While the sport of paddle, or padel, is still in its baby steps stage in the United States, it has been popular in Europe for over thirty years.
While it may be new to some states, padel is a springy, fast-paced game that requires skill and agility. Played on a court similar to an ordinary tennis court but with small bumps for bumping up the ball, Paddle is played by singles or doubles teams using a smaller racket than traditional tennis rackets.
The game consists of a point system with players attempting to win most games within a set, either by two or three groups.
Paddle is played with a ball that has an irregular shape and smaller size than those used in tennis, which allows for some springy bounces off the walls and quick exchanges between opponents when there’s no wall to bounce it off of.
There are three different types of paddles: European, American and International; each one is designed with a different grip and slightly varies in size from other manufacturers.
For obvious reasons, the sport is much easier on the arms and shoulders than traditional tennis, which can prolong a player’s career in the long term.
Paddle Tennis vs Tennis
Paddle tennis is played in a very similar way to traditional tennis, with just enough changes to make the game challenging for both beginners and experienced players.
The main difference between paddle tennis and traditional tennis lies in the playing surface. Traditional tennis requires a hard court, while padel demands it be played on a springy surface, although that’s not the only difference between them.
In tennis, to have a good shot at the ball, you must hit it over and through an imaginary vertical line above the net, but paddle does not impose this rule. A player can hit the ball off either wall (or both) without penalty. This difference in gameplay encourages aggressive squash-like play and poking at the ball in front of you.
Additionally, a paddle tennis court is half the size required for traditional tennis, which means players must use more skill and agility to move around the court quickly and avoid faults. To win a point with a paddle shot, it also has to bounce once on a player’s side before being played again.
The main advantage of paddle tennis is that it’s much easier on the shoulders and arms when compared to traditional tennis, which makes it a great introductory sport for new players and veterans who are looking for something a little more challenging than your average game of pickup.
Unlike traditional tennis, you cannot hit the ball directly over the net in paddle no matter which side you’re on. You must hit the ball off a wall to play again, and if it bounces once before your opponent gets there, you win. This means that if you approach the net from either side, your best shot at scoring is by lobbing or dropping the ball down into their court.
The most common scoring error in paddle is the “lob and lob” or “chip and chip.” This happens when a player attempts to hit the ball off both walls; that way; you own two shots. However, if your opponent gets there first with a defensive shot, you’re out. The trick to winning these points lies in the name because your opponent turns into a defensive lob. And if you don’t defend properly, they’ll hit around you and win the point.
Paddle tennis is also much more of an aerobic sport than traditional tennis, partly due to the playing surface, which allows for 70-percent less air resistance when compared to hard courts.
The History of Padel (Paddle)
Pedro Dina invented padel in Barcelona, Spain (hence the name “padel”, which is a derivation of “pedra,” or “stone”) as an alternative sport for beachgoers who wanted to play tennis without damaging their expensive rackets on hard courts.
Vicente Canas, president of the Spanish Tennis Federation, was the first to introduce it as a sport in Spain. In 1965, he organised the first national championship of padel at La Vila Olimpica in Barcelona, with the local tennis club serving as hosts.
The game’s popularity has spread mainly through Spain and worldwide (Italy, Japan and Brazil) with a strong presence in the U.S and a growing fan base throughout Latin America, but it never really took off here. For that reason, tournaments are sparsely attended, and there is a lack of world-class players on the pro circuit.