Racket sports as a collective are the most played sport in the world. That is if you take the big participation sports of table tennis, badminton and tennis all in one big racket sport umbrella.
As well as being incredibly popular, the world of racket sports is also extremely diverse. There are all sorts of unique racket sports played across every continent. Some of these you are unlikely to ever of heard of before.
In this article I will list all thirty-one that I have been able to find out about, what they are and how to play them.
Tennis And Variants
With approximately 60 million people throughout the world playing tennis, it is widely recognised as possibly the most popular individual sport to watch.
It can be played either inside or outside on all manner of surfaces that adds to its appeal.
2. Real Tennis
Real tennis is the ancient descendent out of which tennis was born.
It is played indoors on an enclosed court. The court is split into two halves – the ‘service’ side (from which you serve), and the ‘hazard’ side which is where you receive the serve.
Players played with a pear-shaped racket, and a cloth ball that is much harder than the current tennis ball.
3. Soft Tennis
This is a variation of tennis that is growing around the world.
Its main difference to normal tennis is that you use a soft rubber ball, which are less hard than traditional tennis balls.
This game is growing in popularity particularly in India, Japan, The Phillipines, and Thailand.
4. Platform Tennis
This is a bit like a cross between pickleball and tennis.
Platform tennis was invented in New York in 1928. The idea was the inventors were trying to create a sport that could be played in a small area, on any type of terrain, and at all times of the year. Platform tennis was the result.
It is played on a ‘platform’ about a third the size of a tennis court. It is usually enclosed by a high wire fence.
It uses a sponge ball about the size of a tennis ball, and paddles that resemble those used in pickleball.
Here’s a video of a pretty spectacular point from a platform tennis match:
5. Paddle Tennis
More than a century old, paddle tennis has grown out of tennis.
It is played on a smaller court than tennis, that has no doubles lines. However, the dominant format of the game is doubles, although it is possible to play singles as well.
The rackets are similar to those used in pickleball, and the ball is similar to a tennis ball, but with less pressure (making it squidgier).
Paddle tennis is picking up popularity particularly in the middle east and Egypt.
This sport is another to have grown out of tennis, and is very similar to paddle tennis or platform tennis.
It is played on a court about a third of the size of tennis court, and that is enclosed with walls.
A big feature of padel is that the ball can bounce off the walls similar to the way this happens in squash.
The rackets are again similar to those used in pickleball, and the ball is similar to a tennis ball with less pressure.
As you might imagine, this is a cross between squash and tennis. It has developed in America.
Squash tennis is basically played on a squash court, with a tennis ball and tennis rackets.
This is an outdoor sport, that resembles lacrosse in many ways.
It is played on a field with two teams, each containing ten players. There are two goals similar to hockey goals.
A tennis ball is used for the game. The two teams attempt to throw the ball around the pitch and score a goal in the net. The goalkeeper always has a racket in all forms of the game.
The outfield players will sometimes have a racket to hit the ball, and sometimes they will not.
9. Sticke (Or Sticke Tennis)
The game is played on an indoor court similar to real tennis. It is played with tennis rackets, and a tennis ball that is depressurized.
The walls are involved in sticke tennis, a bit like squash.
The scoring system is similar to that of tennis.
Squash And Variants
Squash is one of the most well-known racket sports in many countries.
It is played in an enclosed court, with a small hollow rubber ball that’s bounce is relative to its temperature.
All shots apart from the serve can strike any number of walls before they must strike the front wall before bouncing.
11. Hardball Squash
This is mostly played in North America. It is seeing a decline in popularity in the modern era.
It is very similar to standard squash, the main difference being that the ball is much harder (as you can imagine). This ball travels much faster and bounces higher.
The court dimensions tend to be different to squash court. A singles court is usually smaller, and a doubles court is much larger.
This is one of the most popular racket sports in the US.
It is played on an enclosed court similar to a squash court, but with no tin. Also the court is longer than a squash court.
The main difference between squash and racquetball is the ball used. Racquetballs are much larger and bouncier, travelling much quicker off surfaces.
This is the UK version of racquetball.
The main difference is that it is played on a squash court with a tin. It is favoured by many older squash players in the UK, as it is easier on the knees than squash as the impact with the ball is higher because of the bounciness of the ball.
This was where it all started. Racquets was the historic game played at Harrow School in England.
It is played with a hard rubber ball and wooden rackets.
Squash developed out of racquets when they found that if they punctured the balls they made them much ‘squashier’. This led to a game of greater movement and agility.
Here is a video of racquets in the modern era:
Badminton and Variants
Badminton is one of the two most played racket sports in the world (the other being table tennis).
It is played with lightweight rackets and a shuttlecock instead of a ball.
It is more often now played indoors, but was often played outside in the past.
16. Ball Badminton
This is a variant of badminton that is very popular in India.
It is played with a ball made out of wool. This makes the ball light, and it slows down considerably through the air.
Ball badminton is usually played outdoors on a court similar to a badminton court. Wind speeds can have a big effect on matches.
17. Speedminton (Or Crossminton)
This is another sport to have derived from badminton.
The main difference is that there is no net in speedminton. There are two squares on the ground with a large gap in between that make up the court. There is no net.
There is a shuttlecock used that is similar to the ones used in badminton.
The rackets look more like squash rackets.
Here is what speedminton looks like:
18. Table Tennis
Tables tennis, or ping-pong, is one of the world’s ten most played sports.
There is a hard table divided by a net, a small light ball, and paddles are used.
Spin is a huge part of the game, with topspin being the predominant type, but with many other types of spin imparted into shots.
The small scale nature of table tennis has definitely boosted its popularity.
Pelota And Variants
19. Basque Pelota
As you can probably guess, this sport has developed in the Basque country, which covers a small corner of both Spain and France.
It is played on an enclosed court, and a bouncy rubber ball is struck against the wall using the hand.
The country is played in the Basque, as well as Latin America – particularly Argentina, Uruguary, Chile, and Cuba.
It has been an influential sport, out of which several others have grown.
Fives is an English game. Although it has not grown out of pelota, it is very similar.
Played on an enclosed court, the ball is struck using either a bare or gloved hand towards the front wall.
Fontenis has grown out of pelota in Mexico about a hundred years ago.
It is played on an enclosed court that is quite a bit bigger than a squash court. There is a singles and a doubles version.
It is played with either a tennis racket, or a similar speciality frontenis racket, and a rubber ball.
Frontenis is a growing sport, played in more than fifteen countries worldwide.
21. Jai Alai
This is another pelota variation.
The players hold something called a cesta, which is like a large hand-held basket to throw the ball.
The action of the players resembles lacrosse in many ways. The court and the ball are similar to standard pelota.
Pickleball And Variants
Pickleball is achieving ever-increasing popularity, particularly in the USA.
It takes place used a hollow plastic ball with holes in, and wooden paddles.
Courts are slightly smaller than tennis courts, but have a similar net.
Pitton is a hybrid between pickleball and badminton.
It is played on a pickleball court, and with pickleball paddles. However, you use a ‘birdie’ instead of a ball. This is similar to a shuttlecock.
Other Racket Sports From Around The World
24. Paleta Fronton
This was developed in Peru just after the Second World War.
It can be played either indoors or outdoors. All that is required is a court marked on the floor and a front wall.
Players used a solid paddle usually made of wood and a rubber ball.
25. Matkot / Frescobol
This game is popular on the beaches of Israel, and is starting to be played outside of this country as well.
It is played with a small rubber ball and a wooden rackets. The players attempt to volley the ball to each other as many times as possibly without it hitting the floor.
26. Pelota Mixteca
This game could be potentially thousands of years old. It is a team racket sport, which is quite unusual. It is usually played between teams for five players each.
Pelota Mixteca has developed in Mexico. It is played on a court similar to a tennis court, but without a net. The players wear thick gloves with a striking surface.
27. Beach Tennis
This is one of the most played racket sports in the world, with approximately half a million global participants.
Beach tennis is played with paddles similar to those used in pickleball, and tennis balls that are depressurized.
It is played around the world, but particularly in Italy, Brazil and Spain.
It is a hybrid of beach volleyball and tennis. The ball cannot touch the sand. Therefore players use a variety of volleys to get the ball back across the other side of the high net.
This is very similar to the backyard game of swingball.
Speed-Ball was invented in Egypt in 1961. It was begun as a system of training tennis players, but later grew into a sport in its own right.
There is a rubber ball attached to a piece of string round a central metal mast. This ball is struck by opponents using plastic paddles.
There is a singles version and a doubles version of the game.
This is Chinese racket sport that is similar in some ways to tennis or squash.
It differs from all other racket sports in that you use a ball on a rubber band that is attached to a hook on the floor.
It is played on a court that is similar to a tennis court, but with both players on one side of the net.
The idea is to hit the ball towards the empty side of the court, but it will bounce back and the other player has to hit it. The ball is not allowed to touch the floor.
Here’s some footage from a qianball game:
Racketlon is a bit like the Iron Man of racket sports. It is not so much of a sport by itself, but a conglomeration of several games into one – a bit like the decathlon.
A rackelton match is played over 4 games. You play your opponent at table tennis, badminton, squash and then tennis. You have to keep in that order in a proper rackelton match.
Each game is played to 21 points.
The winner is the player that scores most points across the four games combined.
I finish with an ancient racket sport from Italy. This was invented during the 16th Century in the northern provinces.
It is a sport quite similar to squash, in an enclosed court. However, the court is huge, sometimes up to one hundred yards long.
The scoring system is similar to that used in tennis.