It’s a cage match
Platform tennis, or paddle tennis as it’s often called, is kind of like the lovechild of tennis and squash. The game is played with tennis’ court layout, tennis’ scoring system, and squash’s claustrophobic charm. A platform tennis court is noticeably smaller than a tennis court and is wrapped in a tall chicken wire fence. Some say it’s to keep the animals out; others, to keep the crazies in.
Whatever the case, the fence adds a new dimension to traditional tennis, as balls are still in play after bouncing off the cage- provided they have touched inbounds on the court before hand. Once off the cage, the ball must be returned over the net without touching the same side again or the defending player loses the point.
The game is played in pairs, so be ready to meet some new people.
What to expect when you’re expecting a serve
Service is also a little different from tennis, as the double fault has yet to be recognized by the American Platform Tennis Association. Instead, serves must hit on the first attempt. If the serve passes by the returner and bounces off the fence, the ball is still live provided it hasn’t touched the court again, so be sure to attack.
The point is then played tennis-style.
That was a nice _______!
The act of putting the ball in play. You must serve from behind the baseline into the diagonally opposite court, exactly like in tennis. Unlike tennis, a good hard serve will bounce off the fence and back to your opponents. There’s a strategy there, but like the great province of Ontario, it’s yours to discover.
Arcing the ball over the defenders’ heads and into the backcourt. Get good at this, and there’s no one you can’t beat- until you play someone good.
Playing the ball before it touches down in your court. It’s a useful skill when defending the net, and also a useless skill that will undoubtedly cost you a million points during your paddle career.
Like a tennis forehand, but instead of being a great shot, it usually just sets up your opponent for an attack of their own. The fence hates power.
See above, but fancier in that it’s backhanded.
Don’t do it. 95% of overhead smashes are easily returned. 85% of overhead smashes are easily returned into your face.a
The forehand drive without the drive part. This shot is a killer because it’s easy to place and can make your opponents run around the court. Use liberally.
Like the forehand, but still fancier.
A great way to get some funny bounces off the fence. Just arch it so the ball is descending when it hits the fence and watch people’s hand-eye coordination momentarily abandon them.
The best shot in the game. Apply any of the above shots while aimed at either corner of your opponents’ court, and if the ball hits just right, it should shoot randomly off the fence for a near impossible return. I once played against a guy who hit eight corners during one set. I don’t play with him anymore.
Where you should be at all times
After serving from behind the baseline, the server traditionally comes to the net and sets up for a volley.
Your partner is serving
Set up at the net for a volley, as you would in tennis.
You’re receiving a serve
Stand behind the baseline in your readiest position.
Your partner is receiving a serve
Stand behind the baseline and enjoy your momentary invisibility.
Quick positioning hints
Don’t get caught in the blue
Following through on your shot will bring you closer to the net. It’s just science. Having your feet in the playable area of the backcourt will only make returning shots more difficult, so try to avoid it.
Close the gaps
Think of the court in thirds. If you and your partner cover the third directly across from where the ball is being played and the middle third, you’ll be like American border security- people will have a tough time getting anything passed you.
Take the low road
If you opponents are driving the ball above your chest, the shot will often end up out of play. Dodge, duck, dip, don’t ever dive, and dodge, and you’ll win an easy point.
Don’t miss the easy ones
Communicate with your partner and take ownership of shots, especially when the ball is placed between the two of you. When in doubt, defer to the forehand shot. Losing the point would be more their fault anyway.
Roll like the tide
If the ball is in your opponents’ backcourt, you and your partner should be at the net. If the ball is in your backcourt, you should be in your backcourt. If the ball is somewhere in between, be either at the net or in your backcourt. Remember: Don’t get caught in the blue.
An important safety note
Part of what makes platform tennis great is the danger involved. Sure, being in a cage is cool, but what if that cage had small, jagged shards glued to the floor? Well, you’re in luck because the court is absolutely covered in small, jagged shards. This keeps the ball from skidding around the court, and should also keep you from ever thinking of diving for a ball. Ever.
What to wear
As an outdoor winter sport, paddle players have to be dressed to withstand the weather. That being said, it’s usually wise to dress one or two notches lighter than you normally would because all of the running you’ll do will warm you up. Ideally, you’re dressing in the light jacket/ sweatshirt range.
The court will chew up tennis shoes, so if you’re just starting out, bring a pair you hate. If you like the game, there are reinforced shoes you can buy that will last longer.
The paddle racquet is nothing like it’s tennis brethren. There are demo racquets available for your first few times, but they are older than some of our members. It’s worth investing in one of your own.
Am I too old for this crap?
Age is just a number. Our members range from juniors to an 80-year-old guy who still kicks ass. It’s a game of finesse, and you can do it. We believe in you.
You’ll need these: Click here.
APTA Official Site
Your source for straight-laced, by the book platform tennis: Click here.