Categorized | Sport

Padel, a different kind of tennis

Photo by Susannah Bothe

Between the 12th and 17th of February, Mar del Plata played host to the Three Nation Championships of Padel. The tournament was contested between the nations of Argentina, Spain and Brazil.

Padel, or padel tennis, is a sport enjoyed widely in parts of Latin America and Spain, although its popularity is limited outside of these areas.

While the historical origins are debated somewhat, it is now generally accepted that the sport was created in Mexico by Enrique Corcuera. A passionate tennis player, Corcuera lacked space for tennis courts, and devised padel as an alternative.

It is then said that his close Spanish friend Alfonso de Hohenlohe enjoyed the game so much that in 1974 he took it back to Spain’s illustrious Marbella Club. From there the sport began to spread throughout the Latin world.

The growth of padel in Argentina has been an up and down affair. The founding of the International Padel Association in 1991 marked a positive decade for the sport in Argentina as it grew rapidly in popularity, only for it to fall more recently. Having said that, enthusiasts have been passionately pushing for its inclusion in the Olympics for some time, and there is hope that padel may be made an officially sanctioned Olympic sport in time for the 2012 London Games.

While the sport is similar to tennis in terms of the balls used and the scoring systems, padel is most distinctive in the serve, which is always underarm, the court and the racquets that are used. The courts are about half the size of a tennis court, at 10×20 metres, and include walls behind the base line that run diagonally down to the net on the two sides. As with squash, provided that the ball only bounces once, it can be rebounded off the wall. The racquet used resembles some sort of toy tennis racquet: short, made out of wood and filled with small holes. The sport can technically be played in both singles and doubles format, but is almost exclusively played as doubles.

Photo by Susannah Bothe

Although Guillermo Russell of states that statistics are difficult to accurately ascertain, due to the fact that there is a lot of padel activity outside of official clubs, a conservative estimate would put the number of players in Argentina at around 500,000. However according to Guillermo, official quotas put the numbers within Capital Federal at a mere 5,000 players playing at 45 clubs.

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