
positioning, have a moderate number of unforced errors and you understand how to attack your opponents"
weaknesses on the court.


A rating of 4.5 is given if (A) you generally hit both forehand and backhand drives, serves, returns, dinks, drop shots,
and block volleys with pace, spin, depth, direction, consistency and control. You are able to vary your shot
selections with controlled offensive intent. (B) You firmly understand the strategy and rules of pickleball (including
stacking). You have a limited number of unforced errors and you change your game play to attack your opponents'
weaknesses on the pickleball court - including controlled footwork to quickly change directions and shot types. Your
communication with your parter is strong and you aren't afraid to play at the non-volley zone.


A rating of 5.0 is given if (A) you have mastered both forehand and backhand drives, serves, and returns with pace,
touch and spin. Plus you mastered dinks and drop shots to move opponents. You can control and block volleys of
different speeds, all with consistency to take advantage of the non-volley zone. (B) You have mastered the strategy
and rules of pickleball (including stacking) in tournament style play. Your footwork is highly effective, helping you
turn defensive shots into offensive shots. You rarely make unforced errors and you constantly attack your
opponents' weaknesses on the pickleball court by adjusting your own style and game plan mid-game.


A rating of 5.5+ is given if (A) you have mastered all shots and strategy on the court in
tournament style play. (B) You are consistently winning at the highest level, meaning that
you are winning against the best professional pickleball players at the tournament level.
Your skills and abilities speak for themselves.


Ensuring you can keep up with the other heavy hitters and high-performance players will largely come down to your choice of paddle. The size, weight, shape and material will each have an impact on perfecting your skills at the competitive level. Now, let’s find the right paddle for you.

Pickleball Paddle For Competitive Players

What Aspects Should I Look for in a Competitive Pickleball Paddle?


Elongated paddles are best suited for competitive players. Here are important details to know regarding elongated paddles.

  • They measure in length at 16 ½” or longer (even into the 20”+ range)
    • This length adds extra reach and power to your shots
  • This size paddle generally has a width of about 6 – 7 ½”
  • Your sweet spot will be a bit smaller and higher up than on a standard or short paddle, but at this level you can sacrifice that for the added reach all around


Paddle thickness comes down to how you play your best, which at this point entering the competitive level, you know better than anybody.

  • Do you play best focusing on controlling the accuracy of your shots? Go with a standard thickness of 16mm
    • This paddle will have a weight in the upper 7 to mid 8 oz. range
  • Do you play best putting more power behind your shots? Go with something lighter, closer to 13mm in thickness
    • This paddle will have a weight in the low to mid 7 oz. range


Similar to paddle thickness, this also can come down to your preferences as a competitive pickleball player. Here are the top two recommended paddle shapes and important details to know regarding each.

  • Blade Shape
    • Longer and thinner body, even more so than a regular elongated paddle
      • The length of these can be above 20”
    • Adds even more extra length for reaching hard shots
    • Smaller and compact sweet spot, makes better feeling shots more difficult
      • If you’re confident in your skills, this may be an aspect you’re willing to sacrifice to get that extra reach
    • Teardrop Shape
      • Rounder shape (not as dramatic as a true “teardrop” shape, but it has a slightly wider end at the top and gets narrower towards handle)
      • It balances weight to extend sweet spot further up the top
      • Good for any level. If you play at your highest level with a larger sweet spot on your paddle, this will work well for you 


As a competitive pickleball player, you have the skills to do more with your shots. This includes adding more power to your shots, as well as breaking the opponents’ ankles with added spin on the ball. What do you prefer?

  • Want more power? Use an aluminum or fiberglass paddle
  • Want more control or spin? Use a carbon fiber or graphite paddle
  • Want to maintain a bit of both? Hybrid paddles are best for that
    • Hybrid paddles are most often constructed with a combination of carbon fiber, fiberglass and graphite.


Here are important details to know regarding best handle length & grip for competitive players.

  • Long Handle
    • Better for controlling shots but are harder to maneuver overall
    • If you want to start using two hands more in your shots for added power, a longer handle will benefit this play style
    • Long handles are about 5-5 ½” long
  • Standard Handle
    • Better for adding power to your shots and is easier to manage or maneuver throughout a game
    • Standard handles are about 5” long
  • Grip Size
    • Grip size is measured as the circumference of the grip
    • Your choice here mostly comes down to hand size, not so much skill level
    • Smaller hands will benefit from smaller circumference grips. This saves you from burning energy in your hand or forearm while holding onto a larger grip.
    • Larger hands will benefit from larger circumference grips for the same reason.
      • The goal is to use whatever grip will permit the most comfort for your hand size – not too tight or too loose.
      • Thin grip size is 4-4 1/8”, standard grip size is 4 ¼”, and thick grip size is 4 ½ - 4 ¾”

Our Top Competitive Paddles for You

Now that you understand what makes the perfect competitive pickleball paddle, we know that you're ready to start shopping. Don't worry, here at Pickle Ballers Hub we have built out a selection of the best pickleball paddles for competitive players, making your shopping experience as easy as can be. If you would like to shop all of our pickleball paddles for competitive playersclick here!