Is padel the next big racket sport? Here's your essential guide

Padel is booming in popularity as a participation sport. Discover the ins and outs of the sport that arouses passions all over the world!
Written by Jeremías San Martín
11 min readUpdated on
Juan Lebrón and players during a match in Madrid, Spain on July 28, 2022.
© Jaime De Diego/Red Bull Content Pool
Padel is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world in terms of numbers playing. According to the governing body, the International Padel Federation (FIP), padel is now played by around 25 million people across the globe, with the game enormously popular at a grassroots and professional level in countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Spain. FIP estimates that there are courts in over 90 countries.
See exactly what all the buzz is about during the sport's elite professional tour, Premier Padel, which will be broadcast by Red Bull TV throughout the almost year-long season. Streaming live at each of the 25 stops, you can watch every match in each tournament from the quarter-finals onwards. Check here to find out if you can access Red Bull TV's coverage. If you don't see your country listed, then you should check your local listings.
But what exactly is the racket-based ball game all about? Scroll on down to find out more about the origin, equipment, rules and the stars who play this game.
Padel players in action at Red Bull Padel Battle in Madrid

Padel is usually played as doubles

© Sergi Penalba


What is padel?

Padel is a racket-based ball sport that could be described as a mixture of squash and tennis. It is played within an enclosed space like squash but shares similarities with tennis.
So the game is played with a net in the middle, like tennis, and the court also looks very similar. Like tennis, players must pass a ball over the net into an opponent's side by hitting it with their racket. However, in padel, the walls/fence of the enclosed court are firmly part of the sport's gameplay. Players are allowed to hit a ball after it bounces off a wall/fence to keep the ball in play.
Padel is most commonly played by four people in a game of doubles, though it can also be played individually. Playing as pairs hark back to the game's social origins.
Players at the end of a match of Red Bull Padel Battle.

Padel at the grassroots level is very sociable

© Sergi Penalba


The differences between tennis and padel

As mentioned above, padel takes its influence from tennis, and anyone who watches a game of padel can't fail to notice that everything plays out like a game of tennis. There are differences, the key one being padel is played in an enclosed space. Below are also the difference you'll notice.
  • Court size: a padel court is smaller than a tennis court. A padel court doesn't have the same line markings as a tennis court.
  • Enclosed walls/fence: they are part of the court and play a part in gameplay
  • Racket: a padel racket looks similarly shaped to a tennis racket but is smaller and not strung.
  • Balls: the balls used in padel are smaller in diameter than a tennis ball despite looking the same.
  • Serving: in padel, the serve is underarm and not overhead like in tennis.
  • Technique: padel is not so much a power-based game like tennis.

Where did padel begin

A Mexican – Enrique Corcuera – is seen as the origin founder of the game that is played today. Corcuera built a court to play a racket-based ball game at his home in Acapulco in the late 1960s, but this court was a little bit smaller than a tennis court due to property constraints. He found that if tennis balls were overhit, they would go all over the place and into neighbouring houses, so he surrounded the court with walls on all sides.
Normal tennis rackets generated too much power on his court, so Corcuera and his friends eventually adopted a wooden beach paddle bat to play with. A rulebook evolved, which allowed the players to play off walls, and the rest is history.
From those Mexican beginnings, padel gained popularity mainly due to the enthusiasm of Corcuera's friends for the game they played at his property. In 1974, a friend, Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe-Langenburg, took the game to Spain, while de Hohenlohe’s friend, Julio Menditengui, was instrumental in introducing the game to Argentina. In both countries, the game took off to the extent that they are the second most popular sport outside of football.
Ale Galán and Juan Lebrón play padel tennis.

The growth of padel as a sport has been rapid

© Jaime de Diego/Red Bull Content Pool


What do you need to start playing padel?

The court
The playing area of the padel court measures 20x10 metres wide. Each half of the court is a perfect square of 10×10 metres. All lines on the court have a width of five centimetres. The net at the centre line of the court is 10 metres long and should be 88 centimetres high at the centre and 92 centimetres at the end.
Courts are typically enclosed by a combination of perspex glass (or solid concrete) walls and wire mesh. The back walls on the court should always be perspex glass and be three metres high. These walls are then topped with 1m of wire mesh. The side walls are part perspex glass and part wire mesh and should be three metres high also.
There are two gates at either end of the net on the side of the court and they are kept open during play as the rules of padel allow you to play a point out of the court. The court surface may be concrete or synthetic grass, or carpet.
Ale Galán and Juan Lebrón during a match in Madrid, Spain on July 28, 2022.

The dimensions of a padel court

© Jaime De Diego/Red Bull Content Pool

The racket
There's no long-handed stringed racket in padel like there is in tennis. A padel racket looks very different as a result. It has a short handle and a foam core with an outer shell that could be anything from fibreglass to carbon fibre to graphene. A padel racket must not measure more than 45.5 centimetres long, 26 centimetres, and it should have a thickness of 38 mm.
One of the peculiarities of a padel racket is that they are perforated with holes throughout. These holes are there to reduce the weight of the rackets. Rackets are classified around type also: Diamond (greater power), Teardrop (Control and power) and Round (greater control).
Ale Galán playing Padel in Madrid.

The padel racket

© Jaime de Diego/Red Bull Content Pool

The balls
Padel balls are very similar to standard tennis balls in look but are smaller in diameter and carry less pressure.
The International Padel Federation (FIP) regulations specify that the ball must be made of yellow or white rubber and have a diameter of between 6.32 and 6.77 centimetres, while the weight must be between 56 and 59 grams. The ball must have an internal pressure of between 4.6 and 5.2 kilograms.

What are the rules of padel?

The rules for padel are similar to tennis in many ways, but there are also differences here.
Padel scoring
Scoring largely follows that of normal tennis
  • A point in padel is awarded if: the ball bounces on the ground twice on a player's side; a player hits the ball into the net; a player hits the ball outside the play area or directly against an opponent wall/fence without the ball bouncing first.
  • Like tennis, matches are made up of three sets or five sets. The first player or team who wins two out of the three sets (or three, when five sets are played) wins.
  • The first player or team to win six games wins the set. A team must have a lead of two or more games to win the set.
  • In the professional game, a tie-break is played if a set goes to six games each. The first to seven points wins the tie-break.
  • Games follow the point scoring of tennis also. So scores go up as 15, 30, 40, Game. If the scores are level at 40-40, this is a deuce. Two consecutive points need to be won from deuce in order to win the game. In the professional game, at 40-40, a golden point is now in operation.
  • Players change their side of the court every time an odd game number is played.
Competitors at Red Bull Padel Battle - Madrid

Scoring in padel is similar to tennis

© Óscar Carrascosa/Red Bull Content Pool

In-game rules
  • Serve is by underarm into the opponent's court diagonally from where the server is standing. The server has to let the ball bounce once behind the service line before serving, and the ball must be hit by the server below their waist level. The serve must bounce in an opponent player's service box. If the ball bounces onto the fence, that is considered a fault. If it hits a wall, then play can continue.
  • In play, you return the ball once it bounces off the surface on your side. You can also play the ball if the ball bounces onto a wall or fence and rebounds off it. You are allowed to volley, but that return ball must not hit the glass perspex walls/fence directly.
  • A player can play the ball against a wall on their own side of the court but not off the fence parts of the court.
  • A player can leave the court to play a shot if the court has exit gates. This situation arises when a ball bounces on the opponent’s side of the court and then bounces over the perspex glass wall/fence. Players can exit the court in order to return the ball before it bounces a second time.
Juan Lebron plays padel in Madrid on April 5, 2021.

Padel and tennis, same same but different

© Gianfranco Tripodo/Red Bull Content Pool


Padel tips for starters

Though padel is a sport that you can jump straight into and play, there are many intricacies to the game, the tactics you can employ and shots you can play. Here are some tips for those who are interested in playing or are just starting out.
Wall play – playing the ball off a perspex wall is a major part of the game, so don't avoid using it; the wall is not your enemy. When the ball bounces off the wall, it loses speed, so you actually have time to consider what shot you can play more so than just off a normal return off the surface.
Court position – When positioning at the back of the court, you should stand on the same line as your partner. The ideal position is one step back of the service line and two steps back of the side of the court. At the net, don't stand too close. Instead, take a position two to three steps back from the net.
Ease off the power - focus on just getting the ball back across the net and into play continuously. This will allow you to learn how to control the ball with your racket properly. Padel is not a power-based game, even at pro levels.
Shoes on court – Many players new to the sport will just choose tennis shoes, but actually playing padel puts incredible strain on athlete's Achilles tendons. So choose specific padel shoes from recognised manufacturers as they'll offer maximum comfort and cushioning that is specific to the stresses that a padel player undergoes.
Padel players at a Red Bull padel tournament.

Working on your return will get you through many situations

© Sergi Penalba


For the professionals, what is the main tour they play on?

Premier Padel is the main tour for professional players. Competing tours Premier Padel and World Padel Tour agreed to merge to unify under one professional circuit, governed by the International Padel Federation (FIP) in time for the start of the 2024 season. The Premier Padel name has been retained after the merger.

What's the 2024 Premier Padel calendar?

The circuit will have four types of tournaments: the Majors, followed by the P1s and the P2s, all of which will culminate in the Tour Finals featuring the eight best male and female couples of the season. Red Bull TV will broadcast all Premier Padel matches from the quarter finals onwards of every tournament.
  • Winners of a Majors event will earn 2,000 points, while those who win P1s will get 1,000, and the P2 winners will receive 500 points.
  • Points will also be distributed among the other participants depending on the round they reach.
  • The winners of the Tour Finals will earn an extra 1,500 ranking points.




Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


February 26 - March 2

Doha, Qatar


March 3-8

Acapulco, Mexico


March 18-24

Puerto Cabello, Venezuela


March 25-31

Brussels, Belgium


April 22-28

Seville, Spain


April 29 - May 5

Asunción, Paraguay


May 13-19

Mar del Plata, Argentina


May 20-26

Santiago, Chile


May 27 - June 2

Bordeaux, France


June 10-16

Rome, Italy


June 17-23

Malaga, Spain


July 8-14

Genoa, Italy


July 15-21



July 29 - August 4

Madrid, Spain


September 2-8

Rotterdam, The Netherlands


September 9-15

Düsseldorf, Germany


September 16-22

Paris, France Major


September 30 - October 6

Sweden (TBC)


October 7-13

Newgiza, Egypt


October 21-27

Dubai, UAE


November 4-10

Kuwait City, Kuwait


November 11-17

Acapulco, Mexico


November 25 - December 1

Milan, Italy


December 2-8

Barcelona, Spain

Tour Finals

December 18-22


Names to watch out for

Given its origins, padel tennis is unsurprisingly dominated by players from Spain and Argentina.
  • Juan Lebron – The Spanish national is the current International Padel Federation number one ranked player and current World Champion.
  • Alejandro Galán – Playing partner of Lebron and also a current World Champion with him for the Spanish national team.
  • Fernando Belasteguin – A legend of the sport. The Argentinian is still playing at the highest level at the age of 44.
  • Arturo Coello – One of padel's young guns who is making a major impact. The Spaniard was the youngest winner of a WPT tournament at the age of 19.
  • Bea González – The poster girl of padel's women's game, given her success at a young age. At 22, the Spaniard is already a European and World Champion.
  • Alejandra Salazar – A Spanish female padel player who has over 50 titles to her name on the World Padel Tour.

Part of this story

Alejandro Galán

Spanish padel star Alejandro Galán is one of the very best players in the world, reaching the rank of number one with partner Juan Lebrón.


Juan Lebrón Chincoa

A padel star from Spain, Juan Lebrón Chincoa has won numerous high profile tournaments and is regularly among the sport’s top-ranked players.


Beatriz González

The great promise of world padel, Spaniard Beatriz González is set to dominate courts around the globe for years to come.