Europe’s fastest-growing sport has arrived in the UK with padel mania leading to the opening of courts across London and Birmingham.
Padel tennis, or padel, was invented in Mexico in 1969 and is hugely popular in Hispanic countries and there is a court at Chelsea Harbour Club.
Similar to tennis, it is played in doubles on a court one-third the size of a standard tennis court, with players able to play balls off the wall and using smaller unstringed racquets and smaller, less pressurised balls.
Team GB have sent a team to this week’s Junior World Championships and head of British Padel Tom Murray said: “It’s a sport that isn’t power dominant, therefore great for all ages.
“It’s highly addictive as it’s dynamic, with lots of angles to rebound and read.”
Its popularity along Spain’s Costa Del Sol exposed it to European holiday makers who have pushed for the sport to be introduced back home.
The UK Padel Federation was set up in 2011 and its dedication to the development and promotion of the sport has seen it spread across London to Birmingham.
Tom has found it tough to bring the game here, claiming he has had no support from UK sporting councils such as Sport England.
“Although padel tennis is recognised as a great sport due to its impressive growth figure in Spain alone, you are unfortunately on your own when developing a new sport to the UK,” he explained.
He is hoping to achieve official classification for padel tennis from the UK Sporting Councils, while the sport’s patrons are pushing for it to become an official Olympic sport.
In addition to the Birmingham club, courts have opened in Whitechapel, Bushey Park, Chelsea harbour club, Weybridge in Surrey and Chigwell in Essex.
Tom said initially the idea of sending players to the Junior World Championhips was just to participate and build on UK padel through PR, but thanks to the support of parents and private sponsors, they have been able to send a 19-strong team of mixed junior players.
Team GB coach Matt Thomas said: “We have a good chance, it’s the first time we are competing at this kind of level, so it’s going to be a great experience for the juniors but a tough competition for us as well.”
The competition sees teams compete in u14, u16 and u18 categories and started on Monday.
Team GB have made it to the semi-finals, with the finale taking place on Sunday.
Team GB player Cameron Dollimore, 14, said: “I first played padel on holiday in Spain and loved it.
“It’s really good that it’s coming to the UK now because I get to practise and play it a lot more.”
Picture courtesy of British Padel, via Facebook, with thanks