Margaret D. Regina

Here Comes Padel, the Newest Racket Sport Taking Up Game Courts

I first learned about padel last summer, when my partner sent me a photo from a small court during a visit to Germany.

What is that? I wondered.

“Padel. A childish version of tennis,” he texted, anticipating my question.

As an enthusiastic tennis player, I was not very interested.

A few months later, while biking in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I noticed a large building with a sign that read “Padel Haus,” which billed itself as the first padel club in New York City. This sport wanted my attention, so I invited Victor Mather, a veteran sports reporter, to join me for a lesson.

Victor was willing to try. “I am a reasonably fit guy,” he said. But he was turning 60, he said, and added: “My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, I haven’t played tennis since prep school, and I have never played squash or racquetball.”

I was just happy to be on a court with a racket in hand because it isn’t easy to book a tennis court in the city.

Here’s what we learned.

At first glance, it looks like tennis.

The sport — a blend of squash and tennis — can be played indoors or outdoors. It is always played on turf, which is softer on the knees than the paved hardcourts associated with tennis and outdoor pickleball. The padel racket, usually made of foam and carbon fiber or fiberglass, is shorter than tennis’s and has holes instead of strings. The ball is smaller as well and has less air pressure.

The scoring is like tennis’s. There are glass walls at the back and sides of the court. The walls are in play, setting up ricochet shots that bring the squashiness into padel.

The serves are hit from below the waist. Players are encouraged to rush the net after serving. Padel is played in doubles and teams can move as a unit rather than staggered.

Santiago Gomez, Padel Haus’s founder, grew up playing in Mexico, where the sport was created in the late 1960s. He spent much of the Covid-19 pandemic in Acapulco and decided to start his business when he returned to New York City, opening a club in 2022.

Elmo Coleman, 27, learned padel in Venice during the coronavirus pandemic. But he dropped the sport when he moved to New York City for lack of places to play. He played tennis, begrudgingly. Now he plays padel three times per week in Dumbo.

The sport has been growing in popularity in places like South Florida, Texas, Southern California, and New York, according to the United States Padel Association.

There were 180 courts across the United States in 2022, compared with fewer than 20 in 2016, according to a Global Padel report from Playtomic, a community of players that prepared the analysis with the consulting firm Monitor Deloitte. The U.S.P.A. estimates that there are 50,000 players and 400 courts now, not including private ones.

Globally, padel players number in the millions, the U.S.P.A. says.

“Padel is very much in its infancy in the U.S.A.,” said Martin Sweeney, the association’s president. “We do expect some exponential growth over the next few years and into the future.”

The first wave of players who visited the Padel Haus locations in Brooklyn (there are two in Williamsburg and one in Dumbo) were from other countries, Mr. Gomez said. The second wave included tennis players.

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Ken Holtzman, Who Pitched Two No-Hitters for the Cubs, Is Dead at 78

Ken Holtzman, a left-hander who pitched two no-hitters for the Chicago Cubs and won three World Series with the Oakland A’s in a 15-season career, died on Monday in St. Louis. He was 78.

He had been hospitalized for the last three weeks with heart and respiratory illnesses, his brother, Bob, said in confirming the death.

Holtzman won 174 games, the most for a Jewish pitcher in Major League Baseball — nine more than the Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, who is considered one of the best pitchers ever and who had a shorter career.

In addition to his win total, Holtzman, who at 6 feet 2 inches and 175 pounds cut a lanky figure, had a career earned run average of 3.49 and was chosen for the 1972 and 1973 All-Star teams.

Ken Holtzman

Holtzman, at 23, threw his first no-hitter on Aug. 19, 1969, a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves — a performance distinguished by the fact that he didn’t strike out any Braves. It was the first time since 1923 that a no-hitter had been pitched without a strikeout.

“I didn’t have my good curve, and I must have thrown 90 percent fastballs,” Holtzman told The Atlanta Constitution afterward. “When I saw my curve wasn’t breaking early in the game, I thought it might be a long day.”

His second no-hitter came on June 3, 1971, against the Cincinnati Reds at their ballpark, Riverfront Stadium, where he struck out six and walked four.

“The fans in the first row behind our dugout wouldn’t let me forget I had a no-hitter going tonight,” he told The Chicago Tribune. “I guess from the fourth inning on, they would yell at me that I was going to lose my no-hitter.”

But it was a high point in a difficult season, in which his record was 9-15 and his E.R.A. jumped to 4.48 from 3.38 the year before. He also had a fractious relationship with Manager Leo Durocher.

In the off-season, the Cubs traded Holtzman to Oakland for the outfielder Rick Monday.

“The air is cleared now,” Holtzman told The Tribune. “I wouldn’t have cared if the Cubs had traded me for two dozen eggs.”

The trade revived his career.

Kenneth Dale Holtzman was born on Nov. 3, 1945, in St. Louis. His father, Henry, was a machinery dealer. His mother, Jacqueline (Lapp) Holtzman, managed the home.

Holtzman had a 31-3 record at University City High School, outside St. Louis, and played for the University of Illinois. As a sophomore, he won six games and struck out 72 batters in 57 innings. He was selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 1965 amateur draft.

He spent most of the 1965 season in the minor leagues, where he compiled an 8-3 record, before being called up by the Cubs.

Holtzman left the Cubs in 1971 with a 74-69 record. He fared substantially better with the A’s, a 1970s dynasty whose players included Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers. In Oakland’s World Series championship years, from 1972 to 1974, Holtzman had a 59-41 regular season record. In World Series games, he was 4-1.

In early 1976, Holtzman was one of nine A’s players whose unsigned contracts were renewed with 20 percent salary cuts by Charles O. Finley, the team’s capricious owner.

“The man doesn’t care if I leave or not,” Holtzman, a union activist who was the team’s player representative, told The New York Times during spring training that year.

Soon after, he and Jackson were traded to the Baltimore Orioles. But in late June, Holtzman was sent to the Yankees in a 10-player trade. With New York, though, his pitching was not as efficient as it been in Oakland, and Manager Billy Martin declined to use him in the postseason rotation in 1976, when the Yankees were swept by the Reds, and again in 1977, when the Yankees defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

After the fifth game of the Series, Holtzman was asked if he expected to pitch in the remaining games.

“No, not really, not when I haven’t been used all year,” he told The Times, referring to a regular season in which he had appeared in only 18 games, some of them in relief.

His appearances grew even less frequent in 1978. He pitched only 17⅔ innings in five games before he was traded back to the Cubs. At the time of the trade, Holtzman had challenged the Yankees’ decision to put him on the 21-day disabled list for an ailing back.

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