As Qatar’s fastest growing sport, Padel has quickly become more than just a hobby for many.
The sound of tennis balls being struck off bats and walls reverberates throughout the club. Inside PadelIn, Qatar’s largest centre for the popular sport, dozens of men and women take up positions on the 20×10 courts, ready to strike, dive and score their way to victory.
For most, Padel is a sport known to be a quirky combination of squash and tennis, though its court is about 25% smaller than a traditional tennis venue and the glass walls surrounding the play area are used as part of the game.
Padel is one of the newer and fastest growing racquet sports worldwide, and has been on the radar in Qatar since at least 2017.
Although it’s fairly new here, Padel came about in 1969 when Enrique Corcuera decided to adapt his Squash court at his home in Acapulco (Mexico) with elements of Platform Tennis, creating what he called “Paddle Corcuera.” Corcuera is considered to be the inventor of Padel.
Soon enough, Enrique’s Spanish friend Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg tried this new invention at his friend’s home and instantly fell in love. Immediately after in 1974, he decided to create the first two Padel courts in a Tennis club in Marbella, Spain. Over the course of the next few decades, Padel rapidly spread across the world.
Beginnings in Qatar
Here in Qatar, former tennis national team player Mohammed Saadoun Al Kuwari quickly found himself transitioning into Padel.
“It’s very similar to Tennis, except the glass and the racquet are carbon fibre made,” said Al Kuwari, who stands in second place on Qatar’s national rankings. Al Kuwari recently won third place in the Asia Padel Championships, with 9 international and local championships under his belt.
He first encountered the sport in 2016 and soon after, in 2017 his older brother opened the first Padel club at Qatar Sports Club.
“We fell in love with the sport, even got addicted to it,” Al Kuwari said. “The community’s reaction is amazing. It’s an easy sport to learn and because there’s four players, it’s very social as well.”
According to Al-Kuwari, more than 10,000 people in Qatar play Padel in some form, with 4,000 of those registered with PadelIn, Qatar’s first and only indoor Padel club.
The growing love for Padel across Qatar has led to increasing tournaments as players endeavour to improve their skills on a professional level. PadelIn hosts a monthly tournament for local players to help enhance their skills so as to compete with players that play on the international stage.
Future of Padel
In 2020, Qatar Olympic Committee [QOC] held the second edition of its Padel Tournament, which saw the participation of over 300 players. This was a stark difference from 2019, when QOC’s first edition of the tournament saw only 96 players participating.
In March 2021, the International Padel Federation held its first Padel tournament in Qatar with players from all over the world.
Sports-hungry Qatar is also slated to host the Padel World Cup in November 2021, just a year ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Padel players from Qatar’s national team, including Al-Kuwari, will be participating in the 16-team championship, the first of its kind in the region.
As more people get involved with sport and with numerous private courts sprouting up across the country, it’s clear that Padel is here to stay.