It would be fair to say that while it has roots in tennis, padel can attest to possessing its own unique technique. Players such as Fernando Belasteguin, Paquito Navarro, Juan Lebron and Alejandro Galan, among a legion of many young professional padel players, are a testament to this, as they reached top ten positions in the world padel ranking yet did not arrive at the sport through tennis.
Padel has some roots in the game of Argentine pelota paleta as well, but there is no doubt that people who have been good at tennis are going to have the easiest time of taking up padel. Since in the two sports many shots share similar technique, former tennis players who take up padel will be able to take advantage of several of the resources that served them well in tennis. The most important thing is how they make a transition and make the most of the knowledge they have, before going on and learning those shots and concepts that are unique to padel. Some of the useful shots include: the volleys, shots with top spin, slice, half volleys, the power smash to bring the ball back to his own side of the court, hitting the ball out after the bounce off the back wall or over the 3-metre side wall.
Advises for Tennis Players
The use of walls: Just as we have already seen, it is impossible to play well without learning how to use them. You absolutely must make friends with the walls, there’s no way around it.
Different types of Smash: The smash is, without a doubt, one of the most complex shots in padel. There are several different types and which is used will depend on where players are positioned on the court and how comfortably they are able to take the shot. Since this is a quite an aerial sport where lobs are common, there is ample opportunity to use overheads in matches. Not all smashes are played with the aim of scoring; they are often played in order to set the point up (bandeja). Players will need to learn the concepts and the techniques necessary to be able to combat an opponent’s lobs.
The lob: This is definitely one of the most important shots in padel. It also happens to be the shot with the worst marketing. Powerful players who tend to win points using their smash are always going to attract more attention than those who play lots of lobs, use their opponents’ mistakes and counterattack. In order to convince you and “sell” the lob to you, I’m going to make a confession. In my teaching career, which spans over more than twenty years, never once has anyone ever come to classes to learn how to lob. Everyone wants to learn the smash. They’ve all got problems with the bandeja because they get a lot of rebound with it, they want to use the smash to apply pressure to prevent their opponents from playing many lobs and ending up tiring them out, amongst other concerns.
Well, now I’m going to share with you what I tell my student. If everyone has trouble with the smash… Why not practice your lobs and make everyone else’s life difficult? Once you know how to defend and use the lob properly, you will realize that padel is actually much simpler than it first appears.
“THERE ARE NOT MANY POWERFUL PLAYERS WITH GOOD SMASHES, BUT THERE ARE PLENTY OF PLAYERS WHO PLAY BAD LOBS”
Learn how to defend and play lobs: Playing a high ball off the wall with the simple intention of taking back the net.
The counterattack: Playing the ball that has come off the wall is one of the most important winning shots in padel. You can use it to attack when you recover lobs the opponents have hit past you when at the net, or when the opponent gets a high rebound off the wall when playing a smash.
Don’t desperately look for holes from the back: Basically, don’t look to finish off points by hitting passing or very tight shots, trying to find holes from the back of the court. Not only are you going to make plenty of errors, but you are also going to be gifting angles to your opponents, making their next volleys even more potent.
You don’t only attack from the net: Play from the back coming forwards: Learn how to defend without making unforced errors. In order to attack properly, learning how to defend well is indispensable. If players don’t learn to defend, they are likely to have trouble identifying when to attack, since they will mainly be focused on getting out from the back of the court. The first thing to do is avoid making unforced errors, and then, to be able to defend against anything the opponent may play. Once players have these two skills under control, they will be able to assess exactly when the right moment to attack is.
Use the Australian to serve: This system of play can prove useful, as players will always be able to maintain the same position on the court, and as such will be better orientated when it comes to using the walls. Finding your bearings and playing well using the walls is difficult at first, and if on top of this players always have to switch sides it is going to be even tougher. There may be exceptions here, though. For beginners it might be useful to learn to play from both sides and switching sides could be prudent. Changing sides will also be appropriate (i.e. not playing using The Australian) for those who do not go in to the net, or for players with physical limitations.
Transfer the shared concepts: Thinking of some situations or concepts from tennis or other sports, you will find that they all share things in common:
- Do not make unforced errors. Do not give points away.
- The bandeja type smash is similar to the one tennis players would play when they find themselves headed backwards uncomfortably having received a good lob from the opponent. If you observe players in this situation, you will notice that they will play a smash at 50% speed, as though to get the bail under control and to take up a defensive position at the back of the court. In padel something similar happens, with the back wall providing added difficulty, as the ball bouncing high off it will work in the opponent’s favor.
Extract from the book “Common Sense” – The commonest of sense applied to padel, by Nito Brea. Want to learn more? Find the book Common Sense at Bol.com or ebay.com today! Also available in French language.
Edited and updated by Norberto Nesi
Started playing padel in Argentina in 1987. Contributor to the structural development of the sport in Holland since 2006. University lecturer in International Business, specialized in media, sports and entertainment. Senior padel coach, sports journalist, manager and pioneer. Eternal student.