Every time I watch one of the matches on the World Padel Tour I am amazed at how easily the players seem to be able to cover the whole court. Yet when I play it feels as if there are constant massive gaps between my partner and me, for our opponents to exploit. It’s time to figure out why.
How to move on a padel court?
- Move forward and backward as a pair so as not to leave a weak diagonal on your side of the court.
- Move side to side as a pair so that when your partner is forced close to the sidewall, you cover more of the central part of the court.
Gaining The Dominant Position
The dominant position on a padel court is at the net. It is from a net position that it becomes easier to put pressure on your opponents.
The reason is that you are so much closer to your opponents and you can already play your volley before they have time to get back into position after their shot.
If both you and your partner are at the net it is virtually impossible to get the ball past you with a relatively safe cross-court shot. The same cannot be said for the huge cross-court gap you leave if you play one up and one back.
So strategically you ideally want to gain the net position for you and your partner and keep your opponents pressed to the back of the court where they have limited shot options beyond playing defensively.
The Attacker Wins In Padel
I know that it is true that you can win padel points and sometimes whole games based on completely random unforced errors from your opponents.
However, if you are relying only on unforced errors as a way to win all your points then you will soon get to the level where this no longer works.
If you were to assume that your opponent is not going to make any unforced errors then the only way to win points and therefore the game will be to force your opponents out of position and ultimately play a weak shot that you can put away for the winner.
The way that you force your opponents out of position and make them play weak shots is by playing in an attacking manner as a pair. The best position on the court for you and your partner to play attacking shots will be when you are at the net.
The Power Of Serve/Volley
As you know, the standard starting position for a point when you are serving is that your partner will be standing at the net. Therefore, if you serve and volley, in other words, take up the vacant net position immediately after your service then both you and your partner will have the dominant net position at the start of the point.
If you have played a good service down the centerline or out wide you will have likely pushed the receiver slightly out of position. This will make it more difficult for the return of service to be played as a high lob forcing you and your partner back.
In all likelihood, the return of service will be at a height where you will be able to play a well-placed bandeja that will continue to push your opponents out of position.
Moving Forward And Backward As A Pair
If you picture a padel court where one player is standing back and the partner is at the net there will be a huge diagonal channel of empty space from in front of the backward player to behind the forward player. If you and your partner are standing like that it leaves you with a serious positional weakness that your opponents can easily exploit with a cross-court block volley.
Now that you can easily picture that key strategic positional weakness on the court, let’s look at ways where you can create that weakness for your opponents while preventing that from happening to you.
We have already seen how to move up and gain the net position as a pair when you have the service. So instead, we’ll start by looking at what the receiving team should be doing in terms of court position.
When you are receiving, both you and your partner will take up your back-court positions. Again, you do not want to create that vulnerable diagonal across your side of the court especially when you fully expect your opponents to be taking up the dominant net-position behind their service.
Your objective will be to move up the court and take control of the net position but you will want to be doing that as a pair so that you don’t leave the diagonal weakness on your side of the court.
If your partner plays a good high lob or a passing shot that forces one of your opponents to run back from the net, and your partner follows their good shot up to the net then it will be a good idea to move up to the net alongside your partner.
The first of two reasons why you should do this is that it is unlikely that your opponent will be able to play a strong shot when they have just run to the back of the court and moving up to the net as a pair will allow you to take advantage of that weaker shot.
Secondly, by moving forward as a pair you will not be leaving an open diagonal on your side of the court and if your opponent’s partner doesn’t move back as well it will create a weakness in their position that you will be able to exploit on your next shot.
Conversely, we need to look at how to move if you and your partner have the net position. If you and your partner are at the net and your partner gets lobbed you can either stay at the net or drop back with your partner. Let’s look at those options in greater detail.
Before we get into how you should be moving we need to cover one important detail. As I pointed out in the article about playing padel backward when your partner has been lobbed and they are running back to recover the ball they will be facing the back of the court.
You need to keep facing forward so that you can tell your partner where the opponents are moving on the court. If you turn to follow the ball all the way back, both of you can be surprised if your opponents suddenly move up to the net.
Now that we have that key point out of the way, if your opponents stay at the back of the court there is no need for you to drop back with your partner and invite your opponents up to the net. If your opponents stay back there is a good chance for your partner to return to the net position after returning the ball.
On the other hand, if your opponents come up to the net behind their lob or passing shot then the best move for you would be to drop back to more or less level with your partner so that you can close off that diagonal line of weakness on your side of the court.
This strategy of moving forward and backward on the court as a pair is something that many tennis players struggle with. When playing doubles in tennis you have one player that covers the net while the partner covers the baseline.
In padel one player will cover the forehand half of the court and their partner will cover the backhand half of the court. That means if you get lobbed on your side of the court, it remains your ball.
There will be times that if I am back I will move across to cover my partner in case they miss a difficult to reach volley, but this is the exception rather than the norm.
When I first started to play padel this was a mind shift that I needed to make from my tennis days.
For instance, if my partner had served and moved forward to take up a position at the net next to me and the return of service came back as a lob over my head, I couldn’t leave the ball and shout “Yours” to my partner. My side of the court means it is my ball.
Moving Side To Side As a Pair
Now that you have a handle on moving forward and backward as a pair on the court, it is time to examine lateral movement.
When my partner and I are covering our respective sides of the court the other potential area of weakness will be easy to aim for channel up the center of the court. Under normal circumstances, one of us will call for the ball if it is coming up in the center. Often it will be the one who has the forehand shot as the forehand is easier to play than the backhand.
If both my partner and I are at the back of the court and our opponents have pushed me into the corner or side glass with a well-placed service or volley it creates an even wider channel down the center for our opponents to exploit.
In this situation, it is really useful if my partner comes across toward the centerline in order to cover a bit more of what might come down the middle while I am getting myself back into position.
I must add here that if my partner comes across too far it will open up a gap on their side of the court. So instead of coming all the way over onto my side of the court, my partner should come across a bit so that they can cover a bit more of the center than they otherwise would.
When you are at the net in a dominant attacking position the strategy for moving side to side on the court is slightly different.
When both you and your partner are at the net there are three potential areas of the court where your opponents can hit the ball past you. The first two are tight down the line on the left or right side of the court and the third is in the center of the court between you. The ball between you can be from either a shot played straight up the center or a cross-court shot played from one of the corners that crosses the net between you and your partner.
If you think about it for a moment, your opponents can’t get the ball past you in all three areas on any shot. Depending on where they are playing their shot from, at least one of those three areas will be unplayable as a passing shot. Let me explain in greater detail.
If you have played a volley to the center of the court, your opponents have almost no chance of returning the ball tight down the line on either side of the court. Therefore both you and your partner will be able to move a half step or so toward the center of the court, closing down that option for your opponents.
If, for example, you are playing on the left side of the court and you have played a volley into the right-hand-side corner. Your opponent will have two choices available. Either return the ball tight down the right-hand line or play a cross-court shot. In this instance, your partner will move to the right to cover the line and you will move to the center line and cover the cross-court return.
Conversely, if you play your volley into the left-hand corner, you will move left to cover the left-hand line and your partner will come across to the centerline to cover the cross-court shot.
This becomes tricky when you start to switch your volleys from one corner to the other.
When you switch the target of your volley from the left corner to the right corner, your positions on the court will leave a gaping hole down the right-hand side of the court. Therefore, your partner must move across to cover the right-hand line and you will also move across to the right covering the center of the court.
The Elements In Action
Now that you have an idea of how these elements work in isolation, you will be able to notice them in action when you watch how players on the World Padel Tour move on the court.
In this post I have included a number of short video clips from the World Padel Tour that clearly show how the players move forward, backward, as well as side to side on the court in unison.