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A More Tennis-Like Platform Tennis
Part I: Advantages of Alternative Equipment
More of this Feature
Part 2: Playing the New Game and its Variations
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Platform tennis is great fun, but my tennis friends and I have been working on improving two aspects of the game:

  1. The ball sends too much shock through the paddle to the arm.
  2. The paddle doesn't bite into the ball to produce spin as much as tennis strings bite into a tennis ball. This discourages the use of full, tennis-style strokes.
In 2002, we experimented with every kind of ball, paddle, and racquet we could find, but the best we managed was to use the platform paddles with a lighter, bouncier ball available from two manufacturers: MacGregor calls it a Mini-Macs, and Spalding calls it a High Bounce Ball. It solved the shock problem, but the bare-rubber ball was less responsive to spin than the fine-fuzzed platform ball.

In 2003, Dunlop introduced a new ball, designed for tennis instruction, called the SpeedBall. The SpeedBall, hit with racquetball racquets or 21-inch junior tennis racquets, turns platform tennis into a whole new game that encourages full strokes and puts minimal stress on the arm.

The SpeedBall is intended as a tennis teaching tool that can be used for any level of instruction, but it's especially valuable for beginners. Much larger and lighter than a tennis ball, it flies slowly through the air, giving the player plenty of time to prepare and execute a full swing. It's made of an exceptionally bouncy foam rubber that produces almost no impact shock.

platform tennis ball with SpeedBall and other options

Pictured:

            SpeedBall (1.5 oz.)

tennis (2.0 oz.)         Mini-Macs (1.8 oz.)

         platform tennis (2.7 oz.)
                        

On a platform tennis court, which is half as long and wide as a tennis court, the SpeedBall's slower speed gives you roughly the same amount of time to get to the ball and execute a stroke as you would have in tennis.

The rough, foam surface seems to have aerodynamic qualities similar to those of tennis fuzz. The SpeedBall dips if you hit topspin, floats if you hit backspin, and curves if you hit sidespin. Its backspin bounce behaves much like a tennis ball would, but it doesn't kick as much with topspin. The red and yellow coloring makes it easy to see how much spin the ball has, which is great for those who want to learn to hit heavier spins.

Because strings bite into a ball better than even the more textured platform paddles, we use racquetball or junior tennis racquets. Neither a light, short racquet nor the arm holding it would last long hitting a 2.7-ounce platform ball at its typical high speeds, but the 1.5-ounce SpeedBall is easy on both. We usually play around 2 hours of SpeedBall platform singles and feel less arm stress than after a quarter as much regular platform tennis.

Next page > Playing the New Game and its Variations

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