Pop Tennis: A Modern Adaptation of Tennis

The Evolution of Pop Tennis

Pop tennis, previously known as paddle tennis, has been played for over a century but gained increasing popularity since its adaptation in 2015. While similar to tennis, the game is played on a smaller court without doubles lanes and a lower net. The use of a solid paddle instead of a strung racquet, along with a depressurized tennis ball, adds a unique twist to the game.

The smaller court size in pop tennis puts a strong emphasis on net play, creating a fast-paced and reaction-based game. This unique element sets it apart from traditional tennis and appeals to players who enjoy a more dynamic and strategic style of play. The game has gained a reputation and spread to places like Dubai and Egypt, where local leagues and tournaments are frequently organized.

A Rich History

Pop tennis, also known as paddle tennis, was invented by Episcopal minister Frank Peter Beal in Albion, Michigan in 1898. Beal wanted to create recreational activities for neighborhood children and successfully convinced the city’s parks and recreation department to lay courts in Washington Square Park in New York City. In 1922, the first tournament was held, and the United States Paddle Tennis Association (USPTA) was formed the following year. By 1941, paddle tennis was being played in nearly 500 American cities.

Murray Geller, a player in the 1940s and ’50s, played a crucial role in developing the modern game of pop tennis. As the elected chairman of the USPTA rules committee, Geller aimed to make the game more appealing to adults. He introduced features such as an enlarged court and an underhanded serve, which helped shape the game into what it is today.

Champions and Similar Sports

Scott Freedman has established himself as a dominant force in pop tennis, winning the world’s men’s singles paddle tennis championships 19 times, the men’s doubles championships 16 times, and the mixed doubles championships 14 times. He has also written a book titled “Paddle Tennis and Tennis Anyone Can Play,” further solidifying his expertise in the sport.

Platform tennis, invented in 1928 in Scarsdale, New York, shares similarities with pop tennis. The primary difference lies in the court size and the use of taut chicken wire fencing around the platform tennis court. Padel, another similar sport, is typically played in doubles on an enclosed court about half the size of a tennis court and is popular in Spain and Hispanic America. Additionally, pickleball, invented in 1965, shares similarities in court size and paddle usage but utilizes a plastic “wiffle ball.”

The Rules of Pop Tennis

Pop tennis courts are constructed using 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 a service line 3 feet in from the baseline. The net is placed at a height of 31 inches. On the west coast, a restraint line is drawn 12 feet back parallel to the net, and players must keep both feet behind this line until the ball is struck by the receiving player.

Serves in pop tennis must be underhand, and a second serve is allowed only if the first serve results in a net ball that lands in bounds. Scoring follows the same method as in tennis, and matches are typically best of five sets. The paddle used in pop tennis is solid with no strings, and it may be perforated for added grip.


Pop tennis has emerged as a modern adaptation of traditional tennis, offering players a unique and fast-paced experience. With its shorter court, lower net, and emphasis on net play, it presents a refreshing and strategic alternative to the original sport. As it continues to gain popularity and spread to different parts of the world, pop tennis proves to be an exciting addition to the world of racket sports.

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