What will be the fate of this year’s World Padel Championships?

Having a major event in our sport every two years is a huge incentive for all British players to train and play tournaments throughout the year. We now have many aspiring and ambitious players pushing through and challenging to be selected for the GB Team.

Playing in a World Championships is a cherished experience, mixing the unique opportunity as a padel player to compete within a team, whilst representing your country.

I first played in a World Padel Championships in Mexico in 2010, which was an amazing experience and great exposure for me to the game. I can clearly remember the moment of my first victory in that tournament against Switzerland as being rather emotional.

Playing these events is a privilege and it not only improves all aspects of a player’s game; it gives players the opportunity to compete against the best in the world. It enables us to travel to new environments such as a trip to Asunción in Paraguay for the 2018 World Padel Championships.

Paraguay was a very different and interesting culture to experience. One of which most of us would probably not have experienced if it wasn’t for the game of padel. One of the main highlights for me was a victory my partner (Ryan Wyatt) and I had in the tie against the #4 seeds Uruguay. Unfortunately, the team narrowly missed out on making the quarterfinals.

The standout performance from GB was in the 2016 World Padel Championships in Portugal, where we progressed to the quarterfinals losing to the mighty Spain. An unforgettable performance from the team that positioned us within the top eight nations in the world, all of whom had notably far greater experience, budgets and resources.

Padel is dominated by Spanish and Argentinian players and is most popular in Spanish speaking countries, although over the past 10 years European countries including the UK have steadily become exposed to padel as they realise its many benefits.

The recent merger of British Padel and LTA will only accelerate its popularity and over the next 5-years I’m confident we will see similar growth to what France and Italy have both experienced.

The International Padel Federation (FIP) is responsible for the growth of the sport worldwide and is doing a great job in reaching a wider circle of countries, like Japan, China, Australia, Qatar, and since the introduction of the new FIP president, Luigi Carraro, in November 2018, we have seen improvements in the organisation and structure of events.

Last year’s European Padel Championships was organised well in difficult circumstances and the FIP tournament calendar this year was released well in advanced, but there is still room for improvement.

To date, there haven’t been any official announcements regarding the status of this year’s World Padel Championships in Qatar. The FIP’s website states there is a ‘pause to all competitions’. The Qatar Tennis Federation (who I understand are the organisers) have no information on the event at all.

In other sports such as tennis, the next three major tournaments have all made very clear noticeable announcements – The French Open has moved to a new date in September, Wimbledon has been cancelled and the US Open in August has stated its intentions to go ahead as scheduled. I know we are not tennis and these events are much sooner but some clear communication here would let us all know that the World Padel Championships hasn’t been forgotten.

The concern is as follows:

The top 10 ranked nations gain direct entry; however, at least 6 teams will need to compete in a qualification process. GB who are currently #13 (with a high of #8 in 2016) would fall into the latter category meaning a qualification round which will need to happen sometime before November.

Even in an ideal environment this is now less than seven months before the Championships begins and with the likelihood of qualification rounds to be played at a date and place TBC; this does not leave much time for smaller nations to organise and arrange funding for their teams.

The FIP have had two years to organise the destination of the World Championships, yet Qatar was only announced as the host venue in March of this year. Shouldn’t this be something that’s announced significantly earlier?

By making clear, timely decisions, whilst communicating them in a consistent way will set the bar for our minority, yet global sport.

The World Padel Championships is a major highlight for many of us who are focused on promoting and growing the sport within our respective countries, as it’s an opportunity when we can all come together.

Article by:

John Leach

Team GB Captain

John has been a prominent figure in the GB squad over the past 10 years. He has served as Captain in three World Padel Championships.