What is Paddle / Paddle tennis / Platform tennis? And what are the differences?

What is Paddle / Paddle tennis / Platform tennis? And what are the differences?

by Alan January 28, 2018

Are you a keen tennis player but looking to mix up your routine with a new racket sport? If you aren’t already familiar with the juggernauts of ‘paddle’, ‘paddle tennis’ and ‘platform tennis’, it’s well worth checking them out.

So what is Paddle / Paddle tennis / Platform tennis?

Paddle, paddle tennis and platform tennis are three similar but different sports. To make things even more confusing, platform tennis is often called "paddle tennis" by its players and sometimes only "paddle". Needless to say, it can be hard to know exactly which sport a person is talking about.

One commonality? All three games have their roots in tennis. Paddle (sometimes seen in its Spanish spelling "padel") is the most popular and widely available internationally.  

While the three games are very similar, there are some key differences which are summarised below:

Paddle (or Padel)

Paddle tennis

Platform tennis

Where it started

1969, Mexico

1915, New York

1928, New York

Where it’s played

Worldwide - especially popular in Latin America and Spain

Mostly New York, Southern California and Florida

Mostly New York,
New Jersey and Connecticut

Indoor / outdoor?

Indoor & outdoor

Indoor & outdoor

Outdoor (heated underneath)

Size of court vs tennis

Half size of tennis court

A third of tennis court

A third of tennis court

Serve

Underhand

Underhand

Overhead

# of courts worldwide

10,000 +

Hundreds

Hundreds

# of players

10 million +

25,000 +

10,000 +

Paddles

Thicker paddle

Thinner paddle

Thinner paddle

Balls

Low pressure tennis ball

Soft spongy ball

Soft spongy ball

 

Paddle Court 

Epirus guide to padel, platform and paddle tennis: paddle court

Paddle Tennis Court

Epirus guide to padel, platform and paddle tennis: paddle tennis court

Platform Tennis Court 

Epirus guide to padel, platform and paddle tennis: platform tennis court

What’s the appeal of these sports?

The smaller dimensions of the courts cater to longer points and arguably require a bit more creativity and perseverance to hit winning shots. Among accomplished players, exchanges of three minutes or more are practically the norm, which adds up to a lot of sustained movement, exertion and team collaboration.

The nature of these games are slightly less technical than tennis, but still require the hand-eye and racket/ball coordination that tennis players have honed. Thus, there are many transferable elements from the game of tennis to platform tennis allowing seasoned tennis players to start in the middle of the learning curve. Finally, doubles specialists out there will be particularly enthused as doubles is the predominant version of all these games.

We will do a deep dive into Paddle and Paddle Tennis in future posts, but for now we will focus in on the features and characteristics of Platform Tennis.  

The platform tennis court

Epirus guide to paddle, paddle tennis and platform tennis: platform tennis court

The Platform Tennis court is about one-third the size of a traditional tennis court and is surrounded by a chicken wire fence 12 feet (3.7m) high. The taut fencing allows balls to be played off the wall and remain in play similar to racquetball and squash. Originally developed on land unsuitable or too small for traditional tennis courts, the space under the platform allows for the installation of heating equipment that faciliates year-round play. As a result, platform tennis is especially popular in winter when tennis courts may be out of action.  

The deck is 60 feet (18m) long by 30 feet (9.1m) in width. The court measures 44 feet (13m) in length by 22 feet (6.7m) in width and is divided by a net that is kept taut at a height of 34 inches (860mm) at its center and 37 inches (940 mm) at either end. The area between the baseline and the service line is called the backcourt. The area between the service line and the net is called the forecourt, which in turn is divided into two service courts, deuce and ad. The area between the sideline and the alley line is called the alley (or ‘tram lines’ depending on where in the world you reside). There is a space of 8 feet between each baseline and the back screen, and a space of 5 feet between each side line and the side screen. These spaces are part of the playing area, but they are not part of the court.

The scoring is the same as tennis with the usual format being best two of three sets. However, the ways in which points are decided differ markedly. When the ball is in play, a team loses a point if:

  • They are the receiving team and the ball bounces twice.
  • A player returns the ball and it lands outside of the baseline or sidelines or hits the net or any other object.
  • A player hits the ball before it has completely passed over the net to their side.
  • A player catches or handles the ball deliberately.
  • The ball when in play touches any part of a player.
  • A player hits the ball out of play, hits an object outside the court and then rebounds back into the court.
  • Any player touches the net whilst the ball is in play
  • A player throws their paddle at the ball and hits it.

Want to delve deeper into the rules and etiquette of the game? The American Platform Tennis Association is a useful resource.


The gear





A spongy ball measuring 2.5 inches (64 mm) in diameter and heavier than a regular tennis ball is used for platform tennis. Players have an option to serve under or overhand to start points. The ball is struck with a paddle that measures up to 18 inches (460 mm) and which may have up to 87 holes measuring no more than 38 inch (9.5 mm) in diameter to improve its aerodynamics. The stringless racket has flocking material on its exterior that keeps the ball from skidding.

Epirus guide to platform tennis

With smaller rackets and similar carrying/storage needs to tennis, all of the bags in the Epirus collection work perfectly for the sport. The backpack fully encloses two paddles, the 24 hour bag fits three and the Weekend bags fit five or more if needed.

Epirus designer platform tennis bag collection

 

Getting involved

There is no world association for Platform Tennis but there are national organisations across the globe such as the American Platform Tennis Association. The APTA tournament calendar, which includes juniors, men’s and women’s as well as college events is available here. If this article has piqued your interest, check out the list of public courts available worldwide.




Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

Author



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