iPadel finals supercharged by Norton news

iPadel founder Ian Colligon believes the addition of a Premier League elite competition to the iPadel league format has elevated the competition to the next level – signified by the announcement that GB No 1 Tia Norton will be participating in the elite finals this weekend. RJ Mitchell reports.

The iPadel Leagues have run in twice yearly seasonal format since starting in the summer of 2021, and this weekend’s finals, which will see Rocket Padel in Bristol host Men’s Club and Premier finals and the Women’s Premier finals, will be the start of the hugely popular tournament’s seventh title play-offs.

Previously, Ian had restricted entry to those strong club players who were outside LTA National League Division One level.

Now with 130 teams having battled it out over the winter months from across the UK the new elite level competition has not only lifted the level but also opened up the competition to a new raft of top quality domestic performers who have happily joined the action, with LTA ranking points up for grabs.

Tia Norton
Tia Norton is set to make her debut in the iPadel finals this weekend.

Reflecting on all of this ahead of a busy weekend, Ian said: “The standard has definitely risen because I’ve created the Premier League which has allowed players like Theo (Garton) and Catherine (Rose) and others of that class to play.

“I did this because clearly the standard was going up and up and I was repeatedly asked if players of that top standard could enter and then getting so many entries, especially in the south, that I thought I could create enough leagues to make it work. Basically it was a natural development for the iPadel Leagues.

“So although anyone who played LTA National League Division One still can’t play in the club league they can compete in the Premier League, which is open to anyone now. So we have some of the best UK players now competing which is great.

“Initially we started off as a way to provide good club players with a competitive opportunity that was different from the LTA tournaments but the Premier League has really worked as it has allowed the better players to come in..

“In summer 2021 I had 12 teams playing so we have come a long way both in terms of numbers and quality.”

Raynes Park Ladies, iPadel leagues
Raynes Park Ladies (from left) Annette Wilson, Jackie Crawford, Rachel Angel and Annabel Cox.
Chichester men's team.
Morley Hayes Derby iPadel
The Morley Hayes (Derby) squad .

With this weekend’s action, and the Mixed Finals taking place the following weekend, the enhanced tournament and Ian has high hopes that the summer season will also be similarly elevated.

He revealed: “The Premier League aspect will only grow the iPadel Leagues and it has let me take this from a Grade Five to a Grade Three with the LTA, and when you consider we have Grade One players I’d hope we can get the grading lifted to Grade One for the summer leagues. It has encouraged is the better players in the UK to come and play.”

Turning his attention to the runners and riders for this weekend’s finals Ian has no doubt who the favourites are.

Focusing on the women’s competition, Ian explained why there will only be a Women’s Premier Finals event this weekend: “We had a Ladies Club and Premier competitions throughout the season but unfortunately only two – David Lloyd Raynes Park and Surbiton 2 – could make the final of the club event and they were given the option to join the Premier League. So they have qualified along with six teams from the Premier tournament for what is a compass draw featuring eight teams.

“If I had to pick a favourite then Chelsea Harbour Club (which will feature Tia) would be the ones. They have won it on the last two occasions and Middlesbrough, who are probably their biggest challengers, have a couple of key players like Libby Fletcher away with the GB Seniors Team, so that is a big blow to their hopes.

“But although Chelsea Harbour Club are definitely the favourites I have to say the standard has, again, gone up and we again had more teams entering which is great.”

In the men’s club league finals nine teams will compete in three groups, with each group winner and best loser making the semis.

Ian said: “So these teams are all second or third teams from their respective clubs apart from Chichester, which is their first and only team entry.

“I would probably say Middlesbrough are favourites but it is hard to tell just who will turn up on the day as there can be many factors that can impact on the squad that arrives for the finals. Epsom and Sundridge Park are also strong.”

Ian is also excited about the quality of the action about to unfold in the Men’s Premier competition: “It’s eight teams with Rocks Lane Chiswick probably favourites. They have a guy called Muse Armengol, who is a really good young player and I am looking forward to watching him play and they also have Ethan Bardo who has great quality.

“That said Middlesbrough have young Theo Garton playing, Foster Garton and George Weller, who like Theo is in the top-10 UK domestic rankings and also James Gregory, so they will be tough to beat as well but that said Roehampton will also be strong.”

The following weekend (April 20) at the Padel Hub, Crawley, the Mixed Finals will take place and again Ian has been left purring at the quality of the entry: “In the Mixed League we had three groupings, a London, South East and South West, with two qualifiers from each.

“Again the favourites are Chelsea Harbour Club with the likes of Hugo Quarrie, Lisa Phillips and Lila Simpson in there.

“Chiswick have Muse playing and will be strong but Chelsea Harbour Club have won the mixed the last twice and will be very hard to beat once again. There are also a couple of teams from Yorkshire in like Wetherby although, like Middlesbrough, they have lost players to GB Seniors.

“So overall in this Winter League we had 130 teams entering with 150 set to play in the summer season and by any standard, when you compare that to the 12 team entry we started with back in ’21, that is hugely positive and just reflects that the growth in padel in the UK is here to stay. Hopefully the iPadel Leagues have helped in that respect.”

A sentiment we heartily agree with! 🎾

East Glos Ladies, iPadel Leagues
The East Glos ladies: Sally Pendry, Annalie Poccard, Sally Bloomfield, Marie Bell, Heather Sheridan and Laura Eales.