Paddle tennis is a sport adapted from tennis. The name comes from the English word paddle, referring to the paddles players use during competition.
Paddle tennis is a sport with very little history; one could call it a young sport, as regulated forms of the game have existed only since the 1980s. The name comes from the English word paddle (in Spanish the sport is called Padel), referring to the paddles players use during competition.
In the 19th century, a similar enclosed-court variety of tennis was already being played by passengers on British ships. The first versions of paddle tennis began appearing in New York during the first quarter of the 20th century, when paddles substituted the traditional tennis racquet.
Enrique Corcuera, from Mexico, has the distinction of being considered the inventor of the sport, finding inspiration in America’s paddle tennis. The new sport was born when Mr. Corcuera modified a court, 20 by 10 meters in size, by adding walls and a metallic net of up to 4 meters in height on all four sides.
One of Enrique’s friends was Alfonso de Hohenlohe, a fundamental figure in the emergence of Marbella, Spain as a well-known beach resort destination for the jet set from around the world. While visiting Mexico, Hohenlohe observed his friend’s sporty creation and decided to import it to Spain’s Costa del Sol, where he built Spain’s first two paddle tennis courts at the Marbella Club. The introduction of the courts marked the beginning of the game’s popularity among the members of this exclusive club. The famous tennis player Manolo Santana, a regular fixture in Marbella’s landscape, began organizing the first paddle tennis tournaments throughout the Costa del Sol, which helped spread the sport’s popularity.
In 1975 an Argentine millionaire and Marbella regular imported the sport to his country, where it became a sporting sensation. Today, there are more than 2 million officially licensed paddle players in Argentina, a country that offers over 10,000 paddle tennis courts.
From Argentina, the sport has caught on in neighboring countries such as Brazil, Uruguay and Chile, and it is increasingly popular in the US and Canada.
From the southern coast of Spain, paddle tennis began to spread to the rest of the country. In 1993, the Sports Council of Spain recognized paddle tennis as a sport.
In 2005, the PPT (Paddle Pro Tour) was born, a professional circuit in which players from around the world compete at different tournament facilities in Spain and Argentina for world paddle tennis ranking positions. Currently, the number one ranked players in the world are the doubles team of Juan Martin Diaz (Spanish) and Fernando Belasteguin (Argentine). The pair enjoys a comfortable lead over the second ranked team.
The court is relatively easy to build, the game is played in teams of two and the sport is accessible to players of all ages. All of these factors have helped paddle tennis go from an exclusive sport for the wealthy, to a sport that is gaining in popularity and accessibility among the rest of the population. One clear sign of paddle tennis’ success in Spain is the wide variety of specialized magazines on the sport that are available both online and in paper editions. The Royal Academy of Spanish even included the word paddle in the 18th edition of its dictionary, giving the word official status in the Spanish language.
If you’d like more information on the rules and playing techniques of this sport, take a look at the Spanish Federation of Paddle Tennis’s website at www.paddlefederacion.es or download the complete Rules and Regulations of Paddle, which you’ll find on that site.
Paddle tennis anyone? Let’s go find a court and play a few sets of paddle tennis today!
Image by Padelazo