The world’s top players are in Marbella this week, beginning their battle for supremacy on the 2020 World Padel Tour. Continuing until Sunday (8 March) at the San Pedro de Alcántara municipal sports pavilion (Palacio de Deportes), the “Marbella Master” is the first of 25 tour events this season, including official exhibitions.
A second tournament, the Málaga Open, will be held on the Costa del Sol from 3 to 9 August, and the tour concludes with the final in Madrid in December – after also travelling to several other cities elsewhere in Spain, and overseas to Mexico, Sweden, Argentina, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Brazil.
Padel (or “pádel” as it is known in Spain, with the accent – and “paddle tennis” in English) has been experiencing exceptional growth in recent years. More than 75,000 aficionados in Spain are registered with the governing federation, but an estimated two million non-registered enthusiasts are believed to play the sport regularly at nearly 12,000 courts around the country.
On the Costa del Sol, and in other parts of Spain with large expat communities, foreigners have also been catching the bug in massive numbers. With publicly available courts springing up in towns along the coast, as well as in private residential estates and apartment complexes, padel is both accessible and fun to play for all ages – from young children to the elderly.
Padel’s origins date to 1969 when, according to the Berlin-based Padel Academy (whose objective is to spread awareness about the sport around the world), it was a “variant of enclosed tennis called platform tennis”.
That same year, Enrique Corcuera (who is considered to be the inventor of padel) adapted the squash court at his Acapulco (Mexico) home with elements of platform tennis to create what he called “paddle corcuera”.
Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a Spanish friend and the aristocrat who founded Marbella Club in the 1950s, had his first contact with the sport at Enrique’s home five years later, and was so enamoured he built two courts back home in Marbella. In subsequent years the game evolved to what it is today: a kind of cross between tennis and squash, but distinctive to both.
A 2016 article in UK newspaper The Telegraph described it as sport “played using over-sized ping-pong paddles on what is effectively a miniature tennis court surrounded by squash-like walls”.
The World Padel Tour was set up in 2012, as the successor to the Pro Padel Tour launched in 2005. International padel officials are lobbying for the sport to be introduced to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
If you are visiting Marbella this week, or at another time of the year, and want to find out more about the area, click here.