Mark Palmer


More aerobic than tennis but easier on the joints, it’s a sport for our times

When we arrived, we discovered that our villa had a padel court. Few of us had seen one before and no one knew the rules, so we invented them as logically as we could and got on with it. Within a couple of sets we were hooked. Some people started to get up early to practise; others began watching matches on YouTube. Specialist websites were consulted to establish the basics, such as how many underarm serves you get (the answer is two) and whether the ball is out if it hits the back wall without bouncing first in the court. (Absolutely).

What a game! It’s a cross between real tennis, regular tennis, squash and ping pong. The racquets are solid and stringless and you can play it to a high standard well into your dotage because it’s all about strategy and guile rather than muscle and smashing the ball as hard as you can.

Indeed, smash it and the chances are that the ball will bounce off the back or side walls in such a way that your opponent will have all the time in the world to place it just where he wants.

Among the Spanish, padel (known as paddle tennis in North America) is more popular than tennis, despite their adulation of Rafa Nadal. Next year its international federation intends to present a strong case for its inclusion as an Olympic sport. Certainly, the rallies are Olympian, with the pros trading 60-80 shots back and forth over the net, and there’s none of this bouncing the ball for ages before a serve. We don’t have many pros yet in this country. In fact, there are just three, led by our number one player Richard Brooks, 36, who recently signed a sponsorship deal with Adidas.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in