Tia’s American dream kicks off
Tia Norton is hoping that a week of intensive training will stand her in good stead when she makes her debut in the US Professional Padel League today (Saturday, May 13th). RJ Mitchell reports.
The British No 1 was the primary female pick for the Las Vegas Smash team from the 52 players who made it through the first draft for this historic inaugural season in the first ever professional league to be played in the US.
As she prepares to make her debut for the Nevada outfit, Tia has revealed that a week of rigorous training with new partner Ana Paula De La Pena (nicknamed Palila) has prepped them to face Argentine padel icon and former World No 1 Cata Tenorio and her partner at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center on Florida’s Sports Coast.
Tia, who arrived in Florida last Sunday, has barely had a moment to spare, juggling media duties with training designed to make sure that opening opponents Arkansas Matrix are left high and dry in the 30°-plus heat.
Speaking exclusively to The Bandeja she said: “Ana will be playing on the right and we have been training a couple of times each day, getting used to each other’s games and working out strategy. We’ve also been spending time together away from the court as I think it is just as important to understand my partner’s personality and get to know the person behind the player as it is their playing strengths.
“But we are up against it as we’re playing Palila’s ex-partner (Cata Tenorio), which is a bit of a coincidence. She used to be one of the top players in the world and is a former four-time world champion I believe.
“The standard is very high and of course it’s great experience for me playing against a player of that quality and getting the opportunity to learn. I am just very excited to be here and playing in the PPL.”
The Pro Padel League features seven teams – Toronto Polar Bears, Miami Padel Club, Cancun Waves, Los Angeles Beat, San Diego, Arkansas Matrix and Tia’s Las Vegas Smash side. They will battle it out over the next six Saturdays at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Centre before the season concludes with the PPL CUP in June, with the four top teams competing for the title.
The tournament format is a men’s match, women’s match and, if the scores are level, a deciding mixed doubles, which Tia finds an exciting prospect: “In most professional tournaments you don’t normally have an opportunity to play mixed doubles so this will be a new experience and one I am really looking forward to,” she said. “It is also a one court event and I’m sure that will generate a great atmosphere. Having watched the court being built all week I just can’t wait to get on it!”
Tia, who has been joined by her parents, admits she has been wowed by her first taste of padel stateside. The 19-year-old said: “We had the media day with team photos and that was a great experience but the rest of the week I’ve been getting to know my team and also meet the other teams which has been nice.
“As much as it’s a competitive event we obviously want to put on a show for fans coming to see the first ever US PPL. If any sport goes well in the US then it really goes big time and to be first female pick for Las Vegas is something I am very proud of,” she added. 🎾