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By organizing a tournament at Roland-Garros, padel begins its revolution in France

From the courts to the slopes, there is only one step. More than a month after the victories of Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek at Roland-Garros, the padel is in turn at the party. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) is organizing the first major padel tournament in France, Porte d’Auteuil, from Monday July 11 to Sunday July 17.

Entitled Greenweez Paris Premier Padel Major, the tournament brings together the 56 best male pairs in the world on the Philippe-Chatrier court and its annexes. To mark the occasion, the organizers are planning a “prize money” record in this discipline which is contested on small-format courts surrounded by a plexiglass cage. The amount has not been disclosed, but it will be “at least three times higher than circuit standards“, according to former tennis player Arnaud Di Pasquale, who has become tournament director.

According Gilles Moretton, President of the FFT, this booming racket sport already has more than 300,000 followers in France. However, only 23,000 of them are licensed, a gap that the federation intends to fill in particular thanks to this first event. “He must make people want to discover padel. We see this as a pivotal moment in France“, detailed in June the president during a press conference during the Parisian tennis tournament. During the fortnight, a track was installed close to the Philippe-Chatrier court to give a taste to the public.

In addition to this event, nearly sixty tournaments will be developed in France, all attached to the Premier padel circuit, supported by the Qatari investment fund QSI. To contribute to the boom in this sport, the FFT intends to install 500 new padel tracks by the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Everything must be largely financed by the State, said Gilles Moretton, via the installation of new local sports facilities announced by Emmanuel Macron in October 2021.

For the federation, the growth of this sport represents a major challenge, while it was losing licensees every year. The padel “can bring back the friendliness that is slowly being lost in tennis clubs“, believes Gilles Morreton. In any case, he has allowed the federation to once again cross the symbolic bar of one million licensees.

Can we therefore imagine padel dethroning tennis? “I know it’s a fear of some clubs“, concedes the president of the FFT. The example of Spain is often cited. There, padel has become the second national sport behind football in number of practitioners, recalls thehe president of the International Padel Federation, Luigi Carraro.

Arnaud Di Pasquale, also director of the padel mission with the FFT, does not believe in this theory. “Those who leave tennis have their own reasons. The figures tell us that 60% of people who come to padel do not come from tennis.“Luigi Carraro is going in this direction. During the press conference, he insisted on recalling that these two sports are “complementary” and not “enemies“.

The black point of this edition remains the absence of a female painting. The International Association of Padel Players is under an exclusive contract with a competing federation of the First padel circuit until the 2023-2024 season, the World Padel Tour. “It’s war between the two“, says Alix Collombon, the French number 1 in padel. The latter is one of the only players to live from the discipline in France. “Obviously, I would have dreamed of playing at Roland-Garros, but I’m waiting for the players to make a decision.“, patient the 29-year-old sportswoman.

The player Alix Collombon in front of the padel exhibition track installed at Roland-Garros, June 2, 2022. (TOM NOUVIAN / FRANCEINFO: SPORT)

The principle is that the players join us very quicklyhopes Arnaud Di Pasquale. From next year if possible.“To make up for this lack during the 2022 edition, the tournament organizers tried to schedule an exhibition match between two of them. In vain. This does not surprise Alix Collombon.”In our contracts, exhibition matches outside the circuit are prohibited.“. For its inaugural edition, the first major padel tournament in France will therefore be exclusively male.

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