Padel vs Pickleball: What Are The Differences Between The Two Racket Sports?

Padel and pickleball both lay claims to being the two fastest growing sports in the world. Their rapid rises are largely categorised together due to the nature of them both being lesser-known racket sports. However, whilst padel vs pickleball have many similarities, they are completely different games, with unique characteristics, courts, equipment, rules, and techniques.

It is these unique features that attract a diverse range of players, making padel and pickleball the fastest-growing sports globally. From a cultural and social aspect, both sports are already ingrained within a variety of communities across the globe. This helps to spread awareness and therefore increase participation.

We provide an in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences of padel vs pickleball, their global growth, and the steps needed to increase their expansion worldwide.

What Is Padel?

Padel originated in Mexico during the 1960s under the guidance of visionary entrepreneur Enrique Corcuera. The game is traditionally played in a glass cage in a space smaller than a standard tennis court. This allows players to utilise the glass walls for balls to rebound. Corcuera developed the idea of walls in response to wanting a more private space to play tennis in at his home.

Padel has since transcended its humble beginnings to establish itself as a vibrant and thriving culture. With the involvement of notable players, the establishment of national governing bodies, and a burgeoning global industry valued at nearly $200 million, padel has solidified itself as a thriving racket sport.

Boasting an impressive participation rate of over 25 million enthusiasts across 90 nations, padel has earned its reputation as the definitive sporting sensation of the post-millennium era. The sport’s meteoric rise is particularly evident in Spain and Latin America. More recently, the padel craze has spread to Western Europe, catching like wildfire within the Scandinavian nations.

Much of Western Europe have naturally followed suit, including the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Portugal. These nations are demonstrating evident signs of exponential growth in both participation and industry revenue. The UK currently has over 200 courts, with global icons such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Andy Murray, David Beckham, and Jurgen Klopp endorsing and actively participating in the sport. Meanwhile, in France, the number of padel courts doubled to just shy of 1,000 as of 2021. Among these 1,000 courts, none stand out more than within the stunning arena of the legendary Roland Garros. As well as this, even the French President Emmanuel Macron is a devoted fan and player.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball, on the other hand, was invented Bainbridge Island, Seattle in 1965. It was started by three fathers simply conjuring up the sport to keep their young children entertained. The sport is played in a badminton sized court, with a slightly smaller tennis net, either by singles or in doubles. Fast forward five decades and the sport lays claim to over 4.8 million active users in the US alone. In fact, pickleball was named the fastest growing sport in the US by the US Sports and Fitness Industry Association. The star-studded MLP (Major League Pickleball) established in 2021, features illustrious team owners including Tom Brady, LeBron James, Nick Kyrgios, and even Michael Phelps.

The future of pickleball appears very promising, with popularity in the UK steadily rising. The UK boasts a thriving community of over 4000 active players and a network of 120 venues nationwide. David Lloyd Leisure recently introduced 45 pickleball courts across their franchises, with more soon to follow.

The sport’s increasing accessibility is attributed to its versatility, as it can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors. From a global standpoint, the fact that pickleball has already conquered the US market cements its huge appeal and promise for even further growth.

What Are The Similarities Between Padel vs Pickleball?

Both sports are highly accessible, attracting players of all ages and skill levels. This is due to their ease of learning and relatively low physical demands. Once you pick up some basic rules, you’re free to enjoy both games in their entirety. As well as this, pickleball and padel emphasise social interaction and community building. This provides opportunities for players to engage in recreational and competitive play. This has proven to increase social wellbeing, physical and mental health, as well as economic progression within communities.

Both sports primarily feature doubles play, fostering teamwork and strategic gameplay. This allows for a more fluid approach to the sport, being able to play with friends or family seamlessly. They’re both considered low-impact sports, reducing the risk of injuries and making them suitable for individuals with varying fitness levels. Both sports are known to enhance cardiovascular and strength performance, as well as greatly improve motor skills and co-ordination.

What Are The Differences Between Padel vs Pickleball?

As stated, pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with net slightly different to a tennis net. You can play in singles or doubles, hitting the perforated ball with a solid paddle racket. These are usually made of wood or composite materials. If the defending side hits the ball out of the court parameters or fails to return the ball, then the serving side wins the point. There’s also a zone near the net called ‘the kitchen’, which prohibits volleying.

Padel uses tennis-like equipment and has a larger court with walls, although padel players use distinctive rackets. Padel follows a similar scoring system to tennis and the game is played with teams positioned on opposite sides of the net. Points are scored when the ball is hit past the opponents and lands within the court boundaries. Each serve must be underhand and bounce within the opponent’s service box.

Pickleball is typically played on outdoor or indoor hard courts, whereas padel is commonly played on artificial grass or synthetic surfaces. This allows padel to achieve a faster pace of play, with pickleball at a slightly slower tempo. As mentioned, pickleball uses a perforated ball with holes in it, compared to padel’s pressurised ball which is similar to a tennis ball.

What Do Padel and Pickleball Need To Do To Continue To Grow?

Sandy Farquharson, Founder of The Padel School, believes, “Both sports need to focus on structure. Whether this be implementing regulations which benefit players and coaches or supporting national federations in the progression of amateurs to professionals. Recreationally, for local padel and pickleball clubs to grow and attract the best talent there needs to be more investment in education and the foundations.”

Sandy goes on to say, “Look at padel in Sweden for example, the sport was growing rapidly in popularity with clubs popping up all over the country. So fast in fact, that clubs could build courts anywhere with no organised program structure and they were fully booked. Now so many clubs have been installed they are entering a time of over-saturation. The are making strides to develop the structure now, but this process would be simpler from the start. Both padel and pickleball need to learn the lessons from previous sports and countries that have lead the way.”

What do you think? Do you think about padel vs pickleball, do they have what it takes to rival the largest sports in the world soon? We’d love to hear your thoughts, perhaps if you play both sports regularly. Alternatively, if you have any questions get in touch with us now!

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