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Paddle tennis is a game adapted from tennis and played for over a century. Compared to tennis, the court is smaller and has no doubles lanes, and the net is lower. Paddle tennis is played with a solid paddle as opposed to a strung racquet, and a depressurized tennis ball is used along with an underhand serve. The same court is used for both singles and doubles, with doubles being the dominant form of play. The smaller court size adds a strong emphasis and advantage to net play and creates a fast and reaction-based game. The game is gaining reputation and has spread out in many countries in Europe, Dubai and even Egypt, where local leagues and tournaments are organized frequently.
Paddle Tennis traces its roots back almost 100 years to its development by an Episcopal minister, Frank Peer Beal, in lower Manhattan. Wanting to create recreational activities for neighborhood children, he got the city's parks and recreation department to lay courts in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village in 1915. The first tournament was held in 1922, and the United States Paddle Tennis Association (USPTA) was formed the following year. By 1941, paddle tennis was being played in almost 500 American cities.
Although Frank Peer Beal is known as the game's inventor, Murray Geller, a player in the 1940s and ‘50s, was instrumental in creating the modern game. Elected chairman of the USPTA rules committee, he wanted to make the game more appealing to adults and instituted features including an enlarged court and an underhanded serve.
Platform tennis is a similar sport, which was invented in 1928 in Scarsdale, New York, USA by James Cogswell and Fessenden Blanchard. The primary difference from paddle tennis is that the platform tennis court is 6 feet shorter, fenced by taut chicken wire off which the ball can be played. Platform tennis uses a solid sponge rubber ball and overhead serving is permitted. Platform tennis is popular in the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S., since the raised court (the platform) can be heated for winter play.
Padel (not to be confused with "Paddle tennis") is also similar. Padel is typically played in doubles on an enclosed court about half the size of a tennis court. It is popular in Spain and Hispanic America.
Paddle tennis courts are constructed of the same materials as tennis courts, or can also be placed on hard beach sand. The court measures 50 feet baseline-to-baseline and 20 feet across, with the service line 3 feet in from the baseline. This creates a service box of 10'x22'. The net is placed at 31 inches. On the west coast, a restraint line is drawn 12' back parallel to the net. When in use, all players must keep both feet behind the restraint line until after the player receiving the serve has struck the ball. All paddle rules are similar to tennis. Paddle tennis second serves also have to be bounced at least once in the other opponents side.
The ball and paddle
The ball used is a standard tennis ball with its internal pressure reduced so that when dropped from a height of 6 feet, it bounces to between 31 and 33 inches. This is usually achieved by puncturing the ball with a hypodermic needle. All paddle rules are similar to tennis rules.
The paddle is made of solid material such as wood or a composite of a rubberized or titanium core covered with graphite, and contains no strings. It is usually textured or perforated and may have a metal rim around the head. Its dimensions are limited to 18" in length and 9.5" in width.
- Players: 4. Played in a doubles format.
- Serves: Serve must be underhand. A second serve is allowed only in the event of a net ball that lands in bounds, as in tennis.
- Score: Scoring method is the same as in tennis. Matches are best of five sets.
- Ball: Tennis ball with reduced pressure.
- Paddle: Solid with no strings. May be perforated.
- Court: There are two styles of courts. East and West coast styles.
- Walls: Walls or fences play the same role as in tennis, once the ball comes in contact with either the point is over.