fbpx

Padel: The fastest growing sport in the world

Padel is often referred to as the the fastest growing sport in the world and most certainly the most rapidly growing racket sport globally. Not only is it taking Europe and Latin America by storm, but it is also penetrating sports markets in places such as the Middle East, with the likes of the UAE and Egypt now hosting several padel courts and facilities. What is it that makes this sport so popular and exciting though?

Girls plays padel - fastest growing sport
Padel: The fastest growing sport in the world

What is Padel?

Padel is often referred to as a cross between squash and tennis, with a little bit of ping pong (Table tennis) thrown on the top (it’s not the same sport as paddle tennis, which is played in North America).

The reason being, padel is played in a court akin to that of a tennis court, and consists of glass walls, much like squash, covering the whole court. Meanwhile, in padel, you do not use rackets but a type of racket known as a bat, as they are not stringed and used like paddles in table tennis.

However, the sport has some stark differences to all three racket sports mentioned above.

Padel: A History

First, we must look at the history of the game though, so as to understand what padel is and why it is becoming so popular.

It all started with the Mexican billionaire Enrique Corcuera, who envisioned building a tennis court at his home in Acapulco, Mexico in 1969. Recognising that he lacked space, Corcuera proceeded to adapt his squash court to include platform tennis, and that is how padel was born.

The rules of padel are also quite similar to tennis – you are expected to win 2 out of 3 sets to win a match, each set is made up of 6 games with a possible tiebreak, scoring is exactly the same as tennis (15, 30, 40, deuce etc) and a serve must go diagonally to the opponent but that is where the basic similarities between the two sports ends.

Initially referred to as “Paddle Corcuera”, by the man himself, the game was only played by the Mexican elite. After playing it for the first time however, a friend of Corcuera, Prince Alfonso, took the sport to Spain, modified it, and the rest is history.

Similarly, the game was also introduced in Argentina in the mid-seventies. It wasn’t until 1991 though, that the first formal padel tournament took place, in Seville, Spain, where, of course, the game continued to blossom.

In more recent years, the game has found its footing in approximately 60 countries, globally, and continues to surge in popularity with courts opening everywhere.

Padel bat
A Padel bat

The Rules

Looking at the courts and gear first, padel courts are approximately 25% smaller than tennis courts at 10m long x 20m wide with glass walls surrounding the courts and 2 open access exits which allow players to hit the ball from outside the court.

READ  The Squash Players app - A product built for the love of the game: Ross Gerring

The racquets, or rather bats, are stringless, made of graphite and smaller in size than a squash or tennis racket. Similarly, the padel ball, which can easily be confused for a tennis ball, as they are made of the same material, is slightly smaller in diameter and has less internal pressure. Aside from this, they are quite similar in look and make up.

The rules of padel are also quite similar to tennis – you are expected to win 2 out of 3 sets to win a match, each set is made up of 6 games with a possible tiebreak, scoring is exactly the same as tennis (15, 30, 40, deuce etc) and a serve must go diagonally to the opponent but that is where the basic similarities between the two sports ends.

Current and former tennis stars, such as Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Rafael Nadal, Jamie Murray and more are known to have a hit with a padel bat, and have raved about the game in the past.

In padel, the starkest difference is that the game is purely played in doubles. There are singles games, but those require specialised, smaller courts, and are not as common on a professional or recreational level.

Also, you must serve underarm, which of course, differs to tennis. And like squash you can play the ball off the wall, making the game far more dynamic, and exciting.

Once you’ve figured these nuances out, you’re ready to go!

The learning curve for the sport can be far easier than tennis or squash, and since you are playing in doubles, at least at a recreational level, padel can be easier to play regularly.

Padel bat 2

Padel in the modern era

Today, Padel is played by millions of people around the world, with number often stating more padel players globally, than squash players. That’s really something to say, considering squash and its 180+ year history. Spain, is by far the country with the most amateur and professional padel players in the world, with reports suggesting this number is around 4 million, and with 20,000 padel courts, it also consists of the most courts globally.

In Argentina these numbers range from 500,000 to two million, and the rapidly growing number of courts in Argentina and its surrounding Latin American countries means the game is only starting to boom. Other countries where the game has found popularity in recent years, include Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, India, UAE and Egypt.

Countries such as the UK have seen a growth in participation numbers due to exposure to the game via travel and tourism. And as such, the formalisation process of the game has continued to develop.

With more and more people coming out to play the game of padel, and awareness around the sport growing, it’s only a matter of time that a sport, which is easy to access, visible to the general public, relatively cheap, and easy to start off playing, finds a prominent place amongst its racquet sport cousins.

Europe consists of the most national padel federations today, with countries like Sweden, Finland, and Germany developing the game significantly. The Federation of European Padel is also the largest continental body of the game. On a global level the World Padel Tour is considered to be the key touring body of the sport, hosting tournaments and championships around the world, and the International Padel Federation is the overarching Padel body.

READ  Abdullah Ghazi: The life of a domestic cricketer in the UAE

Federations have also integrated aspects of the formalisation process into their respective national tennis bodies, showcasing and promoting the sport as a distinct sport that includes elements of tennis.

This, in turn, has also enabled padel to receive support from athletes of other sports. Current and former tennis stars, such as Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Rafael Nadal, Jamie Murray and more are known to have a hit with a padel bat, and have raved about the game in the past.

Similarly, Lionel Messi, the Argentinian football megastar has a padel court in his house, and Liverpool FC manager, Jurgen Klopp has talked about how much he enjoys padel. Current and former football players such as Ronaldo de Lima, Andres Iniesta, Iker Cassilas, Peter Crouch, Andrea Pirlo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have also been spotted playing the game. With the latter even setting up his own Padel Center in Sweden.

The Future of Padel

With more and more people coming out to play the game of padel, and awareness around the sport growing, it’s only a matter of time that a sport, which is easy to access, visible to the general public, relatively cheap, and easy to start off playing, finds a prominent place amongst its racquet sport cousins.

While there is still a lot of work required to formalise the game, and establish it as a watchable sport on sports media outlets, and for it to garner the attention of major global brands, padel is here to stay. This is being seen with the likes of courts being built in Australia, the participation levels significantly increasing in places like Egypt (known for its dominance in squash), and European nations like Sweden, seeing the game explode during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have a court near you, grab a couple of friends and head on over, if you aren’t able to play sport just yet, tune into some highlights online and you can then witness first hand why padel is the fastest growing sport in the world!


For more padel, stay tuned and subscribe to the Sportageous Newsletter here.

Hope you enjoyed this feature!
Click below to share with family & friends