A Festive Fancy
WITH the Christmas season now well and truly upon us and 2023 looming large we thought we’d indulge in a whim of festive fancy with a tale of ‘what if?’
At our recent Westfield padel festival, two of our ambassadors joined forces to play doubles on our pop-up padel court in Europe’s biggest retail outlet.
Tia Norton may still be just 19, yet 2022 saw her become the very first recipient of the LTA Padel Award and consolidated her place as the undisputed No.1 female padel player in the UK. She also claimed the first ever FIP RISE London Padel Open in August with partner Carla Fito Fernandez.
Tia also spearheaded our ladies’ bid to make the World Championships back in October which came up just short on the road to Dubai, and it seems certain she will break the top-100 world rankings in 2023.
Jamie Murray is of course the former World No.1 tennis men’s doubles player and a winner of multiple Grand Slams spanning two disciplines of doubles, while back in 2015, along with fellow Game4Padel ambassador and brother Sir Andy, he was an integral part of GB’s first Davis Cup win in 79 years.
Right now Jamie is organising and competing in the Battle of the Brits in Aberdeen where he will partner Andy in a doubles encounter against Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski.
Yet with Jamie having met Tia we felt it would be fascinating to get the GB padel No.1 to offer her thoughts on what would happen if the elder Murray brother, who is now 36, traded tennis for padel racket.
So let’s start at the beginning! It may seem a glaringly rhetorical question but does Tia think Murray senior has the transferrable skills to make it in padel?: “If you come from a doubles background in tennis then 100% you have an advantage when it comes to transferring these skills to padel,” said Tia immediately playing the straight bat.
The GB No.1 lady continued: “I know that Jamie really enjoys padel and I’ve seen him post about it on social media, so he is really into it.
“He has incredible hand skills; Really it all depends on what his ambitions are. I mean if you look at Abi Tordoff, who obviously played at Wimbledon, she has come from nowhere in one year making huge strides to go all the way to playing for GB Ladies at the World Championship qualifiers.
“For Jamie it all depends on what his ambitions are. He was World No.1 doubles player in tennis and has fantastic transferrable skills.
“If Jamie’s drive, for example, is to get onto the men’s GB team then he has a huge chance.
“No pun intended but I would say the ball is pretty much in his court and it will be interesting to see if he will want to take that challenge on in 2023.”
While she was clearly impressed with the former US and Australian Men’s doubles champion’s padel prowess at Westfield surely there must be technical challenges which Murray the elder would face if he sought to accept our fantasy padel challenge?
Over to you Tia: “Yes, I do think that coming from tennis to padel there is a slight difference in terms of how we hit volleys. In padel we put more work on the ball as if you hit it flat all the time then it will rebound off the wall quite easily.
“In tennis the volleys are that bit punchier – you are finishing the point on your volley whereas in padel you are building the point with your volleys but that said the technique is very similar.
“When we spoke at Westfield Jamie was asking me for tips on how he can improve his game in terms of taking the ball off the wall. So for sure Jamie is keen on improving his padel and getting better.”
Thus, it seemed only fair to ask Tia if the star padel student of Game4Padel’s Westfield Academy had made the grade!
With a laugh Ms Norton said: “I think by the end at Westfield Jamie had a good sense of how to take the ball off the wall but he was very interested in making sure that positionally he had it correct in relation to where he should be standing and I found that impressive in terms of his attention to detail.
“He was coming slightly too far forward from the wall so he was hitting the ball behind him a little bit, so his anticipation was a little out but the more practise you get the more you can improve your anticipation.
“Really the more padel you play the easier it is to get a read on how the ball is travelling and what angle it will come off the wall, so in this respect I think it would be a case of practise makes perfect!
“Also, Jamie played on the right side. Lefties tend to play on the right side so they have the forehand in the middle and he put a lot of slice on his shots – in fact both Jamie and Andy did.
“Obviously in tennis you can play a little flat but it’s mainly either topspin or slice while in padel there is a lot of playing flat, so there was plenty of slice out there from him.”
And now before we close the book on this festive padel fairy tale it’s time to get to the bottom line and reach Tia’s final verdict: “If Jamie wants it and he has the drive to make it onto the (GB) team I would back him to achieve that, but only Jamie will know whether he fancies taking up that challenge when he does call time on his tennis.
“It would certainly be very interesting to see how it would work out.”
Safe to say then it’s a 10 from Tia!