Pickleball vs Platform Tennis – What’s the Difference?

There are two sports that use paddles and shrink-down tennis courts. Doesn’t this sound like the same game? Perhaps the most important physical skill is the ability to drive a small ball with your eyes and hands coordinated. You’d think it would be the same, wouldn’t you? They are both highly social and accessible to people of all ages and are usually played as doubles games. So pickleball vs platform tennis: Is there any difference between them?

No, not so fast! Contrary to what the comparisons would suggest, these two very fun forms of exercise are quite different. As a sport, pickleball is generally faster and while tactical to some degree, has less of a tactical foundation than a platform. You can learn all about pickleball vs platform tennis and the differences that make these popular and fun games so different in the following article.

What is Platform Tennis?  The same as “Paddle Tennis”?

Pickleball vs Platform TennisThe same thing happened to me here.  I don’t think you’re an idiot, so don’t feel bad about it.  This is a very confusing situation.  It took me literally a phone call to contact the American Platform Tennis Association.  

What is the difference between platform tennis and paddle tennis?  Well, yes and no. What do you think?

In order to provide some context, let me explain.  The sport of platform tennis was originally called paddle tennis when it became a sport in 1928.  In contrast to traditional tennis and any other racquet sport, platform tennis started to be known as “Platform Tennis” once the courts were elevated on platforms.  

Many longtime fans still refer to it as paddle tennis or just “paddle” for short.  Therefore, platform tennis is also known as paddle tennis, paddle, or paddle depending on who you are speaking to.  As well as paddleball, I have heard called paddleball.  

Since platform tennis originally was called paddle tennis, there was actually another sport called paddle tennis back then, which is why there are so many other names or nicknames for it.  There’s nothing more confusing than two sports with the same name.  In a moment, I’ll talk about that.

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Platform Tennis Paddles vs. Pickleball Paddles

pickleball vs platform tennisAlthough their lengths are similar (platforms are 18 inches long and pickleball is 16-17 inches long), they do not share any other similarities. Paddles are certified as legal or illegal by governing bodies in both sports. In brief, some key differences are summarized in our Buying Guides for Pickleball and Platform Tennis:

  • Shape: Pickleball paddles cannot exceed 24 inches when measured from top to bottom; they are therefore flattened on top and bottom like ping pong paddles. The holes in the platform paddles reduce wind resistance by making them round or oval. It is allowed to drill 87 holes in total, each measuring 38 inches in diameter.
  • Material: Platforms are mainly composed of foam inside the head, which is of a high density. Using carbon fiber or fiberglass on the surface is also important in pickleball, as is the honeycomb interior.
  • Face: Platforms can have textured faces to increase spin, and there is no need to use green or yellow colors; pickleball cannot have textured faces, and any color is legal.

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Platform Tennis: Facts

Playing platform tennis has lots of fun facts, so here are some to know.

  • There is no difference between platform tennis and tennis in terms of scoring.  There are five rules for awarding points: love, 15, 30, 40, and deuce.  It is the serving team’s responsibility to win two points when tied at deuce, just like in tennis.  
  • Sets are won by six games, and matches are won by the first team to win two sets.  The game will be familiar to anyone who has played tennis before.
  • In platform tennis, players can play singles or doubles.
  • There are 44 feet of length and 22 feet of width on this court, which is approximately 1/3 the size of a traditional tennis court.
  • Like in racquetball, the court is surrounded by a chicken wire fence that extends 12 feet high and serves as a wall from which to bounce the ball.  Isn’t that awesome?
  • There is no no-volley zone on the net, which stands 34 inches high.  
  • Players still serve overhand as they do in tennis, despite the fact that the court is miniature.  It is very unusual for a game of this size to take place on such a small court.  
  • Even in cold weather states where the courts are heated with propane heaters, platform tennis is played all year round.

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Platform Tennis: Why I Love It

Pickleball vs Platform TennisThe first thing I would tell someone is what platform tennis is if they asked me “what is platform tennis?”. The answer would be like this – if tennis and racquetball fell in love and had a child, or in this case, a miniature version of both sports, then Platform Tennis would be born.

My favorite thing about this game is that you are able to serve overhand as you do in tennis.  The fact that the court resembles a real tennis court in both appearance and feel is exactly what I love about it.  My favorite part of this sport is that it can be played outside all year round, regardless of the weather.  The colder weather is still enjoyable for people living in snow-covered states, such as Michigan.  We consider it a part of our identity.  I think it’s great to have a sport that allows us to be active outside, enjoy a game that’s similar to tennis, and get outside to play!  Winters can be brutal sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get outside and play despite the weather.  Thus, we can enjoy old man winter in some way!

My favorite aspect of the game is the pace.  That means the points are long, the rallies are long, and it will appeal to people of all ages and skill levels.  A lot of lobs are used and there is some play off the fence, so it’s a little slower-paced than most games.  Each point is extended by the fence alone, making it more fun!  

Younger players can still enjoy this game even if they are older retired players.  In addition, youngsters who are more athletic won’t dominate older players due to the way the game is played.  Using the wire fence to their advantage, savvy older players are capable of outperforming any group of players.  You can’t help but admire it.

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Paddle Tennis vs Platform Tennis

Paddle Tennis vs Platform TennisBecause platform tennis uses a solid paddle instead of a strung racquet, it was initially called paddle tennis. Since the court had to be raised off the ground in order to install snow-melting technology, the game was quickly dubbed “Platform Tennis.”

A platform tennis enthusiast might refer to the game as paddle tennis if you ask them.  The meaning is the same to them.   A separate sport called Paddle Tennis is being rebranded as Pop Tennis, which is different from platform tennis.

There is actually a lot more history behind paddle tennis, which is now referred to as Pop Tennis.  Exactly one hundred and eighty-eight years ago, it was founded!  Pop Tennis may be the only tennis-inspired sport older than the sport itself.  Pop Tennis was the precursor to Pickleball and even Platform Tennis.  In terms of its heritage, the game has a long one…

The USA Tennis Association only accepted Pop Tennis in 2016 despite its long history!  A rebranding and renaming of the game didn’t occur until 2015.  For nearly four decades, there was confusion about what the game actually was as its popularity grew.

We had two different kinds of paddle tennis until the late 1990s, which caused much geographic confusion.  West Coasters called paddle tennis pop tennis when they lived in Southern California.  You might know Paddle Tennis as Platform Tennis if you lived on the East Coast in a cold weather state.  

In desperate need of a distinct identity, these two sports now have one!  Paddle Tennis and Pop Tennis began as paddle sports, but now they are called Platform Tennis and Pop Tennis, respectively!  You’ve got it all figured out, right?!

There are several differences between Platform Tennis and Pop Tennis:

  • It is the pace of the game that distinguishes Platform Tennis from Pop Tennis.  Keeping the ball in play is the goal of Platform Tennis due to the ball being able to be played off the wire fence. Lobbing is a frequent shot used in Platform Tennis.  A passing shot and a volley at the net put points away much quicker than in Pop Tennis, which is more frantic.   
  • In Pop Tennis, there are three sizes of court, which are larger than the one used for Platform Tennis.  The more common version of Pop Tennis, Pop 60, is played on a 60×27 ft court, while Pop 50 is played on a 50×20 ft court.  A 36×18-foot court is used for the newly adopted Pop 36 version.
  • Compared to a pop tennis court, a platform tennis court has slightly different lines.  The court gets wider with an additional out-of-bounds line left and right in Platform Tennis since the line for doubles play is extended horizontally.  A Pop Tennis court is just a little bit longer during doubles play since the doubles line extends vertically at the baseline.
  • Pop Tennis and Platform Tennis both allow one serve to be delivered underhand below the waist (like Pickleball). Platform Tennis allows overhand serves while Pop Tennis permits underhand serves.
  • Known as the “Green Dot Ball” or Pop Tennis balls, the Green Dot Ball has 25% less air than standard tennis balls.   In contrast to traditional tennis balls, platform tennis balls have a spongey, rubber-like texture.  
  • In spite of the fact that each Platform Tennis and Pop Tennis racquet has holes, the materials used for the paddles are completely different.  Carbon fiber is the most prevalent material used in pop tennis paddles (very lightweight), while composite materials are used in platform tennis paddles (better for grabbing the surface).  The surface grip cannot be added to Pop Tennis paddles.
  •  The net in platform tennis stands 34 inches high, while the net in pop tennis stands 36 inches high.
  • Platform Tennis shoes and Pop Tennis shoes have some subtle differences.  As a result of the rough surface of the platforms on which Platform Tennis is played, specific footwear requirements apply. Platform Tennis shoes are made by manufacturers, while Pop Tennis shoes have a non-marking or scuff-resistant rubber sole.

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Platform Tennis vs Pickleball – The Main Differences

pickleball vs platform tennisThere are many people who are unfamiliar with platform tennis and pickleball who often ask, “What is the difference between the two?” As far as the paddles and balls are concerned, they are entirely different sports.  Although most racquet sports share the same stroke form and shot technique, they are all different, but fun nonetheless.  

Check out the complete history of Pickleball here!

Platform Tennis and Pickleball differ in the following ways.

  • The ball is played off of fencing in a “cage” during platform tennis.  There are no walls or fences in pickleball.
  • There are vast differences between the scoring systems used in each sport.  Similarly to regular tennis, platform tennis is also scored in the same way.  No other paddle sport has a scoring system or a rotation of the serve like pickleball.  You can find more information about Platform Tennis Scoring here.  To find out how to score in Pickleball, click here
  • Platform tennis only gives the player one overhand serve (in doubles) and does not allow the player to let the ball bounce.  An underhand serve is your only chance at making a good shot in pickleball.   You can improve your pickleball serve by clicking here.
  • There is a 4-foot difference in length between a platform tennis court and a pickleball court, but they are both the same width.
  • Players can come right up to the net in platform tennis since the net is two feet higher.  The no-volley zone is a shorter net in pickleball that prohibits players from coming right up to the net. 
  • Pickleball is played with a plastic wiffle ball with holes drilled into it, while platform tennis uses a spongy rubber ball.  There is a difference in how each ball performs away from its home surface.  
  • Tennis platforms are generally round and not longer than 18 inches and are made from composite material.
  • Platform tennis paddles are made from graphite or composite materials and are generally similar in shape to pickleball paddles.  There are various shapes and sizes available, as well as 17-inch maximum lengths.  
  • Bottle openers are built into platform tennis paddle handles.  Paddles for pickleball don’t…but they should!
  • Under the court, propane-powered blowers melt ice and snow, allowing platform tennis to be played year-round outside.  
  • Pickleball is only played outside in warm weather states since it does not have a heating system.  Playing pickleball indoors is similar to playing platform tennis, but it can be done on basketball courts or volleyball courts.
  • The shoes used in platform tennis are specifically designed to withstand the rough/abrasive surface of the “platforms” it is played on, whereas pickleball shoes can be used under any circumstances, indoors or outdoors.  Check out my list of the best pickleball shoes for women of all time.

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Final Thoughts

Platform Tennis is one of my favorite sports, despite having many sibling sports similar to it.  The main reason is that, despite the tiny court, it still plays like a traditional tennis court.  Although you use a different paddle, it feels like tennis from the overhand serve to the lob shot and forehand power smash.  You’ve found a sport that even incorporates one of the best aspects of racquetball by allowing the ball to bounce off the cage!

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