From Messi to Ronaldo, global popularity of padel hits new high

Fifa World Cup winners, NBA icons, tennis legends, and Hollywood stars, it seems everyone is playing padel these days

By Team KT

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Lionel Messi (left) loves playing padel. — X
Lionel Messi (left) loves playing padel. — X

Published: Mon 8 Jul 2024, 11:38 PM

Last updated: Tue 9 Jul 2024, 12:17 PM

Padel is experiencing a surge in global popularity, with the sport now reportedly being considered the world’s fastest-growing game, with more than 25 million players across 110 countries.

Recently, Argentina football legend Lionel Messi was seen partnering Inter Miami teammate Luis Suarez for a game of padel just before the ongoing Copa America football tournament. The video footage of their match, which shows the unfiltered joy of both players, went viral.


The football stars’ exploits on the enclosed padel court – where players compete in a mix of tennis and squash surrounded by walls of glass and metallic mesh - follows Formula 1 drivers Max Verstappen and Lando Norris teaming up on the padel court last month following the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Other prominent personalities, including tennis icons Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, football legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane, and basketball star Jimmy Butler have all embraced the sport.


Padel’s appeal has also extended beyond the realm of sports, with celebrities such as pop star Shakira, Hollywood actor Jason Statham, and even French President Emmanuel Macron expressing fondness for the racquet sport.

The question then is: why is padel getting so hyped?

Here are the top reasons why padel is growing:

Easy, Simple, and Fun: Beginners can quickly pick up the game and enjoy rallies with more experienced players. The game’s rules are easy to understand, making it accessible to all ages and abilities.

Incredibly Social: The nature of padel focuses on doubles play, enabling players to meet new people and make friends through clubs and matches. This helps foster communication and social interaction as players take part in practice matches and, when they’re ready, compete in ability-centric tournaments.

Good for Your Body: Padel helps strengthen knees and shoulders and is gentler on the arms than other racquet sports. As an accessible sport for all ages, padel fosters healthy communities – a key goal of governments globally (particularly here in the GCC).

Fuels Your Competitive Spirit: With extended rallies, points in padel are longer and involve more intense exchanges compared to other sports. The competitive nature of the game keeps players and spectators thoroughly entertained.

Cost-Effectiveness: Splitting the court rental among four players lowers monthly expenses, making play more affordable to sports enthusiasts. However, while the equipment required is minimal, padel racquets do not come cheap so it’s definitely best to rent while you up your skills.

Gender neutral: Unlike tennis and other sports, padel is not a game based on strength or power. Players progress as they discover and master the court’s angles, shot techniques, and around-the-court finesse. With players able to return the ball off any glass-walled surface (at their end of court), powerful shots can play straight into your opponents’ hands.

According to the sport’s world governing body, 25 million people play padel around the world and the UAE has embraced it wholeheartedly. The country has more than 950 courts in 320-plus facilities, meaning it is home to 30 per cent of all padel courts in Asia and two per cent of all courts globally.

The emirate will host its maiden event of the world’s only official professional padel tour from November 3-10 on six purpose-built courts at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

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