Padel is one of the fastest growing sports worldwide in recent years. Its popularity is due to different factors, among which we can highlight the technical ease of its practice and its dynamism, as the points are long compared to other racket sports, which increases the playing time and favours the adherence to the sport.
Studies that have analysed the time structure of padel have found important differences depending on the level, age or gender of the players.
The duration of a match
Regarding the total duration of the match, different studies have shown a time slightly longer than 30 minutes per set (Pradas et al., 2014; Sánchez-Alcaraz, 2014a; 2014b), so the total time of a padel match usually varies between 60 and 90 minutes approximately, depending on whether two or three sets are played (Amieba & Salinero, 2013; Muñoz et al., 2016; Torres-Luque, Ramírez, Cabello-Manrique, Nikoladis, & Alvero-Cruz, 2015).
However, of that total playing time, we must consider that the actual time (time in which the ball is in play) has been placed at approximately 30% and 35% of the total time, being significantly higher in women’s matches (Sánchez-Alcaraz, 2014; Torres-Luque et al., 2015).
However, the main parameter studied in the time structure of padel was the duration of the points.
Thus, as can be seen in the following graph, the duration of a point in padel has been progressively decreasing from 1990 to 2010, probably due to a higher level of players and improvements in the materials of the rackets, which produced a higher speed in the strokes.
“However, in the last decade, the duration of the point has increased by an average of two seconds, perhaps due to the fact that the grass on the court is slower, which lengthens the point and increases the spectacle. This data confirms, therefore, that the physical and mental demand in padel is increasing”.
Graph 1. Evolution of the duration of a point in professional padel tennis
Therefore, the average duration of a point in padel varies between 12-14 seconds in men’s padel and 14-16 seconds in women’s padel (García-Benítez et al., 2016; Muñoz-Marín et al., 2016; Sánchez-Alcaraz, 2014a). These differences may be due to the greater use of the lob stroke in women’s padel, which slows down the game (García-Benítez et al., 2016; Torres-Luque et al., 2015). On the other hand, in the junior category, the average duration of a point is around 10 seconds, mainly since a greater number of errors are made at this age (Sánchez-Alcaraz, 2014).
However, in order to be able to design training sessions based on the time structure of our sport, it is more accurate to know the distribution of the points according to their duration.
“As can be seen in the following graph, almost 50% of points in padel last less than 10 seconds. However, we also have more than 15% of points that last more than 25 seconds, so we must design exercises and workloads with high intensity efforts that vary from 5-10 seconds to 30-40 seconds”.
Graph 2. Distribution of point duration in professional padel
Tactic of a match
At a tactical level, some studies have observed how various factors influence these time characteristics of the game. Courel Ibáñez et al. (2017) related the duration of the points with the efficiency and the result of the match, with the goal of knowing when the best time is to play winning strokes and when you have to play strokes with less risk. Thus, the following graph shows how the duration of the point influences the efficiency of the strokes, comparing winning and losing couples in WPT players.
Graph 3. Percentage of winners and errors as a function of the duration of the point. Differences between the winning and losing pair of the match.
It can be observed that, at the beginning of the point, in the first 4 seconds, a significantly higher percentage of errors is observed in the players who lose the match, while the winning pair commits few errors at the beginning of the points.
However, when the point is extended beyond 11 seconds, a significant increase in the number of winning strokes by the winning pair can be observed.
“In this way, and as the most important practical application, it seems that playing with confidence at the beginning, building the point, and being more aggressive after 10 seconds when we have more rhythm, and the point is more worked can be decisive in winning our matches”.
The equality of the match and the scoreboard
Other aspects that affect the time structure of padel are those related to the equality in the match or score (Muñoz et al., 2019; Sánchez-Alcaraz et al., 2020). In this sense, it seems that the final rounds of the tournaments (semi-finals and finals) presented longer durations than previous rounds, due to the competitive equality of the matches.
“In addition, it seems that in the key moments (those points that allow one of the two pairs to win the game), the duration of the breaks prior to this type of points increases, which could be related to strategy design between players or the attempt of a greater recovery before playing these decisive points (Muñoz et al., 2019)”.
Influence of the golden point rule
Recently, the influence of the incorporation of the golden point rule on the time aspects of professional padel has also been analysed (Sánchez-Alcaraz et al., 2020).
This study showed similar durations to those competitions between competitions played with golden point and with advantage games.
In this sense, although the duration of the games is shorter, due to fewer points being played, by increasing the number of breaks that occur in the set and, therefore, the number of games played per set, the total duration of the matches is not significantly affected by this type of rule.
Finally, although these data can serve as a reference for coaches and physical trainers for the design of training sessions based on the demands of competition, when it comes to quantifying the loads that our players carry out in tournaments or matches, it may be interesting to study other parameters such as the number of games played per match or tournament, the distances covered by the players or the level of heart rate or intensity of the efforts.