In November 2021, announcer Andy Taylor hosted the first World Padel Championship staged outside Europe or the Americas. The Qatar Ooredoo World Padel Championship featured nearly 300 professional and amateur athletes representing their nations in team competition.
In truth, that single event altered the trajectory of professional Padel.
After witnessing first-hand the production value, professionalism and athlete focused hospitality of the Qatar Tennis Federation, the International Padel Federation (FIP) and its athletes retooled their focus toward raising the bar for the future of the sport. To put it mildly, the 2021 World Padel Championship detonated a ticking time-bomb, shattering the status quo.
First, what is Padel?
Simply put, Padel is geometric eye candy. While it may not require the endurance and court coverage of tennis, it demands the angular dexterity and hand-eye coordination of squash. Its comparison to both is obvious. While smaller than a regulation tennis court, Padel’s field of play is similar in dimension and design, with a net dividing two teams of competitors. Meanwhile, the glass walls that encase the court affirms squash’s influence, though the relationship mostly ends there.
Scored identically to tennis, Padel’s ball is similar to standard tennis balls – however serves are delivered underhand, and players wield composite padels rather than stringed racquets. Rallies are rapid fire, long in duration, and athletes strategically use the glass walls to deflect drives in angles awkward for opponents to return.
Ultimately, to be successful, reaction-time and tactics carry far more value than power. No player benefits by having an overpowering serve. Shot placement, lobs and angular creativity are cornerstones of the game. When four tactical clinicians do battle inside the glass (and in thrilling moments: outside the glass) – professional Padel is a sight to behold.
The Origins of Padel
According to lore, the sport originated in Acapulco during the late 1960’s and has ballooned in popularity ever since, specifically in Spain and Argentina. Today, most of the sport’s top athletes hail from these two nations, although Italy has also developed a passion for Padel over the years.
Ticking Time Bomb
For decades, the FIP (International Padel Federation) has been the governing body of the sport. That said, other privately-owned tours – mainly in Europe and South America – staged the majority of income-generating tournaments for professional talents. While grateful for the opportunity to earn a living, the players had little influence over the tours, the payouts, and often found their individual seasons dictated by sponsors.
Without an investor to alter the status quo, the sport’s governing body and its players remained beholden to private tournament organizers and their backers.
The Origins of Premier Padel
Then, in 2021 the FIP staged the World Padel Championship in Doha, Qatar. For the first time, one of the sport’s signature events took place outside of Europe or the Americas. You see, Padel’s popularity had recently exploded in the Middle East – and the Qatar Tennis Federation, under the direction of Paris St. Germain owner Nassar Bin Ghanim Al Khelaifi, won the bid. Following the World Championship’s highly successful Asian debut, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) – under Khelaifi’s leadership – agreed to finance the launch of the FIP’s newest endeavor: The Premier Padel Tour.
Working alongside the player’s association, in 2022 the FIP established an 8-tournament Tour built for growth – and by all appearances, the Premier Padel Tour is the future of the sport. Like tennis, there are four “Majors,” offering players the richest prize pool and points. Additionally, there are four P1 (Premier One) events, extending Padel’s global reach to seven countries on five continents.
With determination and patience, the FIP, players and Premier Padel Tour are carefully collaborating to construct a solid, equitable foundation for the future of the game – while simultaneously growing the fan base, staging events all over the planet.
No longer Spain and Argentina’s best-kept secret – today, Padel is set-up for significant growth; and as the sport continues to blossom, the Premier Padel Tour will add additional events and tiers to the calendar.