Padel: A popular (and puzzling) racket sport

We’ve been asked multiple times whether we manufacture ‘paddle’ or ‘pickleball’ rackets when we display the KUIKMA padel racket model (in the picture below) at tradeshows. 

And if, like most of us, you too weren’t sure what the picture was of — then this article will help you identify this fastest-growing sport and tell it apart from other look-alike and sound-alike games.

What is Padel?

Padel (or Padel tennis) is a racket sport typically played in doubles on an enclosed indoor or outdoor court. 

It is often referred to as “Tennis with walls” or “Squash in the sun.” A fitting combo of tennis and squash — practicing padel, can be convenient for players familiar with either of the sport. 

But unlike the two, padel is less of a ‘power game’ — therefore easier for players of all ages, and especially for women, to play against men on a competitive level. 

Sport Essentials

Padel is played similarly to, yet different from, other racket sports. 

All you need is a partner, a court, the equipment, and the information below, to begin with: 

1. Padel Court

Padel courts’ size is roughly a quarter smaller than tennis courts, with a 20m long and 10m wide playing surface, divided in the middle by a net of equal width. In most padel courts, the playing surface is made of artificial turf. 

But the most notable difference is that these courts are enclosed by transparent or opaque rebound walls (about 4m high), allowing players to play off them. This enclosure is made of tempered glass or concrete, onto which safety netting (or wire mesh) is installed. Transparent walls are a trend in indoor courts.

2. Padel Racket

Padel rackets don’t have strings. They are, instead, solid but perforated with holes to allow airflow. They are slightly heavier (weighing about 340 to 370g) and more compact than tennis rackets. 

The head and the handle are the two main parts of a typical padel racket. However, the ease of controlling and handling the racket comes from its three structural components (the frame, core, and face). 

A padel racket’s frame is made of high-quality materials, such as carbon fiber or fiberglass. The face of a padel is about 26cm wide, and the overall length cannot exceed 45cm.

(Learn more about padel rackets, their shapes, performance, and materials)

3. Padel Balls

Similar in appearance, padel balls differ significantly in internal pressure, size, and bounce from tennis balls. 

Even though tennis balls are used for casual padel games, ‘padel balls’ have to be used in official matches. 

Padel balls are less pressurized comparatively and therefore have less bounce (or rebound) than tennis balls.

Their range of sizes is also slightly smaller comparatively. However, the material, weight, and appearance of padel balls are the same as those of tennis. 

How to play Padel?

Padel has a scoring system and rules similar to tennis, with a few exceptions. How about running out of the court and playing it back in?  

Unlike tennis, padel is not dominated by strength and power but rather by strategy.  

The game is played in pairs and begins with a service, with the ball dropped from behind the service line, bounced under the waist, and hit underhanded diagonally across the net into the opponent’s square. 

Two serve attempts and one net let are allowed. During a service, the ball may not hit the fencing (safety netting) but may hit the walls. 

The ball cannot bounce more than once before it is played. The ball can hit the walls or the netting only after bouncing off the ground. Volleys are allowed. 

The scoring system in Padel follows that of tennis: 3 sets in total, each set of 6 games. Scoring of 15, 30, 40, deuce, and advantage or a golden point at 40-all. Winners of 2 out of 3 sets win the game. 

The Past and Present of the game

Padel game is said to have been invented by Enrique Corcuera from Mexico in 1969, who built walls around the tennis court in his backyard to avoid losing balls. A friend of his brought padel to Spain, where it currently has about 6 million active padel players. 

In fact, Spain, Sweden, and Argentina now have more active padel players than tennis. It is also taking off in other European countries such as France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium. 

In the US, however, the game is facing competition from pickleball but is picking up as a ‘social sport’ with more courts and clubs introducing padel to their members. 

Padel is often viewed as a family-friendly social sport because it can be easily learned with fewer skills and suits all ages as it’s less physically demanding.

Comparisons: Padel vs. other versions of Racket Sports

We’ve unintentionally covered a lot of ‘padel vs. tennis’ and ‘padel vs. squash’ throughout this article. But padel is often confused with other racket sports like  ‘pickleball’ and ‘paddle tennis (POP tennis),’ and sometimes even with ‘platform tennis.’ 

Before we compare the sports above, based on their origin, equipment, and gameplay, let’s get our facts straight:

  • ‘Padel’ and ‘padel tennis’ are two names of the same sport.
  • ‘Padel’ refers to both the sport and the racket used in that sport.
  • While the racket used in both paddle tennis (POP tennis) and pickleball are called ‘paddles’.
  • ‘Paddle’ sometimes also refers to the ‘paddleboards’ from the water sport stand-up paddle boarding (SUP).

Padel vs. Pickleball vs. Paddle tennis (POP tennis)

PadelPickleballPaddle tennis (POP tennis)
Quick factA padel rally can last 60-70% longer than tennis and may go as long as an hour because of the use of walls.Pickleball players, or even fans, are sometimes called ‘picklers.’ If they lose, they get ‘pickled.’ 

But again, the sport and its name has nothing to do with pickles.
Paddle tennis was rebranded as ‘POP tennis’ in 2015 after being confused for decades with other related racket sports such as ping pong and platform tennis.
OriginInvented in Acapulco, Mexico, it has become very popular more recently compared to other racket sports and is especially a growing trend in the European continent.Pickleball was invented in the summer of 1965 in Washington and is widely played in the US and Canada.Paddle tennis is said to have been invented in Manhattan and is the oldest racket sport comparatively. 

Paddle tennis was well-known in the US as far back as 1941.
CourtPadel courts are larger than pickleball and paddle tennis courts, allowing for longer rallies, and are always enclosed by walls.Pickleball courts are about the size of badminton courts (20 x 24 ft). 

The sport is played on open courts.
Paddle tennis (or POP tennis) courts are smaller than tennis courts and are not enclosed.
EquipmentPadel rackets are mostly made of composite materials and have a solid but perforated face.Two serving opportunities and a scoring format similar to three sets of tennis.

Balls can rebound off the walls of the court in padel.
POP tennis rackets or ‘paddles’ are sometimes made of wood and are heavier and larger than 
padel rackets

The balls used are green and orange spots.
GameplayTwo serving opportunities and a scoring format similar to three-set of tennis.

Balls can rebound off the walls of the court in padel.
Only one serving and a scoring system similar to that of badminton — played to 11 points, no deuce. 

The courts have a ‘no-volley zone’ in front of the net.
The ‘no-volley’ zone or ‘kitchen’ doesn’t exist in POP tennis, but the rules are quite similar to that of tennis, except that the players have one underhand serve.

We hope to have touched upon the padel fundamentals. Now it’s time to think about watching the next padel game.

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