When Irina Peterson, Senior Manager at Maitland Group in Monaco, first told me about padel tennis, I had no idea what she was talking about. Images of tennis, table tennis and even pickleball bounced across my brain, but padel tennis?
“It’s similar to tennis but the court is enclosed by 3-metre walls that you can use in play, like squash,” Irina, one of Monaco Padel Federation’s hundred members, enthused. “And the racket is different, it’s more compact and also perforated.”
Irina Peterson is about to make sports history for Monaco. She and her partner Joelle Rossignol are the first women’s team to represent Monaco at the European Padel Club Championship in Toulouse, from September 8-10.
“We are very excited, and of course it’s an honour to represent Monaco,” Irina said. But the team and the Monaco Padel Federation are in need of sponsors, which is not easy to secure at the time of year when annual budgets have been designated and summer is in full swing.
Monaco Padel Federation may have been co-founded in 2014 by Philippe Sassier and Andrew Knox, but the history of the sport can be traced back nearly a hundred years to 1915, when the first courts were installed in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, on the west side of Lower Manhattan. By the Second World War, padel tennis was played in more than 500 cities in the US.
It would be decades before the team-of-two sport arrived in Europe, courtesy of Alfonso de Hohenlohe Enrique Corcuera, who discovered the game in 1974 while visiting a friend in Mexico. Returning to Spain, Mr Corcuera tweaked a few details of the court size (10m by 20m) and the rules of game, which includes the underhand serve, and then built the two first courts in Spain at the Marbella Club.
He promoted padel to his jet-set friends, who instantly become fans and the following year, in 1975, Mr Corcuera’s good buddy, Argentine millionaire and a regular on the Marbella scene, Julio Menditenguia, saw firsthand the success of padel, and exported the sport in Argentina. Within a few years, he had made padel tennis one of Argentina’s leading sports, with than 2 million players and 10,000 courts.
The popularity of the sport spread to Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and then to Canada.
It is estimated that padel, which uses a heavier ball than tennis, is played by between six to 10 million Spaniards, making it the country’s second most popular sport, compared to around 200,000 who regularly play tennis. And, according to British Padel, the sport saw “a 76 per cent increase in participation in the UK” over the year 2016.
The Monaco Padel Federation, which has been affiliated to the International Padel Federation (FIP) since 2015, practices at the Eze Tennis Club, which has one padel court although a further three are set for construction in September of this year.
Prince Albert is the honorary president of the Padel Monaco Association and even has a private padel court in his residence at Rocagel to enable him to play. Mike Powers is an honorary member of the Board.
The women’s team, who are coached by double winner of the French Padel Master in 2012 and 2013 Kristina Clement, could go all the way in Toulouse in September. For the men, they could have a shot at the European National championship in Portugal November 13 to 18.
“I really enjoy the team element of padel,” Irina explained. “Plus the sport is fast, fun and sociable.”
Those interested in sponsoring Monaco’s Padel Federation, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 06 79 30 76 96.
Article first published August 8, 2017.