The padel wave is sweeping through France, and Roland-Garros wants to become its stronghold

The padel wave is sweeping through France, and Roland-Garros wants to become its stronghold

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She doesn’t have the look that kills, the chiquita. But this blow can hurt the padel very badly, placing the ball just behind the net. The discipline is popular in France, and you just have to see the land grow like mushrooms to realize it. At the end of 2019, the French Tennis Federation, which has been managing padel since 2014, counted 315 affiliated or authorized places of practice. In March 2022, they are now 449.

Exponential growth, fueled by ambassadors like Zinédine Zidane in Aix-en-Provence or Anthony Lopes in Lyon, who have opened their own structure. The wind is blowing from behind, so the French Tennis Federation plans to hoist the sail a little higher to take advantage of the favorable climate. During the second week of Roland-Garros, the FFT organized an exhibition on court n°5.

Among the participants, players from the world elite, such as Fernando Belasteguín (160 titles on the circuit), as well as personalities such as comedian Cartman, former handball player Thierry Omeyer or ex-footballer Robert Pires. A way to prepare the ground for a much more important event, the Greenweez Paris Premier Padel Major.

“We wanted the equivalent of a Grand Slam”

The biggest padel tournament ever organized in France, as the federation likes to point out, will be held from July 11 to 17. 56 teams will take part in the final draw – 44 directly qualified, 8 from qualifications and 4 benefiting from a wild-card. This Premier Padel Major is one of the four tournaments in the category on the calendar this year with Doha (March), Rome (May) and Mexico City (December).

“We didn’t want to create a simple tournament, we wanted the equivalent of a Grand Slam,” says Arnaud Di Pasquale, director of the Padel mission within the FFT. “For us, the setting of Roland-Garros means that it must be the size of a Major. We want to be the highest category. »

A stronghold in the world of rackets, to make an impression and propel padel “into other spheres”, according to Di Pasquale: “The other Majors take place in Qatar, Italy and Mexico and, without missing respect, Roland-Garros is a reference, especially for the South Americans and the Spaniards, who dominate the world padel. It is an exceptional showcase. I think Roland-Garros can put padel in another dimension. “Canal +, which wants to be” the house of padel “, too. The group has announced the acquisition of the Premier Padel circuit until 2026, starting with the Greenweez Paris Premier Padel Major 2022, which subscribers will be able to follow from the round of 16.

10% of new sports fields are for padel

Making such a craze bear fruit surprises even the first interested parties. “We have been managing padel since 2014 at the Federation and we would never have seen such an explosion coming,” admits Di Pasquale. “In PACA, Occitania or even Paris, you have to book 7 to 10 days before, or sometimes even more, to be able to have a padel track. The FFT aims to double the number of pitches to reach 2,000 by 2024, and has just signed a framework agreement with the National Sports Agency with this in mind.

“In agreement with the State, 500 of the 5,000 sports fields that will be built by 2024 will be padel courts [soit 10 %]. It shows the new importance of this discipline and France’s interest in it,” says Di Pasquale. “Five years ago, if one in four people knew padel, it was already not bad. And again, among those, one out of two thought of the surfboard (laughs)! “Let’s take advantage of the valve to remember that the word is pronounced “padèle”, and not “padeule”. And that, unlike Tchikita, two months later, we haven’t left him. Addictive, padel.

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