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How to Play Padel Tennis: The Complete Guide

How to Play Padel Tennis: The Complete Guide

Introduction

If you’re interested in finding out how to play padel tennis you’re in good company. It’s a fast-growing, exciting and accessible sport that’s great for experienced tennis, squash and badminton players as well as newbies to racket sports. Padel has attracted celebrity fans including Jamie Murray, Lionel Messi and Jurgen Klopp.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has been appointed the national governing body for the sport, which is growing rapidly in the UK. That could be why it’s frequently called “padel tennis” rather than just “padel”, which you might be familiar with. In fact, it was originally called paddle, referring to the bats or rackets that players use. Today’s spelling of padel was only introduced in 1993 to make pronunciation clearer in the many Spanish-speaking countries where it’s a very popular game. Some people use the spelling “paddel tennis”, but “padel” is the correct version.

Padel was first played on a British cruise ship in the early twentieth century. With less room on board, a full-size tennis court wasn’t an option! Competitors replaced standard tennis rackets with bats - or paddles - in a game they called platform tennis. In the 1960s, Mexican Enrique Corcuera set up the first recognised padel court. He built four-metre high walls on all sides to avoid losing the ball in his neighbours’ gardens.

Alfonso de Hohenlohe picked up the baton (or bat!) and championed the game after playing it in 1974. He built Spain's first two padel courts at the Marbella Club, Costa del Sol. In 1975, Argentinian millionaire Julio Meditengua played padel in Marbella and took the sport back to his own country, where it soon became massively popular.

You might have encountered padel on holiday in Spain, where there are 20,000 courts and six million players. Today, padel is the country’s second biggest sport, behind football. Argentina has 10,000 padel courts and two million players.

In the UK, the LTA’s Padel Development Plan aims to have 400 padel courts across the UK by 2023. There are already nearly 100,000 active padel players across Britain and 150 indoor and outdoor courts at 66 venues, according to the LTA. If you’re ready to give the sport a go, you should be able to find a pay and play venue near you, and it will be easier than ever as more courts and clubs open up.

There’s a wide range of padel rackets, padel shoes and padel clothing and everything else you need to help you improve your padel game. And of course, the team at pdhsports tests, selects and sells all the best padel brands for levels from beginner through to professional!

Let’s find out more about how to get started as a padel player.

Padel for Beginners

Padel has a lot in common with the traditional game of tennis. But it’s easier to pick up and play, it’s fun and it’s very sociable! Most people play doubles – the courts are a slightly different size for padel singles matches and you won’t find so many of them in either the UK or Spain. It’s a sociable sport, like we said! You can play mixed or single sex doubles and you can play in mixed age and ability groups too.

If you know a bit about tennis, you’ll find padel rules and gameplay easy to understand. The main difference is the glass and wire fencing walls of the court, which the ball bounces off, like in squash. It’s also played on a smaller court than for tennis, and you’ll use specialist padel equipment, including the shorter padel racket and smaller padel ball. Because the court walls are flush to the sides of the court, there are no line calls, apart from when serving.

Here are the basic padel rules.

Serving in Padel

The server serves in turn to each of their opponents across the net, moving from one side of the court to the other on the service line. They must serve underarm, below waist height. Each pair takes it in turn to serve into the service box diagonally opposite – the ball must bounce in the service box before it’s returned. Players get a second serve. If the ball bounces outside the service box twice, they lose the point. One player from each pair serves throughout each game. Service goes in sequence between the four players throughout each set.

Padel Rallies and Gameplay

Rallies take place between the four players, who may hit the ball from anywhere within the court – and even outside it in the professional game! Ground strokes, volleys, lobs and smashes are all allowed in padel tennis. The game is fast and exciting as the ball hits the rear and side walls of the padel court. But the ball can only hit the ground once before it’s returned. A pair wins a point if the opposing side can’t return a shot before the ball bounces twice on the ground.

Scoring and Winning a Padel Match

Padel matches are the best of three sets, with the set winner taking six games, with a two-game lead. If the set ties at 6-6, a tie break takes place, just as in traditional tennis. Scoring each game in padel is the same as for tennis. The points system goes from 0 to 15 to 30 to 40 to win. If the score reaches 40-40 or deuce, you can either

  • Play like tennis through advantage points to win the game, so that one pair has to win two consecutive points to triumph.
  • Adopt the Padel golden point rule. At deuce, the receiving pair decides whether the service should come to them from left or right, then the winner of that deciding point will take the game.

What Do I Need to Play Padel?

A Place to Play

Padel is played on a special court which is 25% smaller than a tennis court. You can’t play on a standard tennis court because it’s the wrong size and doesn’t have the right markings or walls.

Padel courts have four-metre walls on every side. The back walls are smooth – usually made of glass or painted blockwork. The side walls are made of a tight mesh that balls can rebound off. Most padel courts are designed for four players - on the World Padel Tour there are only doubles matches and it’s the most exciting and popular way to enjoy playing and watching padel. You can find indoor or outdoor courts at different venues.

More and more tennis and racket sports clubs and public leisure centres are building padel courts, as the game becomes more popular and widely known in the UK. The LTA is offering funding to encourage more communities and sports clubs to invest in padel. Check the LTA website for current venues and new openings, or try this interactive map.

Teammates

One of the things we love the most about padel is how sociable it is. Because most padel play is doubles, four players can enjoy the fun together. It’s also a very accessible racket sport. That doesn’t mean you’ll be bored if you’re a skilled racket sports player – it just means you’ll have a much wider range of friends and teammates to play with!

With the ball played off the walls as well as the ground, padel is a fast-moving game that thrives on quick reactions, quick thinking, agility, skill and strength too. Just take a look at the thrilling rallies in the highlights videos on the World Padel Tour website!

But it doesn’t matter if some people are better than others. In padel doubles, covering the court is easier, so if you’re a strong player with a less experienced doubles partner, you’ll be able to give them a chance to enjoy the game while picking up some of the harder shots yourself!

If you’re a beginner, the good news is that you’ll soon get to grips with padel – it’s quick and satisfying to pick up. The court is enclosed and the ball can bounce off the walls, so you don’t waste time collecting dozens of balls that have gone wildly out of court! Padel rackets have shorter handles and are easier to control when you first take up the game, compared to tennis.

A Padel Racket

Whether you call it a padel bat or a padel racket (or even a padel racquet!) you’ll need one to get into the game. Padel uses short solid rackets with holes. They have short handles and a thick round or diamond-shaped head. There’s a whole range of padel rackets out there, catering for everyone from padel beginners to top-level players. Some padel racket features and capabilities to consider and compare are:

  • Head shape
  • Weight
  • Power
  • Agility
  • Stability
  • Precision
  • Vibration
  • Spin

If you’d like some help choosing the best padel racket for you, take a look at these tried and tested recommendations for padel players of all levels and budgets. Well known sports brands including Head, Dunlop, Adidas, Tecnifibre and Babolat all design excellent padel kit, plus there are padel specialists like Drop Shot and Akkeron who have great ranges to consider, if you’ve not tried them before.

One useful benefit of a padel racket is that it has a solid surface. So, unlike a tennis, squash or racketball racket, you won’t need to pay for regular re-stringing. Padel rackets are generally very durable and don’t require routine maintenance, so if you do decide to spend a bit more, you can be confident your racket will last you a long time, if you treat it with reasonable care. A padel racket bag can help you keep it protected when you’re in transit.

Padel Balls

Padel balls have less pressure and are slightly smaller than tennis balls, so they don’t bounce quite as much as a standard tennis ball.

Here’s another advantage of padel: because padel courts are enclosed, with four walls, you’ll find that compared to tennis, you need fewer balls for a typical leisure game. Mostly, the ball lands within the court at the end of each point and you can easily and quickly scoop them up and keep playing. Padel balls typically come in tubes of three.

Padel Shoes, Clothing and Accessories

Of course, when you’re starting out, you don’t need to splash out on every item of specialist padel equipment. Tennis shoes or similar non-marking trainers will be fine for beginners. As long as you have a padel racket and padel balls, you can enjoy the basic game. But once you’ve decided you love padel (and we’re pretty sure you will!) you may want to buy some more padel clothing and equipment to demonstrate your padel love and commitment as well as to enhance your playing experience.

Babolat, Salming and Drop Shot are three brands that have designed padel shoes specifically for the challenges of this fast-moving game. Look out for shoe features to cushion against shock, provide grip and to support rapid lateral movements. A padel bag will keep your padel racket safe – you could choose one with extra room for spare rackets, balls and clothing.

Common Mistakes when Playing Padel

When you’re learning and improving your padel game, you’ll want to avoid some classic rookie errors with your choice of game and equipment. Here are our tips:

  • Play doubles – it’s more fun, more sociable and you’ll learn quicker, plus it’s far easier to find doubles courts in the UK than singles. The pace and interplay of padel doubles is really exciting both to play and to watch!
  • To start, borrow or buy a good quality racket – we have a great choice of excellent beginners’ padel rackets at keen prices. Choosing one from a trusted brand will ensure that it’s stable and well balanced, which can help you avoid injury and make it easier to control your play
  • Trade up so your racket keeps pace with your skill. As you become stronger and more confident in your padel game, you’ll likely want a racket that delivers greater power, spin and precision. The best padel rackets from our recommended brands are durable, so if you invest in a high-end model, you’ll get many seasons of play from it

Top Tips for Becoming a Padel Pro

 

Working up to a high standard of padel play takes time and effort. But the rewards of becoming a top-level padel player are many! You’ll be able to enjoy fast-paced games with other excellent players. You’ll also be able to help friends and family to access the sport and join in with your leisure matches.

Our tips for playing padel like a pro are:

  • Master the core shots – forehand and backhand – so you can place shots consistently and strongly wherever you choose
  • Practise your serve, so you can place it in your opponent’s weak spot
  • Learn to use volleys with precision and aggression
  • Develop your mental skills – anticipation and strategy are key to advanced padel success
  • Build your power and strength with fitness training and conditioning
  • Learn to make the most of the court, using the walls for multiple ball bounces

Padel FAQs

  1. Is padel easy?
    With a small sized racket, a relatively compact court and an enclosed play area, most people find it’s easy to get started with padel, whether they’ve played other racket sports before or not. You’ll develop good hand-eye co-ordination, strength, speed and agility. It’s a fast-paced game that’s great for building fitness, but it’s also fun and sociable.
  2. Is padel easier than tennis?
    Lots of people think padel is easier than traditional tennis. It’s played on a smaller court, so there’s less distance to cover. The court is enclosed, so balls don’t go so far out when you lose a point or mis-hit – this really cuts down on frustration for beginners. So it’s perhaps fair to say it’s easier to get to grips with as a beginner. Once you develop some padel skills, you’ll find there’s plenty of challenge in the game. It’s fast-paced, you need great teamwork to play doubles with all the darting around, and there are constant changes of pace and direction as shots are played off the walls as well as the ground.
  3. Why is padel so popular?
    Padel has become extremely popular in Spain and many other countries. It’s partly because it’s accessible and sociable. As a leisure sport, it’s enjoyable to play in matches with other players of mixed ability, sex and age, so everyone can join in the fun. It’s a great outdoor sport in a sunny climate, but it’s just as good to play undercover or on all-weather courts in the UK!
  4. Is padel in the Olympics?
    Not yet! But national padel organisations are campaigning for it to be included. Watch this space.
  5. Is padel the same as pickleball?
    Padel and pickleball are different sports, though they’re both played with bats or rackets and are known as more accessible alternatives to other racket sports like tennis, badminton or squash. The main difference is that for padel, you need a specially built padel court. Pickleball can be played on any flat ground with enough space and a net. It uses a perforated ball rather than the felted ball that you use in padel tennis. Pickleball can be a more casual, street sport – though it is very competitive at professional level!

Final Thoughts on Padel

Padel tennis is an exciting new racket sport that’s growing very fast in the UK. Now’s a brilliant time to become a player, with so much interest in the game. Padel is already well established in Spain and other countries, so it has a great track record of attracting keen sports players (and an exciting international tour) as well as amateur enthusiasts.

With more and more padel courts opening in the UK, now’s a great time to take up padel. Whether you’re a skilled racket sports player looking for something new or extra to try, or you’re starting out with a racket sport, we predict that you’ll love discovering padel. Why not get together with friends and give it a go at a local court? For fun, feel-good factor, pace and fitness we think padel is a fantastic racket sport that offers a great experience to players at every level.

About the author

Sophie Brealey is an experienced Padel, Tennis and Badminton player and pdhsports.com Padel Advisor and Racket Tester. She has a First Class Degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Sheffield Hallam University. She has always enjoyed competitive racket sports, representing Derbyshire at both Tennis and Badminton from a young age.