Padel is a racket sport that utilizes a similar tactical play style as tennis, combined with the compact, fast play, and action of pickleball, while also being quick to learn. Padel is a social game that promotes team play as padel can be played with singles or doubles (most commonly doubles). Although it’s possible to play padel with singles for training, in competition, play is only organized in doubles of 2 on 2 so this is the preferred play style most of the time. The game can be referred to as Padel, Padle Ball, Padel Tennis, or Paddle Sport among other monikers. Padel is unique in that the game is played on an enclosed court. The padel court size is much smaller than a tennis court, closer to the size of a pickleball court. It is a rectangle and is 10 meters wide and 20 meters long. The padel court flooring can be cement, wood, concrete, or athletic turf
The barrier wall of the padel court enclosure can be plexiglass, metal mesh fencing, or even concrete. To play padel, a player uses a solid, non-stringed racquet to hit a ball similar to a tennis ball. Although this may seem like a plastic racquet and a tennis ball, these items are specialized for padel sport play. The racquet is a solid surface but has holes to allow air to pass through and its surface area is smaller than a tennis racket (only 18 inches long) and more akin to a pickleball paddle in size, albeit much thicker in width. The core of the padel paddle is an elastic, foam, and rubber composite mixture which is coated in plastic. The paddle-like appearance of the padel racket gives the sport its name.
According to the ISPO sports consultancy, visually padel balls look almost identical to tennis balls, however “their internal pressure is somewhat lower in order to prevent the ball from bouncing too much.” Additionally, padel diverges from tennis, as the padel net has a maximum height of 88 cm, which is a bit shorter than the typical height of a tennis court net. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) National campus classifies padel as a compliment to tennis, saying: “Padel is a complimentary racquet sport to tennis that combines the best aspects of tennis, racquetball, and squash to create a fast-paced sport.” The best of all worlds, it’s no wonder why padel is finding continued growth as racket sports gain momentum.
The History of Padel
The LTA Tennis for Britain asserts that “during the 19th century, passengers on British cruise ships played a similar game with tennis rackets” but with a petit court. This evolved into a paddle tennis sport dubbed ‘platform tennis’ and began to take hold in American cities like Washington and New York.
However, many sources state definitively that padel was invented in Mexico in the 1960s by businessman Enrique Corcuera. Dates range from 1965 to 1969. It was said that Corcuera set up the first ever padel court at his vacation home in Acapulco. The reason for this invention is varied, some say it’s because he wanted to welcome elements of tennis into what was previously a squash court. Other sources mention that the real impetus for the invention of the game was that Corcuera’s estate couldn’t accommodate a full tennis court so improvisations had to be made and the new game was invented called “Paddle Corcuera.” It is said that Corcuera surrounded the court with walls to keep the balls from being lost.
In the ensuing years, entrepreneurial friends of Corcuera are said to have assisted with the rise in popularity of the sport, bringing it to Spain where it spread and gained a foothold in Argentina. Padel has continued to rise to immense popularity in Latin America, Spain, Europe, and the US. It was estimated there were around 25 million regular Padel players last year, according to Matchi, a platform for reserving courts for play. Padel is considered one of the fastest growing sport in the world. For example, in Spain, Padel has over 5 million players and is now the second most popular sport after football, as reported by the ISPO.
As mentioned, padel is usually played in doubles. To play, each team hits the ball back and forth and a point is scored if the ball bounces on the court twice, if a player hits the ball into the net, or if the ball hits the wall/barriers without bouncing first. A serve is served underhand and is completed by bouncing the ball on the ground and hitting diagonally across the court onto the service area.
The first player to win six games wins the set, with a lead of two. Scoring is similar to tennis. 15, 30, 40, deuce is 40 / 40. Players also swap sides of the court every odd game that is played.
There are many similarities between padel and pickleball, but a few very marked differences. Padel is generally accepted as being a bit more physically demanding than pickleball but not so much as tennis as the court is smaller so the distances with which to return is shorter.