So you’ve started to play padel but you’re not yet sure how to keep score? Here’s a handy guide to solve your doubts.
Match > Set > Game
Each padel match is made up of two to three sets. To win a set, you must win at least six games.
The games are scored starting at “love” (or zero) and go up to 40, but that’s actually just four points. From love, the first point is 15, then 30, then 40, then game point, which wins the game. If each pair has equally won three points (40-40), that’s called a “deuce”, which is, essentially, a tie. In that case, the following point won will be called “advantage” and if the same pair wins the next point they have won the game. If the point is lost the score will return to “deuce”. And so on until one side has won the two consecutive points which are needed to convert into a game.
The first pair to win 6 games, always with a minimum advantage of 2 clear games, will convert into a set. In the case of a tie (draw) at 5 games, the players will have to play two more games, to win by two games, for example, 7-5. However, if there is a tie at 6 games a “tie-break” independent point system will be implemented.
During a tie-break, the point system is numeric. The first side to reach 7 points, with a 2-point clearance needed at 5-5 and so on to win the “tie-break” and convert the set. A set ending in a tie-break decision will be won by 7-6.
The first player to serve in the tiebreak is according to the order of serve followed in the set. For the first point of the tiebreak, this player will only serve one point from the right side of the court. The players of the opposing team (respecting the previous order of service) will then serve the following two points with their first point being from the left side of the court. After this, the players will serve two consecutive points always serving from the left side of the court, until the end of “the tie-break” always respecting the aforementioned order of service.
A “tie-break” set will be won by 7-6.
The player of the pair that did not begin serving in the “tie-break” will start serving in the next set.
Note: in some amateur tournaments, to make sure matches don’t take too long, the advantage system is eliminated, so upon tying at a deuce, the next pair to make a point will win the game.
Determining Who Serves First
To determine who serves first, the umpire flips a coin. Whoever wins the toss gets to decide one of four things: that they want to serve first, that they want to receive first, which side of the court they want to start on (in which case, the opponent chooses who serves first), or that they want to leave the choice up to their opponent.
Whoever starts serving continues to serve until that game is over. Then the opposing couple will serve. Both couples have the right to choose which player from their couple serves first. Once that decision is taken, the serve order has to be maintained throughout that set.
The first serve is always from the right-hand side. It must be hit diagonally across the net and bounce within the lines that limit the receiver’s box. The return of serve is played and the ball is in play until one side wins the point. The following service is taken from the left and served diagonally to the right and so on alternatively.
In competitive matches, the umpire is responsible for keeping score. Typically the score is also shown on an electronic scoreboard.
During non-competitive padel matches, the player serving is responsible for keeping score and shouting out the current score before every serve. When announcing your score, start with your score first, then your opponent’s. So if you have zero and your opponent has 30, say “love-30.” In the case of a deuce, if the server gains the advantage he can announce “advantage server” and if the receiver gains the advantage he can instead announce “advantage returner”.
Before the first serve in each new game, whoever is serving announces the score in sets. Say your score first, then your opponent’s. So if you won the first set, you would say “1-0.”
Of course, the rest of the players should also try to keep abreast with the score, as mistakes can be made. We’re all human after all.
I’ve played in matches where the server forgot to shout out the score before serving, resulting in wildly different opinions on what the score actually was. This can lead to arguments and time wastage, so it’s better to just shout out the score before serving to make sure everyone is in agreement and aware of the score.
Alternative Configurations for Amateur Tournaments
During amateur competitions, the organizers might also decide to assign a specific time frame for each match, typically 20 or 30 minutes. At the end of the time frame, the match is ended at the current score. The time-frame method is useful when the organizers want to make sure that everyone enjoys the same amount of play time, and thus avoid potential complaints from people whose matches were too short and hence feel that they didn’t get their money’s worth.
Another option you might encounter is to play up to a specific number of games. For example, the winning couple can be the first to win 4 games. This is ideal when the organizer wants to keep matches relatively short. The same benefit can be achieved with the time limit mentioned earlier, and I consider that to be the better option. The only advantage of this option is that mismatched couples can finish a match quickly and move on to a more balanced match. However, ideally, the organizer would have taken care of the mismatching problem beforehand.
One handy tool for keeping score in padel matches is to use an app on your smartwatch. I use the Tennis app on the Fitbit Versa, and there is also a Tennis scorekeeping app for the Apple Watch. In this way if you remember to mark each point you will have no doubts about the score at any point, and it also helps you keep the score in mind when preparing the next serve or return, which is a very important part of the mental game in padel.
I hope this basic guide to scoring in padel was helpful. If you have any doubts or questions please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to give you a definite answer.