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It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but what is padel tennis?

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It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world enjoyed by David Beckham, Andy Murray and Lionel Messi, but chances are you’ve never heard of it… so what is padel tennis?

  • It’s played by 18 million people, but hasn’t really become a household name yet
  • But it has the support of the rich and famous, including Judy Murray
  • The ease with which it can be picked up makes it more and more popular worldwide

It’s one of the world’s fastest growing sports, but there’s a chance you’ve never heard of padel…not yet. So what is it?

Tennis with walls, essentially. It is played on an enclosed court, about three quarters the size of a normal tennis court.

The main twist is that you can play the ball off the glass walls, like in squash – so there is no such thing as ‘out’. That leads to long, fast rallies.

It is played as a doubles, with solid, ropeless bats and you serve forearm. Scoring is the same as tennis.

When was it invented?

In 1969, by Mexican businessman Enrique Corcuera, who wanted a tennis court near his home in Acapulco but didn’t have the space – and was afraid of losing the ball in his neighbor’s yard.

His wife Viviana, a former Miss Argentina, helped draft the rules, based on a 1920s pastime played on British cruise ships.

Judy Murray (pictured) supports padel tennis, while her son Sir Andy supports Game4Padel, a company that builds tennis courts

How popular is it?

It has 18 million players worldwide – about a third of them in Spain. Being easy to master, the sport is expanding rapidly, tripling the number of clubs across Europe in five years.

Padel was recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 2019, was officially designated as a tennis discipline in Britain in 2020 and will be played at the European Games in Poland next year, their first appearance in a major multi-sport event.

In the UK there are 150 courses in 66 locations, supporting approximately 90,000 active players. Snobs may have once complained that it was a “dumbed-down” version of tennis — the sporting equivalent of crazy golf — but the well-heeled (like the Chipping Norton Set) install courts in their homes.

Even the royal hangout The Hurlingham Club has four padel courts on site in west London.

Famous fans?

It is especially popular with footballers like Mo Salah, David Beckham, who played when he lived in Miami, and Lionel Messi, who has a court at his home in Barcelona.

Many ex-tennis champions like it too.

Sir Andy Murray has supported Game4Padel, a job-building company, while his mother Judy, above, calls the sport ‘cosy and fun’.

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