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  • Writer's picturesophie sherwin

Padel or not to Padel...


woman hitting a ball on a padel court
Padel

Last month as a mission to try something new every month, I turned my hand to paddle. For those of you who don’t know what it is (and you are not alone as I had never heard of it until it kind of fell into my consciousness). Padel is, according to Wikipedia “…is a racket sport of Mexican origin, typically played in doubles on an enclosed court slightly smaller than a doubles tennis court. Although padel shares the same scoring system as tennis, the rules, strokes, and technique are different”. I think it is more a cross between squash, mini tennis and tennis but that is just me.

 

How did I fall into it I hear you ask, well in my area in London a huge erection (get your mind out of the gutter) of an indoor sports hall popped up. I watched it alongside hundreds of others being built from complete scratch. It is a shame as before there was fake grass you could sit on, or walk your dogs and pretend it is real grass (though do dogs who live in a city know the difference these days surely? This is a topic for another time), a basketball court, picnic tables and table tennis tables. It was small but it was aesthetically more pleasing than this current monstrosity that houses a few indoor courts and one outdoor court.

I watched many people playing on the outdoor court and it did look really fun, so I was scooting past one day and decided to burst my curiosity bubble and I popped in. Behind this small desk was a young, enthusiastic person who was eager to please which put me slightly more at ease. I then look at a man who is standing next to him, look into these beautiful big brown eyes and melt. Stumbling on my words I asked if they did group lessons. This Adonis who owned the brown eyes piped up in a Mediterranean accent that yes, they do group lessons and it would be a good place to start. He actually had me at ‘yes we do’. Information gathered I booked a lesson and walked away praying he was my coach.

Fast forward a week, I dust down my workout gear, throw it on and just a little bit of makeup (just in case) and head off.

 

I enter nervously, looking for my Adonis but could not see him, so I check in and am told to follow the eager pleasing receptionist to the others in the class which I do, I arrive at my court to see 3 other people standing around so I bid my hello’s, then they part and standing there is our coach…so disappointing…maybe this guy was an Adonis in his time but now – sadly, age has gotten the better of him. Never mind I think, it will not make a difference to my play. He asks us if we have every played and we all mumble no, then he asks if we have ever played tennis. We go around one by one and the first two people say a little at school, then he turns to me. I puff out my chest with pride and say very firmly “YES! I was in the top tennis team at school and since then I have been coached by a world ranking player and played in other teams’, that was a slight exaggeration but hey ho, no one needs to know. He nods and turns to the last player who says no. The coach announces to us that throw all we know about tennis out of the window as this is nothing like it. I am standing there holding a racket, tennis balls are in the basket, I look around at the other players and am so confused, but I follow everyone to our court which is a mini tennis court with half cage, half glass walls surrounding it, feeling like I am going into a cage fighting ring.

 

We stand to attention listening intently to the rules and how to play. Our coach is a good guy who has a good sense of humour and is personable which is good which helps me to relax. The other players are of course 20 – 30 years younger, fitter, slimmer and probably a lot more mobile than my body allows me. After listening to the rules we are told to give it all a go and put what he has just told us into practice. I serve and of course the ball flies off, rebounding off every surface it could find but my opponent watches it, then manages to return it. He doesn’t just return it he slices it within an inch of the ball’s life, so it sails to me but drops then spins away from me just as I reach it. I laugh and grab another ball, this time I am not going to hit it so hard, so I don’t, it lands just before my opponent’s feet so he can hit it back, again a slice. I run for it but don’t manage to hit it. This happens a few times and I am starting to get a little pissed off. This is supposed to be a fun lesson, emphasis on lesson, not a Wimbledon match! I find myself running around my half of the court, missing most of the balls, my original enthusiasm has been sliced away like this guys returns so I am very glad when we are asked to change positions and play with someone different.

I relax a little and my next opponent is much better, what I mean by better is that I am able to hit the ball like I have used a racket before. Confidence restored I try to have a little banter with everyone which goes down like my hope for Adonis to be single and into me.

No one responds and doesn’t even respond to my Champion talk (great shot, wow you are good…etc), this is a tough crowd! I decide to fuck it and keep going as me, with all the moaning and groaning from my joints, sweat, tears and banter, luckily for me the coach does join in with my witty repartee and I end up having a great time. Ninety minutes fly by and I have my stride back, even managing to return some slices from my nemesis. Final round of balls collected and thrown in the basket, still no one responding to my banter, we all say our goodbyes and walk in different directions.

 

All in all, I loved this. I would love to add more tennis into my life but there are two issues, scrub that three….nope four.

1.      Cost

2.      No one to play with

3.      Time

4.      No courts near me

 

So, maybe Padel is going to be my new sport, it is still expensive but once in a while won’t hurt. It is important for the brain, body and soul to have new experiences after fifty, so give something a go...

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