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A Beginner's Guide to Padel Shots

Introducing the essential padel shots

Do you know the difference between the Vibora and the Bandeja? When would you play a Chiquita?

If you've just started playing padel, do you know about hitting the ball against the back wall, as well as the drop shot, the volley and the lob? To help you understand the sport and improve your game, we've put together a short introduction to essential padel shots (though, as you become more advanced you will discover that there are even more shots to learn).

The Forehand 

A decent forehand is crucial when playing padel. Along with the backhand, this is a shot you will use when returning serve and when you're not at the net. If you have an easy ball, you can also use the forehand as an attacking shot, but generally with groundstrokes in padel the most important thing is to play a solid shot and not to miss. There are different types of forehand, including a flat forehand, a topspin forehand and a slice forehand, which is useful for when the ball is at chest height and you want to keep the ball low. Remember that hitting your forehand cross-court will give you more court to aim at – which means more margin for error - than going down the line.

If you're thinking, 'How do I play a topspin forehand?' remember that you don't want to generate as much spin as you do in tennis. You want the ball to dip down to your opponents' feet, and not to bounce off the glass and potentially give your opponents an easy shot. Look to lightly brush over the top of the ball with your racquet for just the right amount of topspin.

The Backhand 

Just like the forehand, the backhand is a key shot that you will use when returning serve and when playing from further back in the court (so when you're not at net). As you become more confident, you will learn to play topspin, slice and flat backhands and to judge when you should be playing which of those shots.

The Return

If you can read an opponent's serve and predict where they are going to hit the ball, you will have a better chance of responding with a good shot. One effective return can be to play the ball low towards the server's feet as that will force them to hit the ball up, which could give you and your partner a chance to finish the point. Another option is a lob return. If you have an easy ball and you’re feeling comfortable, you could hit a fast, aggressive return that will put pressure on your opponents.

The Lob

One of the key shots in padel is the lob as hitting a higher ball can quickly change who is in control in a point. If you and your partner are at the back of the court and your opponents are dominating at the net, hitting a lob could push them back while allowing you and your partner to get to net and counterattack. If your opponents are hitting the ball with power and pace, hitting a lob will help to slow play down, giving you time to recover your court position. But this can be risky - if your lob is too short, you will be giving your opponents the chance to play a smash.

The Chiquita

This is a soft, slow shot that just clears the top of the net and is played low towards your opponent's feet. The Chiquita will force them to hit the ball up to get it over the net, giving you the opportunity to move forward and play an attacking shot. Hitting a slow ball will also give you more time to move forward and reach the net. This can be a hard shot to get right as it requires excellent touch and feel. It's best not to attempt a Chiquita if you have been pushed towards the back of the court as you probably won't have the control you need.

Off the wall shots

Becoming comfortable with hitting balls that bounce off the side walls is key to improving as a padel player. This is also one of the fun elements of the sport so, as well as being a challenge, you should also enjoy it. Much will depend on how the ball bounces – the height, angle and speed - but you will often be looking to play a defensive or neutral shot rather than attempting a high-risk, attacking shot.

Hitting against the back wall 

Also known as 'contrapared', which is Spanish for 'against the wall', this is a very useful defensive shot after your opponents have hit a lob. For this to be effective, you need to ensure you get plenty of height and depth as otherwise you will only be giving your opponents an easy shot. If you're able to move back with the ball as it goes towards the wall, and then move forward after it bounces against the wall, you will find you can take a full swing and hit the ball with greater power and control. Otherwise, you could end up just scooping the ball or playing a weak shot. If you're able to hit the ball the ball high and deep, and get back into the point, that will frustrate your opponents. Play this shot a few times and your opponents will start to think they need to take more risks.

The Volley

Hitting the ball in the air before it bounces is key to winning matches - some would say it's the most important shot in padel. If you and your partner are at the net, you'll be looking to play volleys to put pressure on your opponents and finish off points. If your opponents have hit a good shot, play a block volley or a neutral volley, but if you have an easier volley, you can be more aggressive.

The Smash

While the smash is often an attacking shot, that doesn't mean you should be hitting the ball as hard as possible (which is often the case in tennis). Sometimes, such as when you're close to the net and you have an easy ball, using lots of power is the right move but often you should be thinking carefully about spin and placement. If you get the smash wrong, you will be giving your opponents the opportunity to attack you with their next shot and you could end up losing the point.

The Bandeja

You play the Bandeja, which is a defensive smash, your opponents have put up a mid-height lob and you don't want to lose your position at the net. This is a slow, controlled smash. Often you play this shot from further back in the court and you'll then look to get back to the net again as quickly as possible. While you're unlikely to win the point with a Bandeja, it can push your opponents back and ensure you regain control of the court. 

The Vibora 

A fast, attacking smash played with sidespin and slice, which will move around when it bounces off the side and back walls. You're looking to win the point with this shot or set yourself up to finish the point with your next shot. Whereas you tend to play the Bandeja from further back in the court, you will hit the Vibora when you are closer to the net and in a stronger position.

The drop shot

Delicate but devastating; you're hitting a soft shot which lands just over the net, which you're hoping your opponents won't be able to reach before it bounces for a second time. The drop shot is most effective when it's disguised and your opponents aren't expecting it as then they will be even slower to react. You want to play this shot when your opponents are towards the back of the court as then they'll have even further to run when chasing it down. You might want to play the shot with some slice or backspin as that will slow the ball down.

Take a shot

Now that you know the key shots in padel, why not get out on court and start playing?

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