From Love Island & rugby to padel victories

The latest round of the Pro Am Padel Tour 2024 was held at Rocket Padel, Ilford, recently. The Bandeja was invited along to watch the action.

England Rugby World Cup winner Nastaha Hunt showed her sporting prowess after taking to the padel court for the first time – and bagging a win in the latest round of the Pro Am Padel Tour 2024.

The 35-year-old scrum half was paired with British padel’s No 2 (and world No 148) Aimee Gibson, who helped guide their partnership to victory at Rocket Padel, Ilford, over competitors including British No 1 Tia Norton, former England hockey player turned padel star Ellie Tait and England cricketer Freya Davies.

Nastaha said: “I’ve never played before but the atmosphere was amazing and the venue was incredible. I’ll definitely be playing again.”

England rugby player Natasha Hunt on her way to victory in the Pro Am tournament.
Winners (from left) former Love Islander Casey O'Gorman, padel players Ethan Bardo and Aimee Gibson and Natasha Hunt.
The players for the day.
Casey O'Gorman, Jeff Brazier and Jody Morris.
Jody Morris.
Mark Foster

The Pro Am Padel Tour pairs top British padel professionals with high-profile guests from sport and entertainment to compete in a relaxed tournament. Already this year it has touched down in Bristol, with events in Manchester and Derby to come.

The Rocket Padel event also included a men’s tournament, won by padel pro Ethan Bardo paired with former Love Islander Casey O’Gorman. They secured victory against stiff competition from Alfonso Patacho, Rafa Vega, Louie Harris and celebs including Olympic swimmer Mark Foster, Olympic divers Matty Lee and Daniel Goodfellow, TV personality Jeff Brazier and former England/Chelsea footballer Jody Morris.

Daniel was impressed with the sport: “I like how inclusive padel is. A lot of sports are hard on your body but I love how social it is. It has a nice competitive side as well. It’s really really addictive. From the first time I played it I just wanted to keep coming back.”

Mark Foster, another sporting celeb playing padel for the first time, was equally impressed and ‘really enjoyed’ the event, adding: “Tennis courts can often feel quite daunting and you spend a load of time collecting balls, but padel is really social.”

The Pro-Am also placed a spotlight on UK padel’s most promising next-gen talent, including brother and sister duo Liam and Chloe De La Mare from Guernsey, who showcased their skills by headlining a next-gen exhibition match. Aged just 15 and 14 years respectively, they are outperforming many top adult players in the UK. Liam is ranked U18 No 3 and U16 No 1. Chloe is ranked U18, U16 and U14 Number 1. Joining them on court were teenagers Rosie Quirk, Stan Hunt and Olly Grantham. 

The tour’s official automotive partner CUPRA flew in CUPRA Tribe ambassador Jon Sanz (world padel No17) to lead an exhibition match.

Aimee Gibson (centre) with (from left) Stan Hunt, Chloe De La Mare, Rosie Quirk and Liam de La Mare.


However, the day wasn’t just about competition. The tour launched a partnership with BADU Sports, an award-winning East London sports coaching and mentoring organisation. The initiative aims to expand access to the sport, providing BADU coaches, sports development teams and volunteers with court time, coaching and equipment with the aim of empowering them to introduce padel to communities and develop the skills of young people from black and global majority backgrounds

Nana Badu, founder of BADU Sports, said: “We are excited to be working with the Pro Am Padel Tour to ensure greater understanding and wider access, particularly for the black and global majority groups. Also, to look at how we work to ensure the diversity and inclusion of various ethnicities and classes are at the forefront as this sport continues to grow. We thank the Pro Am Padel Tour for seeing us as a partner that can help drive the commitment to inclusion.” 🎾