What is padel tennis and how to get playing in London?

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Racket sports are having a moment, the Clooneys reportedly adore a game of pickleball, while Lionel Messi loves padel — and it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

Think of it as a gentler take on regular tennis, that’s suitable for all ages and abilities, and is highly sociable as it is typically played in doubles. A smaller court, softer equipment and only underarm serves allow a more tamed approach — but make no mistake, you can still work up a sweat.

Here’s everything you need to know about this fitness fad that’s here to stay.

Why is everyone talking about padel tennis?

Padel tennis, also known as padel or paddle, is played by more than ten million people worldwide. But Brits are a little late to the game, as it is still emerging as a sport in the UK.

Enrique Corcuera, inventor of the tennis variant in 1969, formed his take on the less popular Platform Tennis in his squash court in Acapulco, Mexico. Popularity then shifted to Spain where, over the next 25 years, championships were set up to establish the competitive sport.

Now the fastest growing sport in the world, padel tennis is officially recognised as a discipline of tennis in Britain.

How do you play padel?

Much like its origin sport, padel is scored in sets of six games, with two games difference – or a tiebreaker if the game is split. Best of three sets wins the match.

It is played predominantly in doubles on an enclosed court that is roughly 25 per cent smaller than a regular tennis court. Akin to squash, the walls feature as part of the game, with the ball bouncing off them.

“Padels” are plastic and foam bats, with impressive force and adapted balls - and many amateur players simply use needles to ease the pressure of tennis balls. Easy on the arms, easy on the wallet.

Who plays padel?

Argentinian international Lionel Messi reportedly plays padel on his home court in Spain and has been spotted pairing up with former teammate Luis Suarez - the sport is played by an estimated six million alone in the country, according to the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). David Beckham, Peter Crouch and Andy Murray are all rumoured fans too. Everyone needs a hobby.

What kit do I need?

It’s easy to get started with a set of racquets for you and your opponents (Decathalon UK, £29.99) and depressurised balls, slightly smaller than tennis balls (PDH Sports, £19.99).

Where can you play in London?

A full list of padel venues in the UK can be found on the LTA’s website here. In and around the capital, David Lloyd has courts at its Chigwell and Bushey clubs, while Will to Win runs floodlit padel courts at Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.