Official Rules of Platform Tennis

RULE 1. Dimensions and Terminology

The court is a rectangle 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, laid out on a deck with a playing area 60 feet by 30 feet which is enclosed by a screen 12 feet high. The screen is held taut by a superstructure around the perimeter of the deck. Screens are made of 1 inch hexagonal galvanized or plastic coated wire mesh.

The court is divided across the middle by a net, the ends of which are attached to posts. The posts are 37 inches high and 18 inches outside the court. The height of the net at the posts is 37 inches and at center is 34 inches. The net is held down taut and adjusted for height by a vertical center strap 2 inches wide.

The lines at the ends of the court, parallel to the net, are called baselines. The lines at the sides of the court, perpendicular to the net, are called sidelines. Two feet inside the sidelines and running parallel to them for the length of the court are the alley lines. Twelve feet from the net on either side and running parallel to it from alley line to alley line are the service lines. The segments of the alley lines between the service lines and the net are called the service sidelines. The area between the net and the service lines is divided in half by a line perpendicular to them. This line is called the center service line.

Each baseline is bisected by an imaginary extension of the center service line called the center mark. The center mark appears as a line 4 inches long extending into the court at right angles to and touching the baseline. The area between the baseline and the service line is called the backcourt. The area between the service line and the net is called the forecourt, which in turn is divided into two service courts, deuce and ad. The area between the side line and the alley line is called the alley. All lines are customarily 2 inches wide and all measurements are made to the outside of the lines from the net or the center of the center service line. This line is in both service courts and is itself centered on the imaginary center line of the court. All lines are within the court.

There is a space of 8 feet between each baseline and the back screen, and a space of 5 feet between each side line and the side screen. These spaces are part of the playing area, but they are not part of the court. On either side of the court, or on both sides, an access door is cut into the superstructure. The door is located near the center of the side screen.

Court surfaces as well as colors for court and playing area must be approved by the APTA Rules Committee.

RULE 2. Court Fixtures

Court fixtures are the posts, the net, the net hand crank, the net cord (or metal cable) that holds up the net, the band across the top of the net, the center strap, the screens, the snow boards, the superstructure, any diagonal corner support beam within the enclosure, the doors, the lighting poles and lights, and, when they are present, the umpire and umpire’s chair.

RULE 3. The Ball and the Paddle

The ball is a rubber ball with flocking, conforming to APTA specifications for diameter, weight, bounce and other standards as set forth in Appendix A. The paddle is 18 inches (maximum) in overall length. The paddle is perforated with up to 87 holes of 3/8 inch diameter (maximum). The surface of the paddle may be textured. APTA paddle standards are set forth in Appendix B. All paddle and balls used in an APTA sanctioned tournament must have been approved by the APTA Rules Committee.

RULE 4. Use of Paddle and Ball

A player may not carry a second paddle or a second ball during play, although it is permissible to use both hands on the paddle and to switch the paddle from hand to hand in the course of play. With regard to ball change, play should continue with the same ball as long as it is in good condition. In tournament matches (a) play should continue with the same ball throughout a set, and the ball should not be changed during the set unless: (i) the ball becomes clearly defective, such as a crack or split, or (ii) for any other reason all four players agree that the ball should be changed during the set (unless all four agree to the change to a new ball, play should continue with the same ball through the completion of the set – including tiebreaker); (b) at the end of a set, play can continue with the same ball (however, if any one player desires a new ball, a ball change is made).

Comment: In certain circumstances – for example, extremely cold conditions, or wet conditions causing rapid wear of the ball or the flocking – a change of ball more frequently than one set may be warranted. In this situation, to avoid any confusion or disputes during play, it is desirable that the officials (or, in the absence of officials, the players) decide on a specific ball change pattern prior to starting the match; for example, every 5 games, or every 9 games.

RULE 5. The Game

Platform Tennis is basically a doubles game, and the rules discussed in this booklet pertain to doubles play. Singles is sometimes played according to the rules set forth in Rule 27.

RULE 6. Choice of End of Court and Service

The choice of end of court and the right to serve first or to receive first is decided by toss, which is generally accomplished by spinning the paddle. The team that does not toss has the right to call the toss. The team winning the toss has the following options: (a) the right to serve first, in which case the other team has the right to choose from which end of the court to receive; (b) the right to receive first, in which case the other team has the right to choose from which end of the court to serve; (c) the right to choose the end, in which case the other team has the right to elect to serve first or to receive first; (d) the right to require the other team to make the first choice.

RULE 7. Server and Receiver

After the toss has been concluded, the teams take their places on opposite sides of the net. The member of the serving team who elects to serve first becomes the server. The member of the receiving team who elects to play the deuce court becomes the first receiver. The server must deliver service from a position behind the baseline and between the center mark and the sideline, diagonally crosscourt from the receiver (See Rule 11b). The receiver may stand wherever he/she pleases on his/her own side of the net, on or off the court. Likewise the server’s partner and the receiver’s partner may take any position they choose on their own sides of the net, on or off the court. The server alternates serving, first from behind the deuce court into the receiver’s deuce court, then from behind the ad court into the receiver’s ad court, and so on. Members of the receiving team alternate receiving service. (See Appendix C for the proper service rotation in a tiebreaker and for when teams change ends.)

The ball served must pass over the net and hit the deck within the proper service court before the receiver may return it. The receiver may not volley the service (i.e., strike the ball before it has bounced). If he/she does so, the receiver loses the point outright.

If the server serves from behind the wrong court and the mistake is not discovered before the service is completed (see Rule 8), the point stands as played, but thereafter the server must serve from the correct side of the court according to the score. If such service from the incorrect position is a fault, it is a completed point – loss of point to the server. If the incorrect position of the server is detected prior to delivering the service, or after a good service is delivered, but no attempt is made by the receiver to return the ball, there is no penalty and the server should move to the correct position and deliver the service.

If either server delivers the first service of the tiebreaker from the wrong side of the courts and the mistake is not discovered before the service is completed, the point stands. If the service is a fault, it is loss of point to the serving team. If the incorrect position or incorrect server is detected prior to delivering the first service or if a good service is delivered and there is no attempt by the receiver to return the ball, there is no penalty and the correct server should re-serve from the correct side of the court. If the incorrect server serves the first point and the point is completed, the point stands as played but that team’s service rotation stands as altered (i.e. the server’s partner serves next in the tiebreaker rotation). Thereafter in the tiebreaker if a service is made from the wrong side of the court, or by the wrong server, and the error is not detected before the service is completed, the point stands. As soon as the error in side or server is detected, it must be remedied on the next point served by the team that made the error. If correcting the error would result in two consecutive services being made from the same side of the court, the next service must be made from the other side. If correcting the error results in a change of server to serve the next two services for his/her team, then the service should be changed for the duration of the tiebreaker. In any of these situations, as in the first serve of the tiebreaker, if a good service is delivered but no attempt is made by the receiver to return the ball, there is no penalty and the correct server should deliver the service from the correct side.

RULE 8. Delivery of the Service

The service is delivered as follows: the server takes an initial position behind the baseline and between an imaginary extension of the center mark and the sideline, as described in Rule 7. The server then projects the ball by hand into the air in any direction and before it hits the ground strikes the ball with the paddle. At the moment of impact the service delivery is completed.

Note: The service may be delivered overhand, underhand or sidearm as the server chooses. There is no obligation on server’s part to inform receiver as to the server’s intention, and the server may vary the type of delivery.

RULE 9. Only One Service

Only one service is allowed (except in singles – see Rule 27). If the service is a fault, the server loses the point.

RULE 10. Fault or Out

Fault: The service is a fault if (a) the server does not take a legal position as described in Rules 7 and 8; (b) the server commits a foot fault (see Rule 11); (c) the server misses the ball completely in attempting to strike it; (d) the ball does not land in the proper service court; (e) the ball served hits the server’s partner; (f) the ball touches a court fixture other than the net cord, post, net hand crank, band or center strap before landing in the proper service court.

Note: Any service that does touch the net cord, post, net hand crank, band, or center strap before landing in the proper service court is in play. This is unlike tennis, where a “let” service would be called.

On service, either member of the receiving team may make line calls. The service is a fault if (a) the ball lands outside the proper service court or (b) the server violates the foot fault rule. (see Rule 11). If an out call is made, play should stop. If there is a disagreement between the receiving partners as to whether the service is good or out, a let should be played, regardless of whether the service was returned in or out of play.

Out: A ball in play (other than a service) is out if it does not land within the court on the proper side of the net after either crossing the net or touching the post, net, net hand crank, net cord, band or center strap. Since all parts of the lines bounding the court are deemed to be within the court, a ball that touches any part of a line is good. In an unofficiated match, the usual procedure is for the receiving team to make line calls on its own side of the net (i.e., you call lines on your side; the opponents call lines on their side). However, players may assist their opponents with “out” calls in the opponents’ court, if requested. They should also call against themselves any ball that is clearly out on the opponents’ side of the court if not called by the opponents.

If during play, a player makes an out call on a ball that the player could otherwise return, play should stop. If the partner disagrees and believes the ball was in, a let should be played. If a ball is not clearly seen by either player as in or out, or an out call is made on a ball which neither player could retrieve and the caller’s partner believes the ball was in, the point should be awarded to the opponents. (See Addendum, “The Etiquette of Platform Tennis,” for further discussion.)

RULE 11. Footfault

The server shall, throughout delivery of the service, up to the moment of impact of paddle and ball (a) not change position by walking or running; (b) not touch, with either foot, any area other than that behind the baseline within the imaginary extension of the center mark and the sideline.

Note: The server shall not by the following movements of his/her feet be deemed to “change position by walking or running”: (a) slight movements of the feet that do not materially affect the location originally taken by the server; (b) an unrestricted movement of one foot, so long as the other foot maintains continuously its original contact with the deck; (c) leaving the deck with both feet.

In a match not being officiated, the server’s opponents may call foot faults. The first call of a foot fault on each server shall be a let. After this grace fault, it is loss of point. Under tournament conditions, if there is an umpire or linesmen, they assume the responsibility for calling all foot faults. At any time in any round of a tournament match, any player is entitled to request a foot fault judge and/or linesmen.

RULE 12. Receiving Team Must Be Ready

The server must not deliver the service until the receiving team is ready. If the receiver makes any attempt to return the ball, the receiver is deemed to be ready. Also, if the receiver attempts to return the ball, it is deemed that the receiver’s partner also is ready. If the receiver claims not to be ready as a service is being delivered, the service shall be played again, provided the receiver does not attempt to return the ball. In such case, the receiver may not claim a fault should the service land in the net or outside the service court.

RULE 13. A Let

In all cases where a let is called, the point is to be replayed. The service is a let if it is delivered when the receiving team is not ready (see Rule 12). A ball in play is a let if (a) it hits an overhanging obstruction such as a tree limb; (b) the ball becomes broken in the course of a point; (c) play is interrupted by an accidental occurrence, such as a ball from another court bouncing into the court; (d) the ball leaves the court through a hole in the screen, or gets stuck in the screen. If a player loses an item of clothing (i.e., hat, glasses, accessory), the opposing team has the option to call a let. This call must be made immediately, or the point will stand as concluded.

Note: In any situation during the play of a point when a let may be called, if the player who could call the let does not do so immediately and permits play to continue, that decision is binding on his team. It is not reasonable to opt not to call a let, strike the ball for loss of point, and then ask for a let to be called. In the event that one of the players incorrectly calls a “let” on a “net cord service” (see Rule 10) the following applies (a) if the let was called by the receiving team, it is loss of point for the receiving team and, (b) if the let is called by the serving team, it is loss of point for the serving team.

Comment: For further discussion of other situations in which a let may be called, see Rule 21.

RULE 14. Service Touching Receiving Team

If the service touches the receiver or the receiver’s partner or anything they are wearing or carrying before the ball has hit the deck, the server wins the point outright. This ruling applies whether the member of the receiving team is hit while standing on or off the court.

RULE 15. When Receiver Becomes Server

At the end of the first game of a set, the receiving team becomes the serving team. The partners decide between them who will serve first in each set. The order of service remains in force for that entire set.

RULE 16. Serving or Receiving out of Turn

If a player serves out of turn, the player who should be serving must take over the serving from the point that the mistake is discovered. All points stand as played. If an entire game is served by the wrong player, the game score stands as played, but the order of service remains as altered, so that in no case may one player on a team serve three games in a row. If the receiving team receives from the wrong sides of their court (as established in their first receiving game of the set), they must continue to receive serve for the entire game from the “wrong sides,” but must revert to the original sides of their court in the next game in which they are receivers.

RULE 17. Ball Remains in Play

Once a ball is put into play by service, it remains in play until the point is decided, unless a fault or a let is called. A player may not catch a ball that appears to be going out of bounds and claim the point. The ball is in play until it actually hits the screen on the fly, bounces on the deck out of bounds, bounces a second time after first bouncing in bounds, or goes over the screen. A player catching or stopping a ball and calling “out” before the ball is legally out loses the point for his/her team.

Note: A ball which is hit by a player outside the net post and lands within the opponents’ court is in play. See Rule 20(c).

RULE 18. Loss of Point

A team loses the point if (a) as the receiving team, the ball bounces a second time, provided the first bounce was within the court.

Comment: Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a player attempting to retrieve a ball, especially a drop shot that has bounced once and is about to bounce again, actually strikes the ball before it bounces the second time. Propriety dictates that the player attempting to hit the ball is honor bound to call “not up” if the player feels the ball did in fact bounce twice. A player who has any doubt in this situation should ask the nearest opponent, after the point has been decided, “Was it up?” If the opponent says no, the point should be conceded.

(b) A player returns the ball in such a way that it hits (i) the deck on the other side of the net outside the sidelines or baseline; (ii) any object, other than an opposing player, on the other side of the net outside the sidelines or baseline; (iii) the net, the post, net hand crank, cord, band or center strap and does not then land within the court on the other side of the net.

(c) A player volleys the ball and fails to make a good return, even when standing outside the court.

Comment: A player standing outside the court volleys at his own risk. It is not proper to volley the ball and simultaneously call it out, for if the ball is volleyed it is in play.

(d) A player deliberately carries or catches the ball in play on the paddle or deliberately touches it with the paddle more than once (i.e. any ball struck using a continuous motion is legal).

(e) A player strikes the ball before it has crossed over to his side of the net (i.e. reaches over the net to strike the ball, making contact on the opponents’ side of the net; for exception, see Rule 20).

(f) A ball in play touches any part of a player, including the hand(s) holding the paddle, or his/her clothing.

Note: It does not matter whether the player is inside or outside the court, whether he/she is hit squarely or his/her clothing merely grazed, or whether the contact is accidental or purposeful. If a ball touches anything other than a player’s paddle, it is loss of point.

(g) A player throws his paddle at the ball in play and hits it.

(h) A player bounces the ball over the screen and out of the enclosure or into a lighting fixture or light pole, whether or not the ball rebounds back into the court.

(i) A player or anything the player wears or carries, touches the post, net, net hand crank, cord, band or center strap, or the court surface on the opponents’ side of the net, within the boundary lines, while the ball is in play. (See Rule 17 regarding ball in play)

Note: If the point has already been concluded, it is not a violation to touch any of these fixtures. Also, if in rushing forward to retrieve a shot, a player’s momentum carries him/her past the net post onto the opponents’ side of the net, this is not loss of point unless the player actually steps inside the opponents’ court or interferes with one of the opponents. Mere physical contact with an opponent is not loss of point unless such contact hinders the opponent.

When a player is standing at the net and the opponent hits the ball into the net in such a way that it pushes the net against the player’s paddle or person, the net player loses the point. It does not matter that the ball was not going over the net. The net player loses the point because the player made contact with the net while the ball was still in play

(j) A player strikes a ball which lands in the court, then rebounds off the backscreen or corner, and lands back on the striker’s side of the net (in or out of bounds) without being touched by an opponent. This rule does not apply to the serve.

RULE 19. Ball Touching Court Fixtures

If the ball in play touches a Court Fixture (as defined in Rule 2) after it has hit the deck within the boundaries of the court, the ball remains in play and may be returned, so long as it has not hit the deck a second time within the court or the playing area.

Exceptions: If the ball hits a lighting fixture or pole, the point is concluded – loss of point for striker. In matches in which an umpire and an umpire’s chair are inside the enclosure, a ball striking either the umpire or the chair prior to landing in the opponents’ court is loss of point for the striker.

RULE 20. Good Return

It is a good return if (a) the ball touches the net, post, net cord, net hand crank, band or center strap and then hits the deck within the proper court; (b) the ball, served or returned, hits the deck within the proper court and rebounds or is blown back over the net, and one of the players on the opposing team reaches over the net and plays the ball, provided that neither the player nor any part of the player’s clothing or equipment touches the post, net, net hand crank, net cord, band, center strap, or the deck within the opponents’ court, and that the stroke is otherwise good (See also Rule 21); (c) the ball is returned outside the post, either above or below the level of the top of the net, whether or not it touches the post, or net hand crank, provided that it then hits the deck within the court;

Note: It is not a good return if the ball is hit through the open space between the net and the post.

(d) a player’s paddle passes over the net after the player has returned the ball, provided that the ball has crossed to the player’s side of the net before being struck by the player and that the stroke is otherwise good.

RULE 21. Interference

If a player is hindered in making a stroke by anything not within his control, the point is replayed.

Comment: If a tree branch or a ball from another court should interfere with play, a let should be called immediately. However, if a player bumps into his own partner or is interfered with by a court fixture, that is not grounds for a let. In the situation covered by Rule 20b, if his opponent willfully hinders the player attempting to strike the ball, the player is entitled to the point by reason of interference, whether such interference is verbal or physical. However, if it is agreed that such interference was unintentional, a let should be called.

RULE 22. Scoring

(a) The Game: Zero, or no points, is called “love.” The first point is called 15, although it is also commonly called 5.
The second point is called 30. The third point is called 40. The fourth point is Game. It is customary to call the score of the serving team first. For example, if the receiving team wins the first point, the score is “love 15.” When both teams score 15, or both score 30, the score is called “15 all” or “30 all”. When both teams score 40, the score is called “deuce.” The next point after deuce is called “advantage” for the team winning it, thus “advantage server” (or more usually “ad in”), if the serving team wins that point, or “advantage receiver” (or “ad out”), if the receiving team wins that point. If the team with the advantage wins the next point, it wins the game. If the other team wins that point, the score reverts to deuce. This continues indefinitely until one or the other team wins two points in a row from deuce, which wins the game. A game that is won “at love” means that the losing team won no points.

(b) The Set: The team which first wins 6 games wins the set. However, the winning team must have a margin of 2 games, and a set played under the traditional rules continues until one team has such a 2-game margin (e.g., 8-6 or 11-9). A set that is won “at love” means that the losing team won no games. When the score in games is 6-all, the APTA the 12 point tiebreaker (see Appendix C) should be used, except as below.

(c) The Match: A match is usually best of three sets with a tiebreaker in all sets. See Guidelines below for exceptions.

Comment: In matches played without an umpire, the server should announce the point scores as the game goes on, and the game score at the end of the service game. Misunderstandings will be averted if this practice is followed.

(d) No-Ad Scoring: No-ad scoring is used occasionally to speed up play by concluding a game on the next point after both teams have scored three points (referred to as deuce in regular scoring). Points are scored 1, 2, 3 and no points is called “zero.” When the score reaches “3 all,” the receiving team may decide which partner will receive the service. The winner of that point wins the game.

Guidelines For Number of Sets To Be Played In Different Events:

2 out of 3 sets, with tiebreaker in all sets.

Women’s Ranking Tournaments
Men’s Ranking Tournaments
Senior National Championships
Junior National Championships
Men’s Singles National Championship

2 out of 3 sets, with tiebreaker in all sets, except third set of finals played out.

Women’s National Championship
Men’s National Championship
Mixed National Championship

RULE 23. When Teams Change Ends

Teams change ends at the end of the first, third, fifth and every subsequent odd-numbered game of each set. When a set ends on an odd total of games (e.g., 6-3), the teams “change for one” – that is, they change ends for one game, and then change ends again after the first game of the next set. When the set ends on an even total of games (e.g., 6-4), the teams “stay for one” and then change ends after the first game of the next set.

RULE 24. Continuous Play

Play shall be continuous from the first service of the first game until the conclusion of the match, except (a) for rest periods permitted by tournament officials; (b) when changing sides on the odd games, a maximum of one minute is allowed for players to towel off, change equipment, rest, etc.; (c) during a service game, the server is permitted a maximum of 20 seconds between the finish of play on a point and the delivery of the next service; (d) play shall never be suspended, delayed or interfered with for the purpose of enabling a player to recover his strength or to receive instruction or advice. (The umpire shall be the sole judge of such suspension, delay or interference, and after giving due warning, the umpire may disqualify the offender. No allowance may be made for natural loss of physical condition such as cramps, faintness or loss of wind. Consideration may he given by the umpire for accidental loss of physical ability or condition.)

Note 1: In the event of an accident, a fall, collision with a net post, a sprained ankle, and the like, up to a 10-minute suspension in play may be authorized. A default will be mandatory if play is not resumed immediately after the suspension.

Note 2: If a player’s clothing, footwear, or equipment becomes out of adjustment in such a way that it is impossible or undesirable for the player to continue, the provisions in Note 1 shall apply.

Comment: The intent of the Continuous Play Rule is to prevent unauthorized rest periods for players who are tired and to discourage stalling tactics for whatever purpose. In the event of an accident, the umpire or tournament chairman shall consider a temporary suspension of play. If a match is adjourned for a legitimate reason (e.g. a sudden rainstorm), when the match is resumed (a) the teams are entitled to a full warmup, and (b) the match must begin precisely where it left off, with the same game and point score, same server, same ends of the court, and same order of service.

RULE 25. Only One Hit

In the course of making a return, only one player may hit the ball. If both players, either simultaneously or consecutively, hit the ball, it is an illegal return and loss of point. Mere clashing of paddles does not constitute an illegal return, provided that only one player strikes the ball.

RULE 26. Balls Off Screens

If a ball in play or on the service hits the deck in the proper court and then touches any part of the back or side screens, or both screens, or the horizontal top, rails, or the snow boards, it may be played, so long as it does not bounce on the deck a second time before being hit by the player. A ball taken off the screen must be returned into the opponents’ court. It may not be caromed back indirectly by being hit from paddle to screen and then into the opponents’ court.

RULE 27. Singles

The rules for singles are the same as for doubles except for the following: In singles, the game is played within the standard singles court (within the alley lines; see diagram on page 3), two services are allowed, and no-ad scoring is used. The no-ad game point is served to the service court of the receiver’s choice (see Rule 22d).

RULE 28. Sportsmanship

A Tournament Director has full authority to administer penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct during a tournament and such penalties can include a warning, loss of point, loss of game, loss of set, loss of match, or expulsion from the tournament depending on the severity of the offense and the clarity of the facts of the case.

In addition, after the conclusion of any APTA sanctioned tournament, the APTA Board may, at its discretion, mete out penalties to players for unsportsmanlike behavior and such penalties can range from a warning letter to a total lifetime ban from all APTA sanctioned events.