This relatively new sport has become one of the most popular racquet games in Spain and the craze is spreading across Europe. A paddle (pádel' in Spanish) court is smaller than a tennis court, with simpler line markings. It has high surrounding walls of glass and/or solid construction. It has been described as a squash court in the sun and is the perfect sport for Andalucía's fantastic climate. The scoring is similar to tennis and it can also be played in either singles or doubles. A game is the best of three sets. Where it differs most from conventional tennis is in the use of what resembles a giant table tennis bat, instead of a strung racquet, and the service is under rather than overhand.
It has often been described as easier to get to grips with and more instantly gratifying than tennis. It is a game for all ages, which allows the whole family to join in. The meteoric rise in its popularity over the past few years is proof of how enjoyable it is. As you will see from the history notes below, paddle tennis had a fairly elitist following when it was first introduced into Spain - in Marbella in the mid-1970s.
The origins of paddle tennis are not entirely clear. It has been suggested that the game was devised many years ago on British cruise ships to keep the passengers amused. Then around the mid-1920s an American called Frank Beal brought what he called 'paddle tennis' into the parks of New York City. A decade later saw changes to the courts, adding wooden floors and high surrounding fences to avoid losing the ball in the winter snow. This became known as 'platform tennis' and is possibly the basis for the design of the courts today.
From Mexico to Marbella and Argentina
However, many people believe that it comes from 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 with an area of 200 square metres he constructed a 20x10m court, enclosing it with walls three and four metres high. Instead of a tennis racquet, the game was 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.
After much study and deliberation over the correct design of the court and rules of the game, the first two paddle tennis courts were built at the Marbella Club. Alfonso Hohenlohe was then delighted to share his new found passion for pádel with the Marbella jet set. It soon caught on and since then has gone from strength to strength along the coast and across Spain.
Very quickly the tennis fraternity, including big names like Manolo Santana, were attracted to paddle tennis and soon tournaments were 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 have taken up the game, making it one of the most popular sports played in the country. More recently, paddle tennis has taken off in other South American countries and is very big in America and Canada.
The rest of Spain
Since the early days of pádel in the 1970s at the Marbella Club, many sports and tennis clubs in Andalucía built courts to meet the demand of an enthusiastic following. There are now pistas de pádel in many clubs in major cities throughout the country. This expansion of play allows for inter-club tournaments and national circuits.
In 1991, the Federación Internacional de Pádel was officially formed and by 1993 the game was recognised as an official sports category. Since then, there have been national and regional circuits celebrated throughout the country, including the Circuito Andaluz for several years running. During the Expo in Sevilla in 1992, La Moraleja Golf Club organised the first World Paddle Championships and in 1996 Spain hosted the Third World Championships in Madrid.
Paddle tennis is now very popular in many European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Britain, France and Italy.
Where to play Padel Tennis in Andalucia
Amongst the numerous tennis clubs, sports centres and hotels with paddle courts are:
Costa del Sol
Manolo Santanas Racquets Club
Carretera De Istán Km. 2 29600 Marbella
Tel: 952 77 85 80
Tennis Club Hotel Puente Romano
A7 /N340, Km 177.6 29600 Marbella
Tel: 952 82 09 00
Marbella Hill Club
A7 /N340 Km 177.6 (Opposite Puente Romano Hotel past the Mosque)
Tel: 659 677 539
Reserva del Higueron
A7 /N340 Km 217, Benalmadena (between Fuengirola and Benalmadena) - club hosts championship and pro-am tournaments. 8 paddle courts.
Tel: 952 565 761
Club del Sol, Sitio de Calahonda
José de Orbaneja, Urb. Sitio de Calahonda, Mijas Costa. 4 Paddle Courts
Tel: 952 939 595 Fax: 952 934 189
Club de Padel y Tenis de Nueva Alcántara
A7 /N340 Km 171.5, San Pedro de Alcántara, Marbella.
9 paddle courts, 5 of which are glass walled
Tel: 952788315 / 952787786
Club Antares Genaro Parlade 7, Sevilla 41013. 4 Paddle Courts.
Tel: 954296900 / Fax: 954296901
Club de Padel Aguadulce
Plaza Caribe s/n, Parcela 509. Urb. Aguadulce 04720 - Almería
4 paddle courts, 2 of which are glass walled
Tel/Fax: 950.55.02.10 e-mail
Many hotels have both tennis courts and paddle tennis courts, including:
- Hotel Atalaya Park (between Marbella and Estepona)
- Aparthotel PYR, Marbella
- Hotel El Fuerte, Marbella