Bob sleigh champ joins tennis ace at padel launch

Jamaican bobsleigh Olympian Matthew Wekpe jumped on court with tennis ace Annabel Croft to officially launch padel at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London.

The outdoor court is the latest to be provided by GLL (the UK’s largest operator of tennis courts) via its Better brand in partnership with padel specialist Game4Padel. The sporting stars joined families taking part in free padel sessions throughout the event.

Annabel said: “It’s (padel) really growing in popularity in the UK. I think a lot of its appeal is that it’s very easy to learn. Most people, even without any racket experience, can pick up the basics pretty quickly. And because the court is small, the ball is in play a lot more than in tennis, where you have to walk much further to pick up balls after a rally has finished, which can be frustrating and waste a lot of time when you are just starting out.”

Andrew Clark, GLL’s Head of Sport and Aquatics added: “Everyone who tries padel loves it. The game is easy to pick up, can be played by people of all ages and abilities and is extremely fun and sociable. That’s why we’re working with Game4Padel to roll out courts at Better leisure centres across the UK over the coming 12 months, making padel more accessible and continuing to ensure our sport & leisure facilities offer exciting and affordable activities, which can bring communities together and help them to stay active and healthy.”

Former British tennis No 1 Annabel Croft with bobsleigh Olympian Matthew Wekpe and young players taking part in the opening event at Crystal Palace

The Padel Yard

Game4padel, working with property developer Sha Jenab, is set to bring more courts to London later this month with the opening of The Padel Yard in Armoury Way, Wandsworth. The site, previously a pop-up cinema, will offer three padel courts together with space to socialise, a bar, WiFi and on-site parking. The facility opens on September 14th. Court bookings will be via Matchi and rackets/balls available for hire. Coaching sessions/clinics will also be bookable. 

Game4Padel CEO Michael Gradon said: “This is an extremely exciting site for us – in Europe padel does really well in urban settings where there is not much space but plenty of demand for sport and healthy activities. We know the demand is there for padel courts in London as we are inundated by requests from Londoners wanting to play, so we expect this new club to be really popular from day one.”  

Sha Jenab added: “I picked up padel relatively recently but quickly became addicted to it and then struggled to find anywhere to play in London. The sport itself is great, but the social side is also a major factor in making it a success. We are aiming to replicate a Spanish style model of padel where people play the game but also hang out with friends between matches and socialise with people from all walks of life.” 🎾