New tracks, better lighting, a ball that bounces more and makes the game more spectacular or a crystal structure that improves visibility are some of the elements in which the World Padel Tour has taken “a leap in quality”, which has given it given returns on viewers and international interest.
“For us it was very important to make a leap in quality, to be in the ‘Champions’ of sports”, assures EFE the general director of the professional paddle tennis circuit, Mario Hernando, who lists the changes in surfaces, equipment and structures on the run. They have run since 2014 so that the World Padel Tour is summed up in one word: show.
Hernando remembers how aspects such as the large amount of sand that was raised on the track during matches, lighting or others did not make it difficult for a sports fan to be attractive, so they worked with different technical suppliers to improve the equipment, and with it, the sport itself.
A specific case is the surface of the track, prepared by the Iberian subsidiary of the Italian group Mondo at its development center in Zaragoza, which, together with the World Padel Tour, developed a new type of track, more suitable for a traveling tournament due to its easy to assemble and with less sand.
“World Padel Tour proposed us to make an easy to assemble and disassemble surface, that could be used quickly. That takes a couple of weeks on a club track, because the arena has to settle,” Jesús Catón, commercial director, tells EFE from Mondo Ibérica.
His solution was to develop a track that can be installed in a couple of hours, consisting of a spiral filament carpet, with the game lines already drawn and on which the sand is deposited, which is trapped between the filaments, so that is prevented from moving.
This, according to Cato, generates several positive effects: injuries to athletes are avoided as the sand is distributed equally throughout the track, sand is prevented from rising and visibility is lost, and by having less sand, the track it is faster, which generates more spectacularity.
“In 2016 we evolved the track to get more ball speed, because in days with many games it is more interesting to have faster games and the players get more out of their winning shots,” adds the manager of Mondo Ibérica.
The blue track of the World Padel Tour has generated “a boom” in sales for the Zaragoza-based company, especially in Scandinavian countries such as Sweden or Finland, which claim a hundred of these tracks annually, according to the manager, who sees that the European countries will follow Spain in the development of paddle tennis “in a few years”.
In order to fuel that spectacularity, the circuit organization asked the British ball maker Head for a faster ball, which would prevent tournaments at venues at sea level from slowing down, with the loss of emotion and the lengthening of consequent matches.
“That is why we launched the Padel Pro S in 2017, a more lively, more consistent ball. The players fell in love with it, and the players use it at sea level, while in higher venues they play with the original Padel Pro “Details the head of paddle and tennis balls for Head, Europe, Christian Reuter, to EFE.
The key to this ball is that it increases the possibility that the players “serve by three”, a spectacular shot in which the ball goes out over one of the sides of the court after bouncing off the back wall. Head has also detected an increase in sales in Sweden, behind Spain and Argentina.
Another structural element improved by the professional paddle tennis circuit has been the crystal structure that surrounds the court, made by the Alicante company Best Set, designed with crystals joined by a transparent silicone that generates that all the glass works together, by at the same time that it is completely transparent to the viewer.
The accident suffered by the Spanish player Paquito Navarro in the Oeiras Valley Portugal Padel Masters tournament last September, when he broke one of the windows with his back while trying to reach a ball, occurred on a track that, although it is approved, It is not the one that assembles the Best Set for the World Padel Tour.
“This track has a different type of fastening of the crystals different from ours, it does not have silicone. A crystal can be broken by many things, for example that it touches one crystal with another, putting silicone prevents the fracture by transmission”, assures EFE Ariel Robado, partner of the Best Set company, which nevertheless acknowledges that it is “difficult” to reduce the probability of breakage to zero.
According to the director of the World Padel Tour, in international tests the circuit does not impose the placement of its official tracks so as not to generate more costs although they use approved tracks, but after the accident they will work with international promoters to use their same structures .
In the case of the Alicante manufacturer, it has also detected that their work with the circuit has generated more international clients, in countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands or Italy, in many cases in tennis clubs that want to add paddle tennis to their partners.
The international launch of the World Padel Tour is not only noticeable in its suppliers, but also in cities interested in hosting exhibitions and tournaments. For 2019, Mario Hernando recognizes that there will be several “European and Latin American” countries that will be encouraged to organize an appointment for the circuit.
World Padel Tour has passed in four years from 15 tests to 28, increased ticket sales by 40% from 2016 to 2017 and accumulated 9.1 million views in its digital broadcast; a follow-up that has not only generated business for its suppliers, but a return for its sponsors of 23.2 million this year and an image impact for each venue valued at 1.2 million.
“We have shown that we are a serious professional circuit, working for the growth of the show and hand in hand with innovation,” concludes the CEO of World Padel Tour, Mario Hernando.
By Miguel Ángel Moreno