Huge weekend ahead for GB padel’s golden girl Tia
GB padel star Tia Norton is facing the biggest weekend of her career – and it’s one that will kick-off with a revenge mission against a true padel legend. RJ Mitchell reports.
It’s finals weekend in the inaugural US Professional Padel League and GB No 1 Tia and partner Ana Paula de la Peña (Palila) will be first up as their team Las Vegas Smash look to dispatch Arkansas Matrix on Saturday (June 10), booking a place in Sunday’s final at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, Florida.
Standing in their way will be Chilean ace Conchita Martinez and Cata Tenorio, the Argentinian four times World Champion who almost single handedly turned the first meeting between the two couples around after Tia and ‘Palila’ had taken the opening set only to lose the deciding third stanza tie-break by an agonising 7-5 margin.
Ready for the challenge
Projecting forward to tomorrow’s last four meeting, which will be on court at around 8.30/9pm UK time, a fired-up Tia vowed that things will be different this time: “Arkansas was our first match, the first competitive one we had played together and we only had a week’s preparation. Since then we feel we have grown a lot as a pairing but also as a team. We have also started to adapt to the conditions a lot better. Certainly I have got a lot better at coping with playing in 30°-plus with high humidity.
“We sat down yesterday and talked through the things we need to target. As a pair we have gone from strength-to-strength, week-to-week, and not just our partnership but the team over all. At each change over everyone is talking to the players on court and there is input from all of us and we all know what we need from each other.
“As a partnership there are moments on court when I know that Palila is not in her best moment and I know what to do to help her; we know how each other acts and the feelings and emotions we have when playing our best padel and how to get each other into that place. Tactically our understanding of each other’s game has gone up massively and each week our level has lifted massively but so have the other teams,” added Tia.
Turning her attention specifically to why Argentine padel icon Tenorio and Chilean partner Martinez managed to turn it around, and why she is confident that her pairing with Palila will prevail second time around, Tia said: “In terms of last time we took the first set really well and I think a combination of conditions and Cata’s experience proved decisive.
“I remember overhearing Cata saying to Martinez after the first set ‘don’t worry you haven’t done anything wrong; I need to change what I’m doing and I will fix this, just stick to your game’. Then she just took control of the match and turned it around. After the first set it seemed that she just knew where we would be hitting and how we would do that, so we are going to have to mix it up a bit more.
“The big difference is that we now have a plan B. It is clear that playing one style of padel just won’t be enough and flexibility will be key.”
Of course Tenorio isn’t the only legend Tia has faced and should Vegas Smash the Matrix Marta Marrero, who four years ago was ranked No 1 in padel, may lie in wait in the finals.
All of which has left Tia to reflect with delight on her meetings with true padel Amazons: “It’s been an absolute honour and privilege not just to play against them but to watch them train and play. Cata is 48-years-old and I just idolise her and I have learned so much from her.
“Both Cata and Marta have so much determination and grit and they never give up and that is tremendous inspiration for me.”
Should the semi with Arkansas go to a decisive mixed doubles tie, Tia will be watching from the sidelines due to tactical reasons explained in last week’s exclusive The Bandeja interview.
Tia revealed: “My heart rate was 101 during one of the mixed doubles matches and that was just sitting down watching it! It was the Miami and San Diego weekend when both went to the mixed decider and we lost the first but won the second and it was huge against San Diego with a tidal wave of emotions going on. The mixed matches are just really nerve wracking. We just need to stick together as a team and give the guys on court as much energy as possible to feed off and hopefully we can get the job done and make the final and take it from there,” she added. 🎾