Select Page

by Kelly Campbell 

There’s a new paddle sport that’s been making headlines – and some are even wondering if it’s coming to steal pickleball’s spotlight. 

Padel is a mix between tennis and squash that originated in Mexico. It’s pretty new to the U.S. but there has been a big surge of players, with more and more courts being built across the country. Some refer to padel as pickleball’s sister sport––there are many similarities between the two. 

Read on to learn more about padel, how to play, and if the new craze could really inhibit pickleball growth. 

What is padel?

Padel is a fast-paced racket sport that combines elements of tennis and squash and is played on a court one-third the size of a tennis court. While it might look similar to pickleball, there are some key differences, most notably the use of walls in gameplay, a different ball type, and a perforated paddle. Padel has been compared more to tennis, while pickleball to ping pong. 

Padel players use the glass and mesh walls and fences on enclosed courts to create difficult shot angles for opponents and force errors. The ball can bounce on the wall but can only hit the ground once before being returned. Even though padel borrows scoring from tennis, one of the main differences is that tennis technique focuses on strength and power, while padel blends strategy and style, similar to pickleball. 

Pickleball and padel have seemingly been around for a similar amount of time and have similar origin stories. While pickleball is believed to have been created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Padel originated in 1969 in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco. Some of the most popular places to play Padel in the US today include Philadelphia, New York City, and Miami. 

Similarly to what we’ve seen with pickleball growth, there are numerous organizations and companies representing padel and its growth in the US. In the US, the governing body for pickleball is USA Pickleball, while Padel’s is the United States Padel Association (USPA). The National Padel League is the US’s first-ever national padel league.

Padel isn’t nearly as popular as pickleball has become, but there’s a lot to be said for its impressive growth. Although we know it can’t compare yet, it could eventually eclipse pickleball as the fastest-growing sport. 

What is the difference between pickleball and padel?

It’s clear that the two paddle sports have a lot in common, but there are some substantial differences. They have different rules, equipment, and courts, even though they share the same general over-net-volley. Let’s compare the two: 


  • Enclosed court that uses glass and mesh walls and fences during play
  • Perforated, roughly 1.5”-thick paddle
  • Scoring resembles tennis 
  • 32′ 10″ by 65′ 7″ court, about one-third the size of a tennis court 
  • Played with a depressurized tennis ball 
  • Most popular in Spain, with 25 million global players
  • Generally played in doubles 


  • Service boxes are connected to the baseline 
  • Open court 
  • Solid paddle, no maximum thickness 
  • Scoring resembles ping-pong 
  • 22’ by 40’ court 
  • Perforated, light ball
  • Has a non-volley zone/kitchen
  • Most popular in the US, with 36.5 million players
  • Singles or doubles play common


  • Can be played indoors or outdoors
  • Played with paddle and ball, volley with opponents over a net
  • Low net height
  • Underhand serves, ball cannot strike above waist height 
  • Rapidly growing communities and popularity in the US
  • Technique focuses on strategy rather than strength
  • Beginner-friendly 
  • Fast-paced 

Is padel a threat to pickleball?

Despite tremendous strides over the last year, padel’s popularity is nowhere near that of pickleball. Even though more people are picking up padel paddles, and padel has grown a lot over the last year, the two sports are different. Pickleballers might even find a love for padel themselves. 

There are a few reasons why padel likely won’t replace pickleball, even if it grows in popularity. First, there’s pickleball’s accessibility – with fewer court requirements (no need for walls, for example), it’s a lot easier to play anywhere, and it’s much cheaper to build pickleball courts than padel courts. Second, because pickleball is so well-known in the US, it’s far more developed for both recreational and organized professional play. 

Still, padel does a great job of expanding the fun of pickleball, and we’ll likely see more of it in the future. Padel shares many of the same benefits as pickleball, including being beginner-friendly, using cheap equipment, being low-impact, and increasing social interaction. The truth is, there’s likely room for both sports to coexist and have their moments in the future. 

Sources –