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Is there a place for padel in the United States too?

And could the pickle ball, which is doing so well in the US, spread to the rest of the world instead?

In recent years, while the pickle ball has made its way to Italy and much of the world, much the same thing has happened with the pickle ball in the United States. Both are easier racquet sports than tennis, as they are played in doubles on smaller courts, and both have been around since the 1960s but have grown a lot during the pandemic: padel is among the fastest growing sports in many European countries, in Central and South America; Pickle is the most grown in the United States in recent years.

But as in Italy, the pickleball is still something strange and unknown to most people, in the same way that padel was so marginal heretofore in the United States, that when it is still written about it, it is explained what it is and how it should be pronounced.

However, things can change, and they are already beginning to do so in part, because padel is being noticed and talked about outside the United States, and above all because it is in those parts that they are finally aware of Padel: «Everybody plays padel without us? “, It is titled the The New York Times His essay on how Americans have so far been left out of the “new sports fashion for the rest of the world”. According to the article, this “division” is a modern example of “American mathematical excellence” and in many ways, “playball is to what Fahrenheit is to Celsius, inches to centimeters, and football to soccer.”

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If paddleball and pickleball have not yet almost overlapped, and already continue in parallel, partly substitute and partly complementary to tennis, in short, there is some logic as to how much and how these two sports will be able to resist and coexist. With each other and with tennis, if only one player will be left in the long run or if both will go the squash route.

Padel was invented in 1969 in Mexico by a local businessman who started playing in the backyard, where walls limited the area of ​​the court, inspired by “tennis platformThe game spread initially in Latin American countries and then, after reaching Europe, to the rest of the world. It is played on courts smaller than tennis courts, with a net in the middle and walls all around, where the ball can bounce, which makes the game fast and lively, Although easier than tennis.

Pickleball was invented in the summer of 1965 in the northern United States by parents and neighbors looking for a new game to play with their children. The name means “pickle ball”, and it is played with cored balls and bats that in some ways resemble wooden chopping boards. It is generally described as a cross between tennis, badminton and table tennis and is an ideal sport even for non-athletic practitioners, because it can be done by running little or nothing and because its balls never travel at great speeds.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Padel and pickleball have become popular during the pandemic because their rules are easy and because they are quick activities to learn and master at a level enough to enjoy, and because they both allow you to practice with others but it only takes four to play (for example) pickleball is also very popular between two people and rarer in the game of swing ). But they also have some differences: Padel needs custom-made fields, which cost at least 15 thousand euros, and are more physical; Pickleball can also be played on parts of the tennis courts and in its simplest version it can also be played without running, which is why the old people like it so much.

Moreover, both padel and pickleball first became popularized as an amateur and recreational activity and only later attempted to become competitive sports as well. Roughly in parallel, Padel and pickleball have attracted brands creating custom materials, generating enough interest to generate podcasts, websites, and segment magazines.

In the United States of America – which has the ambition to renew itself and to be seen as TRUE The sport and take off the label “tennis for the elderly” or “tennis for the unsportsman” – it has grown so much that LeBron James and Tom Brady, among others, have invested in it, and generate a lot of money recently playing (in a tournament with a million dollar prize pool) former tennis players Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. Just a few months ago, McEnroe He said «I think it’s bad(“I think it sucks”), though he admits to playing with friends, who really appreciate the possibility of being able to have a bat in hand and play with McEnroe.

The data, which is never fully updated given the pace of growth, says at least nine million people played pickleball in the US in 2022, nearly double the year before and more or less half of those estimated to have played pickleball worldwide. around the world. world. According to the American Football Association, there are now more than 45,000 American courts, not counting those improvised or set-up tennis courts or indoor gyms, along with basketball or volleyball courts. USA Pickleball estimates that more than 95 percent of pickleball games are played between the United States and Canada.

The American Padel Association, on the other hand, advertises 240 padel courts across the United States (less than a tenth of the courts there are in Italy alone). However, the association speaks of growing interest, in courts that are increasingly difficult to book as a result of demand now exceeding supply and a number of courts that are expected to at least double in the next year.

In short, the numbers are still low, and the Padel and Pickleball Associations say they’re not currently too concerned about the growth of a potential competitor, but something seems to be moving, especially with regard to Padel in the US.

However, given the recent confirmation of both, it is too early to understand whether the sport will be able to break through where it has not succeeded so far and which will result in synergies or problems instead. So far both padel and pickleball have collided in different ways with tennis (particularly because of the reconverted fields), but neither seems to have really harmed the sport, whose practitioners are still many, here and there in the Atlantic, which seems historic and powerful enough For not suffering from the competition of two “small” sports. In addition to being large enough to be able to accommodate a ball of pickle and alternative under certain conditions.

At best, pickleball and padel (and tennis) is not a zero-sum game, with one person winning and others losing, and there are indeed those considering, for example, “big racket centers” where they can go to play, from time to time, tennis Or the exchanger or the exchanger, so that the managers of these centers can do so Offer diversification And it is less dependent on any fluctuations in interest in a particular sport.

So far, both have handled the post-pandemic well and seem to be here to stay, but the emergence of one could also slow or harm the growth of the other. After spreading to certain countries, it can also generate a “transfer” effect from one country to another. At the same time, all of these non-racquet sports — together or all on their own — should avoid going down the path of squash, which was popular between the 1980s and 1990s but has all but disappeared today.

– Also read: Because tennis is watched in silence

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Earl Warner

"Devoted bacon guru. Award-winning explorer. Internet junkie. Web lover."

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