PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It's one of the most addictive games you've probably never heard of -- platform tennis -- otherwise known as "paddle."
The PNC 2014 American Platform Tennis Association National Championships are taking place in Pittsburgh this weekend.
Nearly 400 top players from 30 states and Canada will be in town for the four-day event which will generate close to $1 million for the Pittsburgh region.
Platform Tennis was invented almost 100 years ago in New York, but Pittsburgh has one of the largest "paddle" playing populations with 2,000 local players. It's a game for the young and the young at heart.
Linda Kirk, 76, who plays at the Fox Chapel Racquet Club, has been playing platform tennis for 40 years.
"With paddle, you can play for an hour and get some exercise and meet really terrific people," says Kirk.
Among those vying for the championship title during this weekend's Nationals is local player Scott Kahler of Castle Shannon. He's one of the top players in the country.
"It's just a lot of fun and it's something to do in the winter without having to drive to a ski resort," says Kahler.
That brings up a good point about paddle. It's a sport that is primarily played outside in the winter. The season typically runs from October to March.
"The courts are heated from underneath and that melts any ice or snow that builds up," adds Kahler.
Platform Tennis is like tennis, racquetball and squash all rolled into one. The scoring is like tennis, but players only get one chance to make their serve.
The court is half the size of a tennis court, and it's almost always played as doubles.
Just like racquetball, the walls are fair game. Players can hit balls off the wire screens which surround the court.
"In order to keep balls from rolling down the hill, the guy who invented the game put chicken wire around the court. One day a ball got stuck in the wire net and he ran outside, hit the ball, and said, 'It's back in play. From now on, if the ball hits the screen, we play it,'" recalls Wayne Dollard, the publisher of "Platform Tennis Magazine."
Pittsburgh plays a role in the courts used by players today. Back in the '70s, a local man who worked for Alcoa developed the aluminum deck used for modern courts.
For more information on platform tennis and the PNC 2014 APTA National Championships go to: www.platformtennis.org.
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