Interested in learning more about the fastest-growing sport in the world? Padel tennis is a relatively new sport, it was invented in Mexico in 1969, but the first padel clubs in the UK weren’t formed until 2011.
The popularity of padel in the UK is growing rapidly – in 2019 there were just 40 public courts, today there are over 165, and LTA Padel projects there will be more than 400 by the end of 2023.
Many believe padel is set to be the next big sport, but what exactly is padel tennis, and why are people getting hooked on it? Read on to find out!
What is padel tennis?
Padel tennis is often described as a hybrid of tennis and squash with a sprinkle of table tennis. A padel tennis court is much like a traditional tennis court, except around 25% smaller (10 meters x 20 meters) and has glass walls surrounding each end, if not all sides. The padel tennis court also usually has two large exits at either end of the net to allow you to make a play from outside the court.
One big difference between tennis and padel tennis is that the ‘racquet’ isn’t really a racquet at all, but is in fact more like a table tennis paddle. A padel tennis bat is not stringed, is made from graphite, and is smaller than a tennis or squash racket, but more comparable in size than a table tennis paddle.
Where did padel tennis originate?
Padel tennis was first invented by a Mexican millionaire, Enrique Corcuera. There are a few different stories about why he chose to erect another wall at the back of his squash court, but some believe it was to stop the ball rolling into his neighbour’s garden. Either way, he added a net and invited all his wealthy friends to play his new game. This caused the game to spread to Spain and Argentina, and soon to other countries. British ex-pats living in Spain were the first Brits to fall in love with padel, and bring it to British soil.
What are the rules of padel tennis?
The rules of padel tennis are similar to tennis, requiring you to win 2 of 3 sets to win a match, with each set made up of 6 games and a possible tiebreak. The scoring system is exactly the same as tennis, i.e. 15, 30, 40, and game point.
The ball used in padel is very similar to a tennis ball, as it is made from the same material and is the same neon yellow colour, but it is slightly smaller and has a lower internal pressure.
Unlike tennis, padel tennis is almost exclusively played in doubles and the ball must be served underarm. The ball can be played off the wall, like in squash, and even from outside the court making it a very dynamic, energetic, and exciting sport. Like tennis, the ball must be served diagonally. There are a few singles padel courts in the world, which are 20 meters by 6 meters, though you’re unlikely to come across one.
Why is padel tennis so popular?
There are many reasons why padel is so popular in the UK and across the world:
- Padel can be enjoyed by people of all ages, so you can get the whole family involved
- Padel is easy to learn and play for beginners, but it will get more challenging as you improve so you will always be kept on your toes
- You only need to know the basic rules to play and have fun so you can get started right away. It is often easier to learn by doing!
- Padel is a very social sport, especially since it must be played in doubles – you could meet 3 new people every time you play! Most padel clubs have group chats where people will ask around to put teams together, so you don’t have to wait for whenever your friends are free to play
- Padel is fantastic exercise! Obviously, running around keeps you fit and healthy but padel can also help to strengthen your knees, the underarm serve puts less stress on your shoulders, and low vibration of the bat means decreased risk of developing tennis elbow
- Padel is loved by celebrities, like David Beckham and Novak Djokovic, encouraging hundreds of other people to get involved with the sport so that they can be connected with their sports heroes
- Points last longer than in tennis, with rallies lasting minutes at a time, and are full of exciting plays bouncing around the court
- Players with mismatched skill levels can still have a fun, dynamic game, without the more skilled person(s) feeling like they’re having to slow down for the less experienced players
- Courts can easily fit into many urban environments, meaning they’re more accessible to those living in the city
- It’s fast-paced – one of the reasons so many professional sportspeople have fallen in love with playing it in their downtime is it gives them a taste of their fast-paced competitive sports in a low-stakes, fun environment
- Those who have played tennis, squash, or table tennis find it very familiar, and so the learning curve is very small
- Because it’s such a new sport, people have the opportunity to get to the higher echelons of the sport without so many people to compete against
- Despite being established in higher society, going to play padel at a padel club is very affordable. Just rent a court, a padel and ball if you need to, and grab your trainers. Entry-level padels can be bought for under £60
- It’s likely to be an Olympic sport in the near future
- It can be highly competitive – while accessible, if you want to meet your friends in a head-to-head battle for who has to buy the other team dinner, you can! Best of all, it’s so much fun that the losing team won’t feel bad about losing
- Spectating is a lot more interesting for laypeople than other racquet sports – tennis can get a little slow at times, and that’s not the case for padel. That’s likely the reason why it’s already being broadcast on Sky Sports in Italy and ESPN in the Americas
- It’s a great way to let off some steam – you can really thump the ball and get your excess energy out of your system!
Can padel be played year-round?
One of the great things about padel can be played year-round, although, due to our wonderful British weather, this would usually only be possible if you are lucky enough to have access to both an outdoor court and an indoor court.
However, with artificial grass, you can play padel all year without worrying about ruining a grass court or slipping on wet, muddy ground. With artificial grass from NeoGrass, you won’t need to stop play due to damp ground.
Where can I play padel tennis in the UK?
According to LTA Padel, there were about 89,000 people playing padel across the UK, with 165 courts across Britain to be found at 66 different venues, in November 2021, and that number is only expected to rise.
Registered padel courts can be found at fitness and tennis clubs and leisure centres, with the majority in London, but there are venues across the country. The LTA has created this interactive map to show the current padel courts found in Britain. If you don’t have a padel court near you right now, with the growing popularity, you might find that you won’t have to wait long until you are able to give it a go.
If you have already fallen in love with padel but do not have a venue nearby where you can play regularly, you may want to think about investing in a home court, if you have the space. This way, you can play whenever you have the time and with an artificial grass court, it will require minimal upkeep.
Padel tennis is a brilliant sport to get involved with, keeping you fit in a fun and exciting way and providing you with the opportunity to spend time with friends and like-minded people. If you are looking for a solution so that you can play padel outdoors all year round, NeoGrass can provide you with the perfect artificial grass for your court. Click here to request your NeoGrass sample pack today so you can start playing with all your friends just outside your back door.