For many years Tennis has been top of the pile when it comes to racket sports, but that is changing in many countries across the world. The two fastest growing sports in the world are variants of Tennis and they are already truly competing with tennis at a recreational level.
In 2014 Padel Tennis replaced Tennis as Spain's second most played sport and now has over 12,000 courts. Argentina has the second most courts out of any country with 8,500. Italy has seen a 620% rise in Padel players since 2018. For sports brands such as Head, Wilson, Babolat and Adidas their Padel revenues are beginning to equal their Tennis revenues. Padel has now been one of the most popular sports in Europe and South America for nearly a decade and is continuing to grow. In other words Padel is already really popular.
In the US a different variant of Tennis, Pickleball, has taken the country by storm. Pickleball is up 21% in participation since 2019, with 4.2 million people playing it in the last year. That figure is part of a five-year trend that has seen pickleball evolve from its origins as a garden knockabout game to a sport with Olympic aspirations.
Last month The Boston Globe published an article titled 'Pickleball is growing at an almost unprecedented rate in the history of American sports.' This number is expected to grow further, especially with more facilities being built around the US. In 2020, USA Pickleball’s database of 'places to play' was growing by more than two per day, and demand still couldn't be truly met.
A large part of both sports success so far has been put down to the sports being easier to play for new players. Both sports are played on smaller courts and use padels rather than rackets. This means less movement and skill is required to play these sports with some success at a low level, it's easier to have rallies and requires less time learning to play competitive matches.
For others it's the longer, action packed rallies which is appealing. Both Padel and Pickleball are played primarily as doubles and due to the nature of the sports you get
more of those intense doubles moments that we all love in Tennis. Others have said they love the social aspect of these sports and that four people on a smaller court feels more intimate. Often followed by a drink and some food in the US, Pickleball has become both a popular sport and also a night time activity slightly similar to bowling.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) expects the number of padel courts in Britain to increase five-fold by 2023 after becoming the national governing body for the sport in late 2020. The LTA estimates 400 new Padel courts by 2023. Signs of this have already started to take place. The first Padel courts in Wiltshire have recently opened in Basset Down, near Swindon. Coach, Karina Weedon, and Ladies Captain, Liz White, attended the first ever LTA coaches Padel event in Wiltshire yesterday.
It has been interesting to watch from afar how these niche spinoffs of Tennis have grown into phenomenons in different parts of the world. It's going to be equally as interesting to see if they will do the same in the UK. It feels to me like everything is set for Padel to start to rival Tennis in the UK.