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Racquet Rebound: Demand for Racquet Sports Surges

While golf has received much of the recent attention in the club and sports world due to its pandemic spike in participation, racquet sports like tennis, pickleball and the emerging padel continue to gain popularity among a growing number of demographics. In turn, games involving racquets are becoming more multidisciplinary, expanding the number of players in all segments. Here are some of the latest trends and data on racquet sports.

Tennis participation continues to grow despite the increasing popularity of racquet sports like pickleball and padel.


COVID-19 closed factories and halted transportation of the raw materials needed to produce tennis equipment like balls, grips and racquets, creating massive shortages worldwide. Some in the industry are switching vendors to acquire necessary equipment, reports Tennis Industry Mag, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has recommended ordering product well in advance to secure it. Another strategy is to order in large quantities to satisfy longer-term demand and to increase odds of receiving the product.

There is hope that orders will be able to catch up in the second half of 2022. However, some manufacturers are offering products to consumers only, not retailers, says John Swekta, owner of Swekta’s Tennis Shop in Mountain View, Calif. This means that pro shops may not be able to stock their shelves for patrons before they can order it themselves.


Despite golf’s boom in recent years, the fastest growing sport at clubs, resorts and golf course communities is pickleball, reports Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). Pickleball has experienced tremendous growth in popularity over the last few years. In 2020, pickleball enjoyed a growth rate in excess of 21%, according to SFIA, jumping from about 3.5 million players in the U.S. to over 4.2 million. Last year, the game grew to 4.8 million players at 9,524 locations.


The growth in racquet sports equipment was led by pickleball. In fact, sales revenue from pickleball paddles and balls together grew by 53%, reports NPD, a global market research firm.


Pickleball has a strong history of being a social game. Today, brick and mortar buildings are beginning to fully mesh the activity with its social component. Taking a page from indoor golf venues like Topgolf, pickleball has numerous indoor facilities that merge the game with food and beverage services and other entertainment. PKL, which opened in Boston in June 2022, is a 22,000-square-foot facility that hosts five regulation pickleball courts—each with cabanas for eight to 10 individuals, four shuffleboard courts, two bars, a restaurant with a menu created by “Chopped” champion Christopher Walker, and other amenities to give players a fun hangout space to play and relax. The facility is open until 2 a.m. on weekends. Other spaces like Pickle & Chill in Columbus, Ohio will offer similar amenities that can accommodate up to 200 people in its 25,000-square-foot facilities.


There is a strong overlap between golf and pickleball players. Golf pros that include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Sherri Steihauer and Amy Olson are all avid players.

For the first time, CBS broadcasted professional pickleball in August, presenting the PPA Tour Skechers Invitational Summer Championship hosted at The Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. This was part of a multi-year deal between CBS Sports and the PPA to broadcast tournaments across CBS’ networks. The broadcast came off the heels of the recording of “Pickled,” a celebrity, two-hour primetime CBS special from Stephen Colbert’s production company Spartina, Funny or Die and CBS Studios, to be aired later this year.


Among the growing number of athletes and celebrities taking part in pickleball, NFL legend Drew Brees, Jim Buss, co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, and New York Real Estate Broker Ryan Serhant have joined the ownership group of a Major League Pickleball (MLP) team, the Mad Drops, according to CBS. Brees is an avid player himself and is seeking to elevate the awareness of the game and its profes- sional players as the league heads into its second season. Research Professor Brené Brown is another MLP owner as well as Gary Vaynerchuck. Other celebrity players include Larry David and Leonardo DiCaprio

PADEL (Puh-dÉl)

One of the fastest growing sports in the world is one of the newest in the racquet world—padel. The four-walled game now played by more than 25 million players globally, per the International Padel Federation, was created by Mexican billionaire Enrique Corcuera in 1969 after he sought to play tennis at his home but didn’t have the space. Corcuera converted his squash court to include tennis and the game was born. The game has boomed internationally, particularly in places like Italy, after it banned group sports like basketball and soccer in response to the pandemic, whereas padel was permitted.

PADEL 101!

How to play: The game is almost always played in doubles, and equipment is similar to paddle tennis. A player gets two chances to serve, but they have to serve underhand and below the waistline, which can help reduce strain on players’ shoulders. The ball can only hit a wall after it hits the opposing player’s side first.

Padel uses a ball similar to tennis, but slightly softer with 11psi of pressure versus 14psi for tennis balls. The round racket used to play is usually referred to as the control racquet.

According to the United States Padel Association (USPA), the U.S. has 160 courts, which are expected to double in 2022. The association also sanctions more than 30 circuit events throughout the country. Additionally, this summer, New York City’s first padel club will open. Padel Haus will be home to four courts, a school that targets younger audiences to get them involved in the game, as well as food service and a lounge. The club also strives to be the first official point-of-sale for padel equipment in New York, appealing to both local players and tourists, as prices for padel gear can be more expensive abroad.

Padel has generated support from other racquet segments. In 2020, the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA); USPA; All Racquet Sports, a group that promotes racquet sports of all kinds; and adidas Padel partnered to recognize PADEL-U by adidas. The partnership officially recognized adidas’ padel training program as the first nationally recognized certification program of its kind. USPTA’s president and executive director embraces the new game and the program as a tool to enhance experiences for USPTA members.

Platform Tennis (Paddle tennis)

One of the beneficiaries of the pandemic was platform tennis. Similar to padel, platform tennis is played on a smaller version of a tennis court that is surrounded by four playable walls. While indoor racquet sports like racquetball and squash had to shut down during the peak of the pandemic, players flocked to other racquets sports like paddle, which can be played year-round, reports Tennis Industry Mag. Equipment retailer Xenon Paddle noted an increase in players by 30-40% during the pandemic.

At Meadow Creek Tennis & Fitness Club in Denver, tennis pros were transitioned to platform tennis to deal with demand. The game is also reaching younger players. Prior to the pandemic, the American Platform Tennis Association Junior Nationals hosted then-record 220 players. A year later during the pandemic, 374 players entered.

Equipment sales boomed during COVID-19 with retailers frequently selling out of gear.


While platform tennis is played year-round, one of its top social appeals is its warming huts. Warming huts can range from a simple covered area to full-fledged lodges that allow players to gather before or after playing or while waiting their turn. The rustic warming hut at Victory Ranch in Kamas, Utah, called The Barn offers a traditional and upscale experience with food and drinks that can be ordered via the hut’s rotary phone, a comfortable lounge area with TV, and indoor and outdoor fireplaces.


There are more than 1.6 million squash players in the U.S. and 20 million globally, according to U.S. Squash, the sport’s national governing body.

There are about 3.5 million U.S. racquetball players and about 20 million around the world, according to Sports Travel Magazine. Due to the pandemic, many facilities had to temporarily close halting participation for indoor racquet sports. Many players adopted outdoor racquet games, however squash and racquetball still have avid followings.