The fastest-growing sport in the world is not soccer, lacrosse, certainly not American football, or even rugby. It’s Padel!
A Fusion of Tennis, Squash, and Table Tennis.
Padel has attracted over 10 million players and is spreading fast.
Enrique Corcuera invented Padel in 1969. The unofficial narrative of how the game came into being, started at Corcuera’s house in Las Brisas Acapulco. Enrique made subtle modifications to an existing fronton court (a single or two-walled court, used to play Basque Pelota). He added a net in the center and two small walls on both sides. The crude homemade court was 10 meters by 20 meters, the official size in modern-day Padel. However, to keep the ball from bouncing into the neighbor’s yard, Corcuera added a 3-meter wall at the opposite end of the court. Another modern-day specification.
Since that simple beginning, the sport has spread rapidly across Europe, to the United States. Padel, also called Paddle, is wildly popular in Latin America, Italy, and Spain. This continues to be the nerve center of competition with two operating offices in Madrid and Roma. Marbella 1974 saw the first Padel club.
An Exhilarating Game
Padel is a high-speed, exhilarating game comparable to tennis with distinctive differences. Competition is doubles play, and scoring is the same as traditional tennis. Padel balls have less pressure and shots can be played off back and sidewalls similar to squash.
Padel’s pro circuit, the Padel Pro Tour was created in 2005 by a group of organizers and the Association of Professional Players of Padel (AJPP).
Record-breaking attendance numbers attended the latest World Padel Tournament in 2018. The four-day event attracted over 24,000 rabid fans with 7300 fans jamming into the Madrid Arena for the decisive match. The tournament broadcast 36 hours of live streaming coverage worldwide.
The next significant event on the WPT is the Marbella Master, March 16—24, 2019. The top-ranked players in the world, both men and women’s division will be contending. For the men, number 1 ranked Carlos Daniel Gutierrez and number 2 Maximiliano Sanchez will be on the courts. On the women’s side, Ma Jose Sanchez Alayeto and number 2 Ma Pilar Sanchez Alayeto will challenge.
Another exciting development for Padel, the incoming president of the International Padel Federation Luigi Carraro is making their case for admittance to the Olympic Games. Both the Italian Olympic Committee and the IOC gave a gracious acceptance to Carraro and indicated support for Padel as an Olympic sport.
The United States Padel Association, USPA headquartered in Houston Texas, is a popular hub for the burgeoning American obsession with the sport. The first tournament of the 2019 season is February 15th—19th in Houston Texas. Four categories of competition are available; Men, Co-Ed, Co-Ed Advanced, and Co-Ed Beginner.
A Padel court occupies minimal space and is excellent for indoor and outdoor play. Three Padel courts can fit inside one regulation tennis court. With doubles competition, the action is lightning fast, and players must be tenacious in their pursuit of the ball. The ability to play shots off the wall makes Padel a remarkable technical sport. Precise shot selection and instant decision making are crucial for aggressive play.
The enormous progress of Padel has made it problematic for regulating groups to institute guidelines for the sport. Rules have experienced an endless transformation. The latest rules from the International Padel Federation can be downloaded HERE.
Padel Court Details:
- 10 by 20m divided by a net
- A fence @4m surrounds the court, with glass windows and sides
- Access to the court is on both sides
- Court material is the same as regular tennis unless it is played on the beach
Padel courts take advantage of modern technologies, with steel and glass construction. Quality steels with 3 to 5mm thickness are standard. Glass surrounding the court must satisfy rigorous quality specifications and have a BSEN 12150-2 (British standard for security glass) designation.
Never confuse Padel with platform tennis where courts are elevated and heated from below. Platform Tennis is prominent in country clubs in the northern states and Canada. Platform tennis rules differ markedly from other racquet sports.
Padel Racquets and Balls:
The Padel racquet is a uniquely different piece of equipment from traditional tennis racquets. There are no strings, only strategically placed holes on a soft elastic surface. Manufacturers tout the sweet spots, flexibility, strength, and elasticity for every racquet. Top racquets are made of fiberglass or carbon fiber, with skew balance to the top, away from the handle. This preference gives players more authority over the ball and strength through the swing.
Frame shapes are as varied as the companies that produce the racquets. Diamond, standard round, and elongated ball striking surfaces are just a few of the impressive designs. Padel racquets are incredibly lightweight with an average of 12.5 to 13.5 ounces. The extreme lightweight of these racquets gives power players more control and balance.
Smaller racquet builders making huge technology strides are businesses like Babolat. This advanced company has been in the sports business since 1875 and entered the Padel racquet industry early on. Their equipment is offered for the professional and intermediate players. Leading companies in the world of sport are following innovators such as Babolat, and their technology.
Major players such as Dunlop, Prince, and Adidas have all jumped on board to this fast-growing sport. Padel balls are comparable to traditional tennis balls, except they have lower pressure.
This means the ball coming off the side or back wall is slower and offers the player more control when striking.
Strategy and guile are fundamental to the game.
The Fun of the Game:
- Allowing two attempts. An underhand serve in which the arm cannot advance past the player’s waist.
- The served ball must bounce within the opponents serving square, just like traditional tennis
- The ball must hit the court before bouncing off any back or sidewalls
- Ball returning off the court and any side or back wall. However, the ball cannot bounce twice
- Scoring is the same as traditional tennis
- Age, strength, and fitness are not pre-requisites to appreciating the game
- Padel courts are popping up everywhere. Some traditional tennis clubs are replacing single courts with three Padel courts
Padel is a sport taking the world by storm. Court and gear manufacturers are rushing into the industry. The smaller court requires creativity and skill to place a winning shot. Rallies of three to five minutes are not surprising, making Padel more aerobic than traditional tennis.
Olympian efforts in the pro game sometimes have a single rally of 60 to 80 shots. Beginning players must understand there is a lot of continuous effort and team communication is fundamental to win.
A noteworthy facet of Padel, beginners pick up and adapt to the game quickly. Long, dynamic rallies happen from the first moment a player steps on the court.