What Are The Rules Of Padel?
In recent posts, we have talked briefly about the main rules to understand the game of padel. But there is more than that. Let’s do a quick recap first.
What are the rules of padel? According to the International Padel Federation (IPF), the game is played in pairs in an enclosed court. Padel is played with a ball similar to tennis and a perforated solid racket. The service must be done underhand, at waist level. Points are called by the 15 system, same as in tennis.
After the warm-up, we are going to make a complete guide step by step of all the main rules in padel.
Any doubts about padel? Keep reading.
Read Also: Which Padel Racket To Buy?
- Winning a point: Same as in tennis, the scoring system used in padel will count the points by 15 (15,30,40).
- Advantage and deuce: If both pairs have won three points, it will be called “deuce”. The following point won will be called “advantage”, and the pair who wins the point after being in an “advantage” situation, will win the game. However, if the pair who are in the “advantage” situation loses the point, it will go back to “deuce”.
- Set: the first team to win 6 games, always with an advantage of 2 games wins the set. If there is a draw at 5 games, the teams will have to win 7-5 to win the game. If on the contrary, the score is tied at 6 games, the “tie-break” or “sudden death” will apply.
- Tie-break or sudden death: the scoring system will be the same as table tennis, thus counting by single points (1,2,3,4, etc). The first player to reach to 7 with a difference of 2 points will win the tie-break, with no limitations on the number of points.
- Match: The matches are played to the best of three sets, therefore the team that first wins two sets, will win the match.
* Sometimes, the teams agreed beforehand to resolve the game without tie break if there is a tie to 1-1 on sets, and 6-6 at games. Consequently, they will be playing until they win by 2 games to win the match.
As stated by the Regulations of Padel, before the game starts, both teams must have a 5 minute period to warm up.
Although players can be granted with additional periods of rest time for unforeseen circumstances, the main rules about time regulations are the following:
- Between points, only 20 seconds are allowed. Other than that, there won’t be any interruptions during the rallies. Padel is meant to be dynamic, therefore the flow of the game must be preserved by these rules.
- When changing sides, the players will be given 90 seconds. However, there are two exceptions to this rule: after the first game of each set and in tie-breaks (20 seconds will be granted).
- At the end of each set, the teams will be allowed to have 120 seconds.
In padel, each team should be positioned on each side of the net that divides the court in two.
When it’s our turn to serve, we must be placed at the right side of the center service line. Then, we will serve the ball diagonally, over the net, to the opposite service area.
Typically, the player who receives the ball will be standing at the opposite side. However, according to the regulations, the receiver, the receiver’s partner and the server’s partner can be placed anywhere within their respective courts.
How do we pick sides and how do we decide who serves first?
Like many other sports, the decision will be made by the flip of a coin.
When do we change sides?
The players must change sides depending on if they are playing a game during a regular set or if they are playing the tie-break.
If playing a regular set, they will have to change sides after the 1st, 3rd and all the subsequent odd numbers. This rule will overrule any other rule if there are doubts about changing sides or not.
If playing tie-break, the teams will change ends after every 6 points.
In case of error in terms of not changing sides, all the points played before the correction will be accepted as valid.
In padel, the players are allowed to have a second service if the first one is not valid.
The sequence of a service in padel:
- At the start of the service, the player serving must stand with both feet behind the service line, between the imaginary prolongation of the central line of service and the sidewall (service box) and must remain there until the ball has been served.
- The server must bounce the ball on the ground within the service box in which they find themselves to carry out the service.
- The server may not touch the service line with their feet, nor the imaginary central line.
- The height of the ball being served must be at or below the waist level at the moment of hitting it, and the player must have at least one foot in contact with the ground.
- It must bounce within the lines that limit this box. In the first instance, the ball served must go into the receiver’s box located at his left side, and, when one side wins the point, it is time for the following service and the ball must go into the receiver’s box located at his right side, and so on alternatively.
Small foot movements will be accepted if they don’t affect the serving position
Walking, jumping or running while serving.
Points made before an invalid serving side position is corrected. A fault on the first service must be taken into account.
Unintentionally making contact with the ball when serving.
Serving with a lob.
Changing the serving order.
Serving, then the ball bounces twice inside the receivers serving box. Point for the server.
Serving when the server is not ready. Otherwise, it will have to be repeated.
Faults in the serve
- The server misses when attempting to hit the ball.
- Any ball bouncing outside the opponent’s service box will be counted as not valid -lines are counted as in-.
- The ball hits any element within the server’s court before it goes over the net -including the server, his or her partner or his or her equipment-.
- When serving, and after bouncing off the service box, the ball touches the metallic fence.
- If there is no out-of-court area provided, the service will be invalid when the ball bounces off the receiver’s service box and goes out through the access zone.
- Returning a serve with a volley. When receiving a serve, the player hits the ball before it bounces once within the service’s box.
- If the ball hits one of the receiving players or their equipment before it bounces for the first time, it will be a fault for the receiving team, resulting into a point for the serving team.
When is the service considered net?
In padel, the ball might touch the net when serving. In the following cases, it will be called “net”, meaning that a second service will be allowed:
- The ball served touches the net or the supporting posts and lands in the receiver’s service box, as long as it does not touch the metallic fence before the second bounce.
- The ball after touching the net or posts (if these are within the game area) hits any player or article carried or worn.
If the “net” happens when serving for the second time, the server will be allowed to repeat only a second serve.
Let points are those that will have to be repeated. When a point is in dispute, we will call “let” when:
- The ball splits during the game.
- Any element not part of the game invades the court area.
- In general, any interruption to the match due to unexpected situations unconnected to the players.
The players must let the referees know when they think a situation is subject to be called as “let”, otherwise they will lose the right to correct it. Once a “let” is called, then the referee will decide if it applies or not. If not, a fault will be called for the player claiming the “let”.
It will be called interference when a player obstructs the opponent when executing a shot.
This action might be deliberate or involuntary. In case that the referee decides that the action was intentional, he or she will award the player obstructed with a point. In the case that the action is proven unintentional, a” let” will be called, thus repeating the point.
Dynamics of the Game
Like in the majority of racket sports, the dynamic of the game is based on the continuous exchange between the pairs of players with the ball.
The ball will be in play from the moment in which a valid service takes place until “let” is called or the score determined.
As a rule of thumb, any ball played in padel that has bounced off the opponent’s ground will be in play. Therefore, if the ball in play hits any part of the court after having bounced in the opponent’s ground, it will remain in play and should be returned before it bounces for the second time.
Parts of the court:
- Inside of the walls.
- Metallic fence that encloses the court.
- The net.
- The posts at the ends of the net.
- The ground.
- The frame in its entirety will be considered as part of the fence.
Returning the ball correctly
In the sport of padel, the ball will be returned correctly when:
- After being played by any of the players is returned as a volley by any component of the rival team. Even if the ball hits any part of the opposing team’s body, clothing or even the racket.
- The ball bounces directly into the opposing court after being hit or hits the wall in the players’ own court first and it then bounces into the opponent’s court.
- The ball touches the net or net posts and then lands in the opponent’s court.
- The ball bounces in the opponent’s court and then hits the metallic fence or one of the walls.
- As a result of the direction and force with which the ball is hit, it bounces in the opponent’s court and then goes out of court, hits the ceiling, the lights or any other object not related to the court.
- The ball in play hits an object located on the ground of the opponent’s court not related to or part of the court (e.g. another ball).
- After hitting the ball it bounces correctly into the oppositions court, goes back into the servers court at which moment the opposition player hits it.
- The ball is “scooped” or pushed. It will be considered a correct return provided the player has not hit it twice, the impact takes place during the same movement and the natural exit of the ball does not vary substantially.
- The returned ball bounces in the opponent’s court in the angle where the wall joins the ground (a corner). (This is familiarly called an “egg” and is considered valid).
- Authorized out-of-court play. If the ball is hit from outside the court the return will be valid if the points previous to this Rule are fulfilled.
Winning a point
- If after bouncing in the opponent’s court the ball goes out of court through a hole in the metallic fence or gets stuck in said hole.
- If after bouncing in the opponent’s court the ball gets stuck in the flat horizontal surface on top of the wall.
The teams will be called a fault in the following situations:
- While the ball is still in play, the players and their equipment -rackets or anything worn or carried- touch the net, the net posts, the tension cable or any part of the opponent’s court.
There is one exception to this rule. When the players -previous authorization- go outside the court to perform an out-of-court play, they are allowed to hold or touch the vertical dividing posts placed in the door.
- The ball is returned after bouncing for a second time.
- If the player returning the ball hits it before it goes over the net, coming from the opponent’s court.
- If a player returns the ball, either directly or hitting it off the walls of their court and without bouncing first it hits the walls of the opponent’s court, the metallic fence or any element not related to or located on the ground of the opponent’s court.
- If a player returns a ball, either directly or off the walls of their court and the ball hits the net or net posts and then directly onto one of the walls of the opposite court, the fence or any element not related to or located on the ground of the opponent’s court.
- If the ball is hit twice by any player in any situation.
- If a player incurs into two consecutive service faults.
- If after hitting the ball it touches the player playing the ball, their companion or anything worn by the players.
- If the ball hits any part of the players or their equipment apart from the racket after being hit by the opposing team.
- If the ball is played with a racket that is not attached to the player. Therefore, throwing the racket to return a ball is not allowed.
- If a player hits the ball and it touches the metallic fence, any part of the ground on their own side of the court, or any element not related to the court located on the ground on their own side of the court.
- When a player intentionally or unintentionally jumps over the net while the point is played.
- When two players intentionally or unintentionally hit the ball at the same time. It will be called a fault because the ball must be hit only by one player at a time. In case both players attempt to hit the ball, but one hits the ball and the other one misses or hits the partners ball, it won’t be called a fault.
- Unless out-of-court is authorized, there will be a fault when a player hits the ball while having any part of his or her body standing outside the court.
Can You Serve Overhand in Padel?
In Padel, serving overhand like in tennis is not allowed. In this regard, it’s very similar to pickleball.
Although a simple process, the action of serving in padel is commonly misunderstood, as many players tend to overcomplicate things. In my opinion, due to its simplicity, people don’t work as much as they should on their service. This lack of practice results in a lack of accuracy and consistency in their shots.
Let’s take a quick look at some pointers on how to improve your serving skills:
- The starting position for the arm holding the racket should be back, pointing towards the end wall and slightly up. Having your arm up will allow you to come down on the ball.
- The arm holding the ball should be stretched in front, towards the court, so you can drop the ball right in front of your left foot -if you are right-handed-.
- To get more body momentum into the court, rock your body slightly to your back foot, drop the ball and come forward. Finish your action, and then go to the net.
Do You Get 2 Services in Padel?
The answer is yes. Unlike in pickleball, in padel, the players will be allowed a second service if the first service is not valid.
Can You Hit the Ball Over the Net in Padel?
This is one of the most discussed topics when playing padel, as it happens very frequently and yet there are still many doubts about what is right and what is wrong.
The short answer is yes. But there are some particularities that are important to mention.
In the course of a padel rally, it is very likely to get balls that bounce off our own wall from a hard smash or volley, and it goes back to the opponent’s field. Therefore, there is a chance for us to strike the ball when it goes over the net. But is this allowed?
According to the rule number 13 of the Official Rule Book of Padel, there is no prohibition for the players to hit the ball over the net with any part of the gear, nor the body or the hand in that case. The point would be valid unless this action would interfere with the opponent’s next turn to hit the ball.
However, if you attempt to hit the ball before it has crossed over the net when it comes from the opponent’s field, and not from your own field, it will not be valid.
To understand this rule, I have made a table that I hope will solve your doubts in your next game.
Is it allowed to hit over the net?
We return a ball coming from the opponent before it travels over the net, trespassing into their field.
The opponent hits the ball, it travels to our side and bounces off any playable part of our field. After bouncing, the ball crosses over the net, back to the opponent’s field.
In any case of the above mentioned, the player, nor the gear can touch any element of the net, nor the opponent’s court. Otherwise, you would be called a fault, resulting in a losing point.
Can You Hit the Ball From Out of the Court in Padel?
Yes! This is one of my favorites. As an amateur, you don’t get the chance to pull off one of these very often, but out-of-court plays in tournaments are fairly common.
The out-of-court plays are one of the most spectacular actions in padel. These actions are a result of a smash or a volley that bounces off and travels over one of our sidewalls. If executing that action is difficult, returning the ball from the outside of the court is pro level.
Let’s see how it’s done:
- After the smash, the defender must be able to read the trajectory of the ball.
- Then, he or she must go out of the court through one of the access meant for that purpose. It’s crucial not to lose sight of the ball.
- Lastly, the defender should be able to return the ball through the door to the opponent’s side.
The point will be valid if:
- The ball touches the net and goes over to the opponent’s side.
- The ball bounces in the opponent’s side and then touches the net.
- The ball bounces in the opponent’s side and goes off the court or travels back to our side of the field.
As you might have noticed, the ball doesn’t necessarily have to go over the net level to be valid. The only condition is that it goes in, through the door.