If you are a lover of racquet sports, you probably know a thing or two about platform tennis. It’s a racquet sport developed from a mixture of both squash and lawn tennis. 

Often known as winter tennis, the game is enjoyed on an aluminum deck that’s enclosed by a 12-foot-high fence. The rules are similar to those of lawn tennis, but with a few alterations.

One of the main reasons for the sport’s popularity is its ability to be played during winter. Thanks to its enclosed structure and heated platform, it’s the perfect way to unwind and compete outside even on the coldest of days. 

While thousands of people enjoy swinging the platform tennis paddle on the warm court, only a few of them know the game’s history and origins. Here’s everything you need to know about the history of platform tennis.

Platform Tennis History

The Invention of Platform Tennis

Platform tennis originated from the enthusiasm of James Cogswell and Fessenden Blanchard for racquet sports. Bored by the inactivity of winter, they sought to develop a game that could be enjoyed outdoors despite the cold weather. The original idea was to play volleyball and badminton.

In 1928, Cogswell and Fessenden constructed a platform measuring 48 by 20 feet. They had originally planned a much larger platform. However, the dimensions of their structure were restricted by the presence of a large rock and steep slope on Cogwell’s property. 

After completing the structure, the duo realized that it was too small for volleyball. The overhanging foliage and awful terrain also hindered a good game of badminton. 

This left the two neighbors with no choice but to devise some form of tennis that could still be played on the deck, and the idea of platform tennis was born! 

The invention of paddle tennis in 1922 played a big role in the development of platform tennis as its gear was used to play the newly created game. 

Having invented the perfect game for winter – the two friends played outdoors more often. However, they realized that the net was too high and decided to lower it, hence, the low net height that differentiates lawn tennis from platform tennis.

During play, balls would go out of play often. This forced Cogswell and Fessenden to add an 8-foot fence to their original set up.

Platform Tennis Development

Unlike other racquet games that were invented, platform tennis took some time to develop into the game it is today. Here are some of the changes and improvements over the years. 

Increase of Court Dimensions

After a few years of playing platform tennis, Fessenden and Cogswell realized that the 44” by 20” dimensions used in badminton were better suited to their new sport, rather than the 39” by 18” measurements used in paddle tennis courts. 

Since this expansion left only 2 inches of space between the mesh and the playing area, the fence had to be put into play. As a result, players were allowed to continue playing even after the ball bounced off the fence. This gave rise to the ground rule, which made the game even more interesting.

Reduction of Mesh Size

In the early days of the platform tennis, balls sticking in the mesh and irregular bounces off the fence were major challenges. 

To counter this problem, the inventors of the game decided to reduce the size of the mesh by one inch in 1929. Unfortunately, irregular bounces were not eliminated by this change, and players had to cope with this problem until the backstop was developed in 1935.

Higher Fencing

Among the key developments in platform tennis history was the introduction of a higher fence structure in 1932. Since balls were still going over the initial 8 foot-high fencing, Cogswell and Fessenden decided to increase the height of their mesh fencing to 12 feet. This is the same height used in all platform tennis courts today.

APTA Revision of Court Size

Cogwell’s original court dimensions had stood the test of time until 1956, when APTA decided to alter them slightly. In an experiment held at Fox Meadow Tennis Club, the initial court length of 44 feet was increased to 48 feet by extending the court by two feet on both ends.

This experiment gave rise to further revisions on the court dimensions, and as a result, the 60 by 30 feet platform tennis court you know today was born. These final measurements made the playing area on a platform tennis court a quarter the size of a standard lawn tennis court.

Platform Tennis Today

Although platform tennis was initially invented as a leisure sport, it has blossomed into a genuine sport regulated by national bodies. As more organizations continue to invest in the sport, you can expect it to grow beyond America. 

So if you dream of going pro as a platform tennis player, this is the time to pick up the racquet.

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