This Addictive Racket Sport Is Your Next Fitness Obsession

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And so, I found myself in a rain-swept park in Chiswick where I used to watch my daughter play her school netball matches, now turned into a thriving padel centre. If you know, you know. Two reserved courts. Outdoors but covered. Seven guys, and me. There are worse ways to spend the Saturday monsoon. (Thanks, gang!) I had even watched some YouTube tutorials the night before. (I used to read poetry in bed… Who am I?) Maybe a bit competitive and curious about Padel.

I got back into the rhythm, I won a little, I lost a little, I worked on letting go of my hard-earned aggressiveness in tennis. For me, a lot of the art of padel is counter-intuitive. Patience pays. Moving in sync with your partner is key, and defensive play often wins. Forcing an error rather than killing (unless it’s irresistible). There is a kind of innocence to Padel, a return to a childhood spent hitting balls against brick and concrete in parking lots and gardens. Timing is everything. I was a runner long before I picked up a tennis racket, but padel requires as much strategy as it does sprints. I can’t rely on my speed and the race is long.

The basics, if you don’t already know them: a hybrid of squash and tennis, padel was invented in Mexico in the 1960s with the same scoring system as tennis, but is played on a smaller, enclosed court . It exploits the rebound from the rear and side walls (although the corners are the strong points). The racket is compact and made of perforated fiberglass or graphite – with no strings attached. For those already addicted, it’s a welcome diversion from traditional British sport. A touch of rebellious spirit, no uniform, but also super social. It still seems a bit underground, but the secret is definitely out. Among my friends, sportsmen or not, some are already enthusiastic. Some don’t know what I’m talking about. They just sigh and accept my double life on the pitch and the new mystique that comes with it.

Still, there is no doubt that this is boom time for Padel business. My racquet is Adidas rather than Prada, but luxury brands are zooming in on sport, as well as athletes at the top of their game: Liverpool footballer Virgil van Dijk, an early adopter (and investor in Game4Padel, alongside Andy Murray , Andrew Castle and Annabel Croft), recognized the potential in the UK after seeing the Dutch passion for Padel grow exponentially.

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