Tennis in Spain

NadalWhether as spectators in the stands or as players on the court, Spaniards have an affinity for tennis and a wide range of its "cousins." In recent years, Spain has stepped into the international tennis limelight, thanks to top-notch ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) players like Tommy Robredo, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Rafa Nadal. Plus, Spain - Madrid, to be exact - has been attracting the world's top tennis players each fall since 2002 as the host of the annual Madrid Masters, the eighth of the ATP Masters Series' nine major tournaments.

Another popular sport similar to tennis is pádel, which essentially boils down to a cross between tennis, squash and glorified ping pong. The balls used and the scoring system are the same as in normal tennis, but the game is played with a hard-surfaced paddle on a smaller court. These courts are enclosed and players are free to hit the balls against the walls, like in squash.

Another handful of popular "hit a small ball" games in Spain are the variations of "pelota vasca" (Basque ball). Pelota vasca - which hails from the País Vasco (Basque Country) - is a sport that originated long ago from passing time hitting balls against church or other town buildings' walls. The term is a general one which encompasses several variations that differ in the method used to hit the small leather ball against the two walls of the "frontón" (court). You can use the bare palm of your hand, a racket, a bat, or a basket-like contraption. Internationally, this final form of pelota vasca is popularly referred to as "jai alai."