On April 19, the municipal council of Le Havre voted to replace three courts of the municipal tennis club by three padel courts. Local and anecdotal in a city long run by Antoine Rufenacht, tennis fanatic and mentor of Édouard Philippe? Not really, the flying padel, everywhere, to the rescue of tennis.
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Affiliated in 2014 to the French Tennis Federation, this user-friendly game taking place on an often covered ground scores points in regions with random weather such as Normandy and in large cities, where reserving a tennis court no longer holds the course of the fighter. As for the courts built in the popular cities in the euphoria of Yannick Noah’s victory at Roland Garros in 1983, they have been ringing hollow for a long time.
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Not to be confused with paddle, its aquatic cousin with two “d” s and a paddle, padel is a sport of Mexican origin which has already surpassed the number of tennis players in Spain and South America. In France, it emerges slowly, touching the 100,000 practitioners (4 million in Spain), and begins to ensure the survival of certain clubs threatened by the drop in attendance.
“By remaining 100% tennis it was the closure guaranteed”
“The first padel court was installed in September 2017, because by remaining 100% tennis, it was guaranteed closure, exposes Damien Jean, manager of the Biéville club, near Caen. A first tennis court has been removed. Very quickly, after four months, it was necessary to book two weeks before to play in the evening on the only padel court. We therefore went to three fields in 2019. “
The tennis crisis is at the very heart of the game, “A slow-setting cement”, as nicely defined by Lionel Maltese, professor of sports marketing and former elected to the French Tennis Federation. It takes time to overcome the technical difficulty and take pleasure, which poses a problem in an era of rapid setting, where happiness should not be too long in coming. “You have to consider tennis as a sports product in competition with other activities. Padel is an interesting answer for tennis as futsal has been for football. “
Rejuvenate FFT members
Faced with a rapid aging of its licensees, whose number fell below the million mark between 2016 and 2017, with a worrying age pyramid, the French Tennis Federation, which has welcomed padel in its fold since 2014, has well understood. Its president, Gilles Moretton, a former champion reconverted in the sports business, chose to put the turbo. On the garden side, a field will be set up in the middle of the Roland-Garros stadium during the tournament. On the court side, he appointed a former big name in tennis converted to padel, Arnaud Di Pasquale, to promote it.
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“It’s fun, convivial, easier to access, and I think that tennis clubs have every interest in adding this string to their bow, we can help them, but we are not going to impose anything on them”, says Arnaud Di Pasquale, aware that the brakes for tennis far exceed the technical difficulty. Padel, on the other hand, is played with four players, two players on each side of the net, it is slower than squash and less physical than badminton, so it allows you to … chat.
Rediscover conviviality in the clubs
Apart from the sometimes happy doubles for veterans, the tennis courts have too often become serious spaces, where you can hardly hear anything but the balls flying. “Tennis has lost its conviviality and it is not always easy to make your mark in a club where people have known each other for a long time. Teaching is no longer adapted to the demands of the modern world, padel can bring a lot ”, continues Lionel Maltese, who seeks more to marry than to oppose the two disciplines.
The same will with Arnaud Di Pasquale: “Padel is not responsible for the drop in the number of tennis licensees, which has been going on for several years. Tennis must find certain colors in France and padel can help it. “ National Technical Director of the Tennis Federation from 2013 to 2017, the bronze medalist at the Sydney Olympics knows that the development of a new sport requires the emergence of a high-level section. Good news, the first champions in blue are starting to show the tip of their racquets in the world tournaments.
Padel, instructions for use
Invented in 1974 by the Mexican Enrique Corcuera, padel is played on a ground most often covered, 10 m wide by 20 m long with a net surrounded by walls (usually glass). It is played exclusively in doubles with the same way of counting points and games as tennis. The service (with a spoon only) should be played diagonally in a square. Once the rally has started, the back and side walls can be used after a single bounce or after a volley. The ball is very close to that of tennis and the racket made of carbon with a full sieve (no string).