William Skidelsky

Watch out Wimbledon: padel is taking over

For the past 15 years, I’ve had an entirely healthy compulsion – my wife, I suspect, would disagree – to play tennis at least twice a week. I assumed this habit was so ingrained that nothing short of a calamitous injury could ever keep me from my fix.

Spain is where the craze took hold. Now it’s the country’s second most popular sport, after football

I think I may have been mistaken. Recently, I’ve discovered a new sport which is proving, if anything, more addictive. Time will tell if this is a fleeting crush, or the start of something more enduring – but I am beginning to wonder whether my new-found love of padel will lead me to abandon tennis.

I hear you ask: what exactly is padel? It is often described as the fastest-growing sport in the world, yet remains utterly unknown to many – and Britain has been especially slow on the uptake.

That, however, is bound to change, for padel is becoming impossible to ignore. Go to any tennis club these days, and much of the chat will be about the merits of getting rid of the croquet lawn or communal seating area and putting a padel court in its place. Stratford Padel Club in east London, which I recently joined, has five courts and is adding another four this autumn. This month, Padium – described as the UK’s ‘premium’ indoor padel venue – opens in Canary Wharf. Sporting celebrities, meanwhile, are busy trumpeting the game’s merits: Lionel Messi, Andy Murray and Jürgen Klopp are all big fans. What is it about this upstart sport that is making even confirmed tennis nuts like me strangely unenthused by Wimbledon?

Padel was invented in 1969 by a Mexican businessman named Enrique Corcuera. Lacking the space for a tennis court in his garden, he built a smaller court, enclosed with metal fencing.

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