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Paddle tennis is an adaptation of lawn tennis, played on a smaller scale. Designed originally as a game for children, it has gamed great popularity among adults. The strokes in both games are almost identical, so the lawn tennis player may keep in practice through the winter with paddle tennis. Since paddle tennis is played on a smaller court than lawn tennis, it is considered by many to be the faster game. The paddle tennis court is 50 by 20 feet; the lawn tennis court 78 by 36 feet (27 feet for a singles match ).
Paddle tennis may be played on almost any flat surface, indoors or outdoors. For best results there should be a space of at least 13 feet behind the baselines of a paddle tennis court and at least 8 feet on each side. The net, 2 feet 7 inches high at the sidelines, should be taut.
The ser vice rules for juniors (players under 15 years of age) vary slightly from those for adults. A junior is allowed two overhand serves, as in lawn tennis, while adults are permitted only one serve, which must be underhand. The service court, which is 10 feet wide, is 12 feet long for juniors and 22 feet for adults.
The court was lengthened to 50 feet in regulations adopted by the United States P addle Tennis Association on Jan. 2, 1961, which specified a lob area. This is a 3-foot space at the end of either baseline. The rule states that "A bail, except a service, landing within the lob area shall be a good return if (1) hit in a high arc to a height of at least 10 feet from the ground; or (2) hit in a high arc over the head of an opposing player." The hall must fall inside the baseline on all other types of shots.
In singles the ball must hit the ground at least once on each side of the net before it can be volleyed. A sponge ball was used at first, but because it quickly lost its shape and bounce the rules were changed in 1959 to specify for use a "new, 'second' or used tennis ball... which has become soft or has been pricked with a pin."
The ball is struck with a wooden or plastic paddle from 15 to 17 inches long. The striking area is slightly smaller than that of a tennis racket and the paddle is short handled. With the exceptions noted, the rules for serving and scoring are the same as those for lawn tennis.
The game of paddle tennis was introduced in New York City in 1921 by Frank P. Beal, secretary of the Community Council of New York, who had invented it in Albion, Mich., in 1897, when he was 14 years old. It became popular with youngsters in the city's playgrounds and spread elsewhere.
The first national tournament in the United States was played in 1940.