Paddle tennis is a fast-paced, action-packed variant of tennis that is attracting fans from around the world to it in droves. That’s especially true in Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico and Spain, where it’s known as padel and has some slight variations to the U.S version. Leagues and tournaments are even springing up in far-flung locations like Egypt and Dubai.
William S. White Winnetka, who co-founded the Montessori Academy of Chicago after a successful career in finance, counts paddle tennis as one of his favorite ways to relax and exercise. He particularly enjoys the great aerobic workout it provides while being easier on the joints than tennis.
He says the biggest challenge to getting started in paddle tennis is finding a court to play on, as well as getting the proper equipment. Let’s dive into the particulars of those topics as well as the rules that make paddle tennis such a unique and fun activity.
The Rules of Paddle Tennis
Paddle tennis is played within enclosed courts that are similar but much smaller than traditional tennis courts, being about one-third of the size. While the game is primarily played by teams of two, the doubles line found on tennis courts has been removed. Instead, a new doubles line has been added along the ends of each court, extending their vertical length.
A point is awarded if the ball bounces twice within a team’s area without being returned, or if a team strikes their own teammate with the ball (which tends to sour team relations). Scoring is much the same as tennis, with four points being needed to win a game, 6 or 8 games being needed to win a set, and 1 or 2 sets being needed to win the match.
The rules that makes the game stand out the most to William S. White Winnetka is the fact that the fencing surrounding the courts are in play, allowing players to bank shots into their opponents’ area and get them scrambling.
Paddle tennis is also played during the winter at many locations, as courts tend to be elevated and heated.
Paddle Tennis Equipment
Paddle tennis is played with composite paddles that are much smaller than traditional tennis rackets, both in their length and in the size of their hitting area. This makes them easier to control in some respects, but also raises the challenge of cleanly hitting the ball.
However, this is alleviated by the fact the balls can’t be hit as hard, with the game instead focusing on net and wall play rather than striking clean winners. Paddle tennis balls look nearly identical to regular tennis balls but are slightly smaller and less pressurized. While they can’t be hit as hard, they still provide great bounces and ricochets off the courts and fences.
Where to Play Paddle Tennis
Finding a paddle tennis court to play on is a challenge, with the majority of U.S courts being found in the Los Angeles area. According to the United States Paddle Tennis Association, courts can also be found in several other U.S cities, including New York, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Colorado Springs, and St. Augustine.
Platform tennis courts, on which paddle tennis can also be played, are more widespread, with William S. White Winnetka noting that courts are sprouting up all over Chicago, one of the fastest-growing regions for the game in the U.S.