Spanish and Argentinians dominate the World Padel Tour – how long will that last?
This question comes up regularly, particularly from those watching the World Padel Tour, but might not know the current padel situation around the world.
To begin with, all the top Mens WPT players are either from Spain or Argentina, with the exception of a handful (like Pablo Lima & Campagnolo from Brasil and some Portuguese/French) and similar with the ladies, although a few more French and Portuguese competing at that top level. The majority of the players outside the Spanish/Argentinians moving up the rankings are from very high level tennis backgrounds and have converted across to padel. So when it comes to seeing other nationalities in the mix, there are 2 separate questions:
When will we see a ……(fill in the blank with your country) nationality player in the top 50 WPT?
So, the immediate question of when might we see a certain nationality in the top 50 WPT really comes down to whether there are good tennis players that take their padel seriously (and most likely move to Spain for their training) or players not from a tennis background but have been brought up training in Spain. These players often come through randomly, as opposed to a steady stream…
When will we see ……nationality players regularly competing in top 50 WPT?
This is a much more difficult to answer. This implies a level of padel infrastructure within the country that can produce good players through their own system. There are tangible factors like, number of accessible padel courts, density of population around padel facilities, coach education, tournament structure, federation support etc. Then there are the intangibles like, playing padel because your parents do or regularly being able to see professionals training at your club or being taken to live World Padel Tour matches as a child, which all play a role in grassroots of the game.
Many of the countries are scrabbling to organize federations and promote growth of padel. In some countries you have support of well structured tennis federations, but find it difficult to persuade them about the potential of padel and in others you have explosive growth of padel, but the federations are struggling to keep up! Plenty of countries are finding it difficult to align these areas quickly and you have to consider for Spain and Argentina, padel has been one of the staple sports for 30-40 years.
The setup in Spain of having professionals training helps the younger players come through the game – something that has been happening there for years!
The development of padel around the world is also happening at different speeds. For example, Sweden are much more likely to catch up with their explosive growth in large indoor facilities and their impressive junior programs; than a country that is just adding 1 or 2 outdoor padel courts to an existing tennis facility. But every country has to start somewhere and in each country padel is developing at a different rate.
My estimation is that we might see up and coming Swedish/Belgian/French/Italian players in the next 10 years. The question of how consistently players are being produced will depend on the systems they have in place. It will take many more years for these countries to catch up the actual padel infrastructure there is currently in Spain (which is still growing!).
What are your thoughts?