HOP London Padel Open gearing up to be thrilling contest
GB men’s captain John Leach believes there is a real chance that home hopes of glory could be realised at this week’s FIP Rise HOP London Padel Open. RJ Mitchell reports.
GB No 1 Christian Medina Murphy, who made the semi-finals last year, is seeded No 3 for the men’s event while GB No 1 Tia Norton, fresh from her triumph at the FIP Rise Al Alamein, will be hoping to mount a successful defence of the title she won 12 months ago in the inaugural event.
With the men’s draw boasting a 16 strong qualifying tournament, which is peppered with British interest including Sam MacNeil and partner Rafa Vega Otaolaurruchi, who together won the recent LTA Grade 1 at Rocks Lane, there is a strong home entry.
Reflecting on all of this John, co-founder of ‘Home Of Padel’, which is sponsoring the event, admitted he is cautiously optimistic: “Christian (Medina Murphy) is right up there and seeded No 3 and he is playing with a guy who is top-100 (Miguel Angel Solbes). Brits Nikhil Mohindra and Sam Jones are both in automatically.
“But Christian is in a strong position and he has come with an excellent partner so hopefully he will be there at the end of the week challenging. He made the semis last year and this year he has got the funding from the LTA and some private sponsors which has allowed him to focus on his training and playing more tournaments and you can see the improvement in his level. Christian is coming to go the full way this time, there is no doubt about it.”
When it comes to the women’s event, John was equally upbeat: “Looking at the female list Tia is in at eighth seed and she is partnering Rosalie Van Der Hoek, whom she just won in Egypt alongside. They will be coming in with confidence high and of course Tia is defending her title from last year.
“While Aimee Gibson and Victoria Nicholas, who won at Rocks Lane, are also in there along with several of the other leading British girls like Abi Tordoff and Lisa Phillips. So it will be an interesting competition and it’s great that we have so many British females who are in the draw and determined to test themselves against the best from the continent.
With the Team GB Men’s captain using the London Open as the final selection tournament for the European Championships it is all on the line this week at the NTC: “All the players are in the same boat; it is a real opportunity for them to raise their level. The UK tour is fantastic but a lot of the time you can end up playing the same people so it’s fantastic to get the chance to play against European opposition and test yourselves against different styles.
“Frankie (Langan) will be back on his favoured side on the forehand partnering Alex Loughton, who is another guy in the performance programme so that will be a strong combination and I look forward to seeing how they play together.
“Sam (Jones) and Nikhil (Mohindra) have both also come with Spanish partners and will be determined to go deep.
“While Sam (MacNeil) has been training hard this year and his results have reflected that. He’s had a good couple of victories in Grade 1 competitions with different partners and he has been working with me at the NTC and lifting his level throughout the year.
“All of that has been paying off for him in tournament play and he has steadily climbed up the rankings but this will be another step up for Sam and if he can come through qualifying that will be a big positive for him. But he now has the opportunity to test himself against some very strong players.”
But with the hard work done John is looking forward to a feast of padel unfolding and keen to record his gratitude towards event sponsors: “Portico put in the show court and have done a great job while Graham’s Port have provided a superb cocktail bar and are really keen to partner in padel while they also sponsored the Estoril Open in tennis. So it is just a unique setting and really all we need is the weather gods to smile on us!” he laughed.
“It has been a lot of hard work for us but we are really happy with the way it has come together and the pop up show court is just really impressive along with all the facilities and hospitality options you’d want at a major sporting event. So we just hope that people go and enjoy watching the padel.
“My only personal regret is that it would have been great to play in one of these events but I guess Javi (Serrats, HOP co-founder) and I get to do the hard work off the court but thankfully not on it!” 🎾