10 Alternatives to Playing Tennis – Do Not Ditch the Racquet!

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The winter is here, and all public courts are cover with snow, or your club tennis league season has ended, or you’re just looking to start playing a different sport. There are many reasons why you would like to play another racquet sport that is not tennis. Even, if you’re a tennis player and want to get some extra practice, some of these sports should definitely help.

You’ll surprise to learn that there are around 30 racquets sports that you can play; from table tennis to beach tennis. Today, I’ll share a list of 10 of them. 

First, remember that these are all racquet sports that might be similar and not that similar to tennis. However, they all share in common the use of racquets or paddles and some sort of ball. Without further due…

These are 10 alternatives to playing tennis:

  1. Touch Tennis
  2. Pop (Paddle) tennis
  3. Platform Tennis 
  4. Pickleball
  5. Padel
  6. Badminton
  7. Racketlon 
  8. Beach tennis
  9. Table tennis
  10. Qianball

For some of you, a few of these sports might sound familiar; and for the rest, table tennis might be the only sport that you know on this list. I got to admit that I wasn’t familiar with almost half of the sports on this list before I started to look into alternatives to playing tennis.

But, don’t worry, below I’ll explain in simple ways what each sport is about! 

1. TOUCH TENNIS

What is it?

This sport is pretty much a smaller version of tennis. Out of all the sports on this list, Touch Tennis is the most similar to actual tennis. The court lines are the same as in tennis but shorter, and the ball is made of foam. The main difference is that in order to win you need to work more on placing the ball than hitting it hard. 

How to play it?

The rules

  • Same as tennis with a few exceptions.
  • Only one serve is allowed.
  • During a serve, you must hit the ball once is toss.
  • There are not lets, if the ball touches the net and goes over, play continues.

Scoring

  • Fast 4 format – Short sets up to 4 games (if 4-4, a tiebreaker is played)
  • Best of 3 sets.
  • Each game is played like a regular tennis game (15, 30, 40 and game). If 40 – 40, only one more point is played, so no add scoring.

What do you need?

  • Racquets (same as tennis but smaller, between 20.9 – 20.1 inches)
  • Special foam balls 
  • A touch tennis court (you can use a U10 red tennis court)

2. POP TENNIS

What is it?

This sport, not to we confused with Padel or Platform tennis, is played on a court 7 feet longer than a platform court. Although it has singles and doubles format, the courts don’t have doubles alleys. As with most of these sports, the ball is hit back and forth across the net. 

How to play it?

The rules

  • Serve must be underhand.
  • The walls or fences cannot be used.
  • The ball cannot bounce twice.

Scoring

  • Similar to tennis 
  • Each game is played with 0, 15, 30. 40 and game.
  • An 8 game pro-set or best of 3 sets can be used.
  • Each set is played up 6 games, if tied 6-6, a tie-break is played.

What do you need?

  • Paddles (max length of 18’)
  • Low-pressure tennis balls 
  • A pop tennis court

3. PLATFORM TENNIS 

What is it?

Platform tennis was invented in 1928 in New York, USA, as an alternative to tennis during the winter months. The court is the same as a tennis court but smaller, and is played on a raised platform. Players can hit the ball off the sides. Unlike many racquet sports, this game is played only on a doubles format. Platform courts are heated from below to eliminate snow and water.

How to play it?

The rules

  • It’s basically played as a doubles game in tennis, with the addition of the walls on each side, and few other exceptions.
  • Only one serve is allowed.

Scoring

  • It’s the same as tennis.
  • It’s played the best of 3 sets; each set is won by getting 6 games. 
  • During the game, players keep score with 15, 30, 40 and game; if 40-40, a team has to win 2 points in a row to win that game. 

What do you need?

  • Paddles racquets (18’ in length)
  • Balls (made of rubber)
  • A platform tennis court

4. PICKLEBALL

What is it?

This sport was invented in 1965 by 3 guys from Washington, USA. This game is played on a badminton-sized court (20’ x 44’). There is a net that divides the court in half; and each half of the court has a vertical line that separates it, except for the 7” no-volley zone on each side of the net. Similar to tennis, the ball is hit back and forth, and It can be played in a single or doubles format.

How to play it?

The rules

  • When starting the point, the ball has to bounce once in each side of the court before players are allowed to hit the ball in the air. (This rule is known as the two bounce rule)
  • Players are not allowed to hit the ball in the air (volley) in the non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, which is a 7’ x 20’ rectangle on both sides of the net.
  • The server has to hit the ball diagonally, and he can only score the point.
  • The server keeps servings until he faults. 
  • If the receiver side wins the point, they will become the servers on the next point

Scoring

  • It’s usually played up to 11 points, and it has to be won by a difference of two points.
  • Sometimes it can be played up to 15 or 21 points.

What do you need?

  • Paddles
  • Whiffle balls
  • A pickleball court

5. PADEL

What is it?

It’s a racquet sport, very similar to tennis, created in 1969 in Acapulco, Mexico. It also has some similarities with squash and badminton. The main difference between padel and tennis is that on padel, the court is surrounded by windows and the balls can be hit off them. It also looks similar to platform tennis; however, the padel courts are bigger and don’t have alleys. This game is played in some Hispanic countries, as well as, in Europe.

How to play it?

The rules

  • The ball must first bounce on the court before touching the windows.
  • Volleys are permitted anywhere in the court
  • Players can hit on their own windows before the ball goes to the other side.

Scoring

  • It’s the same as tennis
  • It’s played the best of 3 sets, and if teams tied 6-6 in a set, they have to play a tie-breaker up 7 points.

What do you need?

  • Padel racquets (with holes on it)
  • Balls (similar to tennis balls but with less pressure)
  • A padel court

6. BADMINTON

What is it?

It was developed in the UK; however, shuttlecocks have been used for many centuries across Eurasia. Badminton, like many other racquet sports, uses a net in the middle of the court to hit back and forth, the difference is that instead of hitting a ball, players hit a shuttlecock. It’s probably the fastest game on the list; a shuttlecock can reach a speed of up 200mph.

How to play it?

The rules

  • The shuttlecock can only be hit once before it goes across the net. 
  • The point is over when the shuttlecock lands on the floor, or in some cases if a fault is called.

Scoring

  • It’s played first team or player to win 2 games.
  • Every game is played up to 21 points, and it has to be won by a difference of two points.
  • If a 2 point difference is not reached, first to score 30 points wins.

What do you need?

  • Badminton racquets
  • Shuttlecocks (also known as Birdie)
  • A badminton court

7. RACKETLON

What is it?

This sport, invented in Finland, combines table tennis, badminton, squash, and tennis in one competition. Players compete against each other in these 4 sports; one set is played in each sport. It starts with tables tennis, continues with badminton and squash, and finishes with tennis (from the smallest to the biggest).

How to play it?

The rules

  • 1 set of each sport is played, so in total, they play 4 sets.
  • In each sport, each player serves two times in a row.
  • With a few exceptions, the same rules that apply to each sport also apply to the 4 sports in racketlon.

Scoring

  • In singles, sets are played up 11, and in doubles, up to 21. Players have to win by a margin of 2 points.
  • If players tied after all four sets, one last tennis point is played as a tiebreaker. 

What do you need?

  • For table tennis:
    • Paddles – table tennis balls- a table tennis table
  •  For badminton:
    • Badminton racquets – shuttlecocks – a badminton court
  •  For squash:
    • Racquets – squash balls (has to warm up) – a squash court
  •  For tennis: 
    • Tennis racquets – regular tennis balls – a tennis court

8. BEACH TENNIS

What is it?

This sport, created in Italy, is played on the beach and mixes aspects of tennis and volleyball. It uses a volleyball net, where players, on each side, hit a ball back and forth. The setup is the same as volleyball beach, but with paddles. Also, it uses depressurized tennis balls.

How to play it?

The rules

  • Almost the same rules as tennis.
  • The ball cannot hit the sand.
  • Players can only hit the ball once before it goes over the net.

Scoring

  • Scoring in a game is 0,15, 30, 40 with no advantage.
  • Set are played up 7 or 9 games, and have to be won by a difference of two games. At 6-6 or 8-8, a tie-break is played.

What do you need?

  • Paddle racquets (sometimes regular tennis racquet are also used)
  • Depressurized tennis balls
  • A beach volleyball court with a high net.

9. TABLE TENNIS

What is it?

This popular sport, also known as ping-pong in the USA, is well known around the world. It’s played on a rectangular table with a net in the middle. Each half of the court (divided by the net) has a vertical line in the middle that separates one side of the table into two. Players use paddles (small rackets) to hit a lightweight plastic ball back and forth. It can be played in a doubles or singles format.

How to play it?

The rules

  • You start the point by serving (like tennis). Serves have to first land on the player’s own side and then land on the opposite side of the court. After that, the ball can bounce anywhere on the other side.
  • You win the point when the ball bounces twice in your opponent’s side; or when they are unable to return the ball back. 

Scoring

  • It’s usually played on a best of seven sets format, which means that the winner is the player that wins 4 sets first. 
  • Each set is played up 21 points and has to be won by a difference of two points. 

What do you need?

  • Paddles
  • Table tennis balls
  • A table tennis table

10. QIANBALL

What is it?

This sport, originated in China, has some similarities to tennis and squash. It’s also known as squash without the walls. It’s played with both players being on the same side of the net on a court smaller than a regular tennis court. It uses a weighted ball-bag, placed a little less than 7” from the net, and attached to a rubber band with the qianball. The game can be played on a single or doubles format. 

How to play it?

The rules

  • Only one bounce is allowed on the ball zone.
  • Players must hit the qianball before it bounces on the player zone.
  • Each player serves twice in a row. 
  • Points are won when the opponent allows the ball to bounce.

Scoring

  • The match format is the best of three sets.
  • Each set is played up to 15 points.

What do you need?

  • A weighted ball-bag (or a floor embedded hook)
  • Qianball racquets (similar to squash racquets)
  • A qianball with a rubber band
  • A qianball court (however, any flat surface can be used to practice)

ALL IN ALL…

As you can see, all these sports are unique in their own way yet have some similarities with tennis. For some of these sports, you don’t need to have the actual court to practice them, you can practice on an improvised mini-racquet sports court on your driveway. To find out more about making an improvised mini-court at home, check the following post “How To Make a Mini Tennis Court“.

So, if you are a tennis player looking to try new sports, do NOT ditch the racquet and pick one of these sports instead. If you know about other racquet sports that we should include on this list, please let us know in the comment section.

Related question:

What is the most similar alternative to tennis?

  • The sport that is the most comparable to tennis is Touch Tennis. The way is played it’s almost the same. Players use the exact groundstrokes, volleys and serve, as in tennis. The main differences are that is played on a smaller court with smaller racquets.