Padel – often referred to as paddle tennis or paddeltennis – is another racquet sport that has recently begun to surge in popularity, despite being invented way back in 1969. A mash-up of tennis and squash, padel is a game that can be mastered quickly, and doesn’t necessarily require physical strength.
But what is padel tennis, how was it founded and most importantly, how do you play it? Read on to find out all you need to know.
What is padel?
Padel, to give it its official name, is a racquet sport played most commonly in doubles (singles can play if they wish) on a court that is roughly the third of the size of a standard tennis court. A padel court is enclosed by walls – similar to squash – and has a net dividing the two halves – similar to tennis. Padel balls are also similar to tennis balls, but are filled with slightly less pressure, and they can be hit off of the walls, as you find in squash.
Where was padel invented?
Padel was invented in Mexico in 1969 by Enrique Corcuera. It’s claimed Enrique wanted to build a tennis court on his property, but didn’t have a large enough space, so instead he built a smaller version of a tennis court and enclosed it in walls. Because he didn’t need to generate as much power to hit a ball, he switched out a conventional tennis racquet for a wooden paddle – which is where padel draws its name – and the game of padel was born.
Padel quickly became popular in Spain and two padel courts were built in Marbella in 1974. Today, according to the International Padel Federation (IFP) there are over 25 million people who play padel in some 90 countries around the world. It’s regarded as one of the fastest-growing sports worldwide, and could well give pickleball a run for its money.
How to play padel
Padel is generally played in doubles and the way to score and win is incredibly similar to tennis.
The first serve of the match must be played from the right side of the court, to the diagonal segment over the net and the player serving first must serve for the entire game. The server switches sides from right to left, after each point is played. The receiver of the serve switches between players after each point.
A serve in padel must be performed underhand and after the ball is bounced off the playing surface. Servers get two chances to perform a successful serve, following the same fault/double fault system used in tennis.
The padel ball must bounce once after it goes over the net before the receiver returns it.
Scoring goes up 15, 30, 40, Game. If both teams are on a score of 40, ‘Deuce’ is called, and a team must then create a two point advantage to win the game.
A team must win 6 games to win a set and the majority of padel tennis games follow a best of 3 sets format. If a tiebreak occurs at 6 games apiece, a tiebreak game is played, where the winning team must score 7 points and be 2 points clear of their opponent.
A point is won by a team if the receiving team allow the ball to bounce twice; the team playing the ball hit the net in the middle or if the ball hits themselves or a teammate.
Volley shots are allowed, and a team playing a volley can win a point by hitting the ball out of the court, just as long as it bounces off the playing surface first.
Using the walls
The key difference between padel and tennis is the introduction of enclosed walls, similar to squash. Players can hit the ball against the wall in the hope the receiving player won’t be able to return it. If a ball is hit off the wall, it is only allowed to bounce once off the playing surface before being returned.
Going out of the court
One of the most exciting aspects of padel is the fact players are allowed to exit the court in order to return the ball. If, for example, one team smashes the ball down onto the court and it goes over the walls, the returning team are allowed to run out and hit it back, before it hits the ground outside.
The ball can be hit back up over the wall and over to the other side of the court, or it can be hit back through the entry doorway, just as long as it goes over the net and onto the other team’s playing area.
A padel court for a doubles team needs to measure 20m long x 10m wide. If singles are playing, the court is reduced in size to 20m x 6m. The vast majority of padel courts are set up for doubles play. The net in the middle must have a maximum height of 88cm in the centre, raising to 92cm at the sides.
Perspex walls are erected around a padel court, that measure 3 metres high x 2 metres wide. The walls need to be 4 metres high in the corners.
The racket used in padel are specific to the sport. They’re stringless and come in three different shapes: round, diamond and teardrop. A round padel racket is the one most commonly used by players, and is the best racket to use for beginner padel players. From here, there are a number of factors you need to think about when choosing a padel racket, such as the rigidity, weight and the core.
Some of the biggest names in sports make padel rackets, including Wilson, Head and Babolat.
A padel ball is very similar to a tennis ball, and to the untrained eye, there isn’t much to separate them, but there are some key differences. A padel ball must be made of rubber and be white or yellow in colour. It must also weight between 56 – 59.5 grams. To get really technical, the diameter of a padel ball must be greater than 6.35cm, but less than 6.77cm.
A padel ball is also less pressurised than a tennis ball, being between 4.6kg and 5.2kg per 2.54cm2. The pressure of a tennis ball, by comparison, is 8.165kg.
Where to play padel in Australia?
Does padel sound like a game you would enjoy? If so, you’ll be pleased to know you can play it in Australia, and there is even an Australian Padel Federation and a national team known as the Aussie Crocs.