Pádel is a Spanish racket sport which is becoming more and more popular across Spain and other European countries such as Belgium, Austria, France and Italy. It is similar to tennis with a smaller court but the same line markings. Surrounding the court are high walls of glass or solid material. Scoring is similar to tennis and you can play singles or doubles matches.
The racket is more like a large table tennis bat without strings and you serve underhand rather than overhand.
When it was first played in Spain in the 1970s it was mainly played by the upper classes. However, these days it is played by anyone and everyone of any age, making it a game that the whole family can enjoy together. It is thought to be more intense and fun than tennis and perhaps a little easier to play.
Nowadays all the main towns and cities in Spain have “pistas de pádel” (padel courts) with inter-club tournaments and national circuits. The “Federación Internacional de Pádel” was officially formed in 1991 and by 1993 the game was recognised as an official sports category.
It is not exactly clear how the game came about, however, one suggestion is that the game first occurred on British cruise ships as a way of entertaining passengers. However, many people believe that it originated in Mexico. It is said that Enrique Corcuera, who lived in Acapulco, did not have enough space around his home to build a tennis court, so he built a 20 x 10m court, enclosing it with walls three and four metres high. It was first played with a short handled wooden bat. In 1974, when his friend Alfonso de Hohenlohe, travelled from Spain to visit Corcuera in Acapulco, Hohenlohe enjoyed this new game so much that he brought the idea back to Marbella where the first two pádel courts were constructed. Alfonso Hohenlohe began sharing his enthusiasm for pádel with the Marbella elite and the tennis community. It soon caught on and since then has gone from strength to strength along the coast and across Spain with tournaments being organised along the Costa del Sol as more and more clubs built their own courts.
A millionaire friend of Hohenlohe who regularly visited Marbella was so impressed with the game that he took the idea with him back to Argentina. Now, more than two million Argentinians play pádel, making it one of the most popular sports played in Argentina. More recently, paddle tennis has really taken off in other South American countries and is also very popular in America and Canada.