Andy Murray has invested in the sport and footballer David Beckham plays it. And now a professional padel tournament is coming to Harrogate.
Padel, a racket sport that is a cross between tennis and squash, is popular in Latin American countries and particularly Spain in Europe.
It has been steadily growing in popularity in Yorkshire for over a decade now, with courts at Huddersfield Lawn Tennis and Squash club, Harrogate Sports Centre and Bradford already established, with one set to be built in Sheffield.
There is a second venue in Harrogate known as Surge Padel, a full indoor, purpose-built facility, the second largest of its kind in the UK.
This weekend, Surge hosts a professional padel tournament for men and women, a collaboration with the Lawn Tennis Association it is the largest of its kind to be held in this country.
The man behind it is Javi Serrats, who along with John Leach, the current GB national men’s coach, has an events company which is staging this weekend’s tournament.
Serrats, who competed semi-professionally in Spain before moving to Yorkshire for work, coaches at both Harrogate Sports Centre and at Surge.
Serrats said: “We set up our company Home of Padel with the aim of increasing participation in the UK. The ambition was just to promote events, but we’ve also set up the HOP Tour for club level players and have increased massively the number of tournaments.
“The tournament this weekend is our biggest yet. It is an official event counting towards UK rankings and includes £3,000 of prize money. The tournament will showcase the best padel players in the country.
“This is a real boost for Harrogate to get this event.”
There are now just shy of 200 padel courts in Britain, spread across 66 venues including tennis clubs, as well as leisure partners and padel-only operators.
By the end of this year, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) aims to add another 50 courts throughout the country.
The game of padel is played with a slightly less pressurised tennis ball, on a smaller court (surrounded by glass) and with a small, chunky racket.
The LTA is campaigning for it to be an Olympic sport.
“Padel is the perfect sport for someone who has never tried racquet sports,” continues Serrats, who represented Spain at the European Championships in his earlier years, and as recently as 2019 was the No 1 ranked player in Britain .
“First of all it’s fun and social.
“It doesn’t require an enormous amount of skill. With basic hand-eye co-ordination it’s pretty easy to take it up. Using power can be useless, because the ball hits the wall and comes straight back over the net at you.
“Once people try it twice, they can’t stop playing.”
As well as the growing professional element, it has a huge recreational following for men and women of all ages.
Louise Sinclair of Harrogate took it up after a bout of depression following the Covid pandemic.
Louise said: “Padel has changed my life, and that’s no understatement. As a divorced mum of two, I felt very isolated during and post lockdown.
Playing padel has resulted in not just new friends, it’s boosted my mental and physical health. It’s so addictive. I try and play most days and have never felt better.”