‘Squash players will love the social side of padel, which is not always the case with tennis’
By ELLIOT SELBY
Following Saturday’s introductory article about the growth of padel in the UK, Elliot Selby, a member of a very prominent squash family, writes about his love for this fun doubles game which is spreading rapidly across the country.
I started playing at the start of September last year at Maldon. I had/have been playing squash there quite a lot and knew they were going to be building padel courts. There used to be an old tennis court there previously, that was in bad condition and never used. In its place were put three padel courts. I had played once when I was 13 in La Manga!
I really loved it straight away and I had played tennis to a decent level when I was younger too (specialising in doubles), which I think also helped cement my quick obsession with it. My current job is quite flexible, so from September I have been playing about three times a week!
I think for most decent level squash players, it is relatively easy to pick up and be able to have some good rallies. It especially helps when taking the ball off the back glass.
However, Padel has a lot of tactics and variation of shots, so to get to a slightly higher level does require more experience. I have seen it with a few good squash players who have played recently. They are good, but end up over-hitting the ball and try to play down the line too much (most of the play should go down the middle and cross-court).
I have found the Padel community at Park Drive to be fantastic. Everyone is extremely friendly and there is a great social side to it, which will be familiar and appealing to squash players, which in tennis is not always the case from my experience.
The club has thrived since September, with about 150 Padel members now. The courts are always busy, with people playing matches or junior coaching, ladies coaching etc. The club itself has, as a result, benefited massively from this influx of new members, who are now using the bar, playing squash, swimming and using the gym.
The club has a head coach (Richard Hall-Smith), who is a very good player and former Real Tennis Coach and assistant coach Danny Troy, who does a lot of the junior and beginner squads. They have just added in a club house, which will have a cafe inside and around the courts. Decking has also been added. They have space for another court, which they are looking to add as a show court with seating.
They will also be looking to install a high awning to cover the three courts so they can be played on through winter too (although the courts were just as busy in the winter just gone!).
They run tournaments there almost every week, at different levels. They have the Maldon Masters once a month which is like the open club tournament. Mixed Event, which is good fun and they have just introduced the Junior Masters for 11-16 yr olds. We have have the Maldon Mexican once a month, which is more fun and you have to rotate partners.
The club has just started to host British Padel level events now and have had two Bronze events so far, with a few more planned for the rest of the year. On July 6-7, we will also have a big Open event which has £3k prize money for the winners!
It is attracting some high level World Padel Tour ranked players (that is definitely one to come down for as there will be lots of social padel too that weekend).
The club is a 20-minute drive for me. There is Prested Hall, which is in Kelvedon and only 15 minutes from me. They have two indoor courts and two outdoor courts. I play there every so often. Apart from this, there are courts at David Lloyd in Chigwell, but I believe that is it for Essex so far.
I am also playing British Padel Tour events elsewhere, and last weekend played a Gold event at Stratford. They have three courts at the Stratford club, which is a very popular pay-and-play venue.
I will definitely try and watch the World Padel Tour event in Fulham in October. I was in La Manga training last month and we went up to Alicante to watch an event. The level is just unreal and it is extremely professional and almost on par with PSA-level squash events. I will not be playing, ha!
Padel has really opened up a whole new world for me and although I am still playing squash, the world of padel has introduced me to so many great people and it is really wonderful to see so many people, who perhaps aren’t naturally that sporty, take up a new sport and have fun.
My aim is to keep having fun but climb the British rankings and see what happens!
I genuinely think squash and padel can work incredibly harmoniously at clubs and will really complement each other.
I must go, I’m off to play padel now!
Following our first article about padel, we have received feedback from various parts of the country. Edinburgh is not the only success story in Scotland.
Stewart Penman from Bridge of Allan, just north of Stirling, writes: “At Bridge of Alan Sports Club we have one padel court (two all weather tennis courts, four blaze tennis courts, four squash courts, a gym, sauna and lounge). We have approximately 400 senior members and 150 junior members, but we do not split membership by sport.
“The padel court was installed approximately six years ago to add a new sport to the club. Since then its usage has gradually grown with booked usage reaching 2,040 hours last year.
“Interestingly, the usage is a good mix of squash and tennis players; proving it is a good cross-over sport. This has led to the creation of our annual Squash v Tennis Padel tournament, which is a successful and (very) social summer event (with bragging rights currently held by squash).
“Regarding costs, I’m not aware of any running cost beyond minimal ongoing maintenance.
“Regarding revenue, I cannot say what review is generated by the padel court as we do not have separate sports sections. I can say that we have a small number of members that joined specifically as padel players, so it has contributed to some growth within the club.”
On the professional scene, Valladolid is preparing to host a World Padel Tour event. Much like squash, it looks very much like courts and spectator seating can be set up in some spectacular locations.
The court in Valladolid, in north west Spain, is taking shape in the historic San Pablo Plaza (pictured).
London hosts its first World Padel Tour event at the London Padel Centre in Bishop’s Park, Fulham, from October 13-20.
England becomes the ninth country to host a World Padel Tour and organisers claim that 200,000 spectators watched the events live last year, with a worldwide audience of 16 million viewers on TV and digital platforms.
Tom Murray, who is Head of Padel at the LTA, said: “It’s a huge opportunity to get great visibility for padel in the UK, which is what the sport needs right now. It’s new to London and the UK, so finally the British public will see padel played at the highest level and that will drive them to try it out this very social sport.”
Squash Mad readers and padel enthusiasts are invited to comment below.