GAME4PADEL CEO Michael Gradon faces a daunting start to his weekend when he lines up for England against Estonia in the first round of the Six Nations Masters Padel Championships in Baden, Switzerland.
Michael, who has also represented GB at the World Championships in Las Vegas, is a stalwart of the England seniors side which will be battling it out with their counterparts from Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and Switzerland at the prestigious Padel Baregg Club in Baden.
Looking forward to a weekend that will combine padel’s two core values of camaraderie and competition, Michael admitted there will also be an element of a Busman’s Holiday about his trip en Suisse.
He said: “I must admit that every time I go to a new padel venue I can’t help but have a look at it in terms of what we could translate to good effect for our business. That said, I just love to travel so a big part of playing in these events is that passion to travel and combining that with my love for playing padel and the banter that is such a strong part of events like the Six Nations means that the venue itself is just a bonus. I’ve never been to Baden, although I have been to Zurich, but I’m told the surrounding area is beautiful and that will be nice to take in.”
While England open against the tournament’s dark horse Estonia tomorrow, it is the fixtures with Ireland and Scotland which Michael admits really have his competitive juices flowing and he said: “There is no doubt about it that Scotland and Ireland are the matches we will look forward to the most – the rivalry, as you might expect between us, is very strong and no one wants to lose to the other.
“Playing Estonia will be a journey into the unknown as we have never competed with them, although I believe they are very strong.
“Obviously Switzerland are the hosts and there is no doubt they are getting stronger. When we played them a while back they were still finding their feet but the number of courts there has been growing astronomically and it will be interesting to see how far they have come.
“As for Germany, they were initially behind the curve in terms of the padel explosion, just like the UK, but now there are more and more top tennis players moving into padel and the standard is only going in one direction. So it will depend on who they field on the day.”
The big question though has to be can England cut the competitive mustard against the continent’s finest senior padelers: “In terms of my own involvement in the Six Nations we have not managed to win but also not been that close to winning! I think the best thing to do is focus on our first match and see where that takes us.
“Previously the Swedish team were incredibly strong and in Helsinki the Finnish team was also full of quality but I do believe the British teams will only get stronger with the more venues we open and the more encouragement that gives to excellent racket players to take up padel.
“At the World Senior championships last year, we had one guy who had won the World Tour Finals in tennis and once these guys make the transition, they will love it. Abi Tordoff, who is a good friend of mine, is a great example of how quickly an excellent tennis player can make that transition.”
Next up for Michael will be the European Senior Championships in Alicante and in terms of preparation the Game4Padel CEO is in no doubt this weekend’s action has taken on even more significance.
He said: “The Europeans is really exciting and great fun having all the GB players I have mixed with over the years in one place, but I love competing and it is just a great event to look forward to and a very important development for seniors padel in Europe.
“So this weekend the Six Nations is a tremendous tournament in its own right but also great preparation for the Europeans next month there is no doubt about it.”
Meanwhile Game4Padel ambassador Tia Norton faces another tough week of action in the US Professional Padel League. Tia, who is playing for Las Vegas Smash, will be lining up against former World No.1 Marta Marrero, who is starring for the PPL leading Miami Padel Club.
Looking forward to Saturday’s action Tia said: “This weekend we have first up Miami who have won all three of their ties and they will be a tough cookie to crack but we are really looking forward to that.
“On Sunday we play against San Diego and I think they have won two and lost one and are in the same situation as us. So it is all to play for.
“Last weekend we played Saturday and Sunday against Toronto and then Cancun and I was pleased to win both my matches. In the game with Cancun it went to a deciding mixed tie-break, Palila (Tia’s partner) played that, and we were unfortunate to lose it 10-8 in the Champions tie-break so we lost the tie which was really frustrating. But overall we have won two matches and lost one very close one so that is not too bad.
“There is one more weekend of round robin matches and then it’s the final weekend of semis and finals so I am halfway through the trip now which is all a bit surreal. But it has just been a fantastic experience. Our team has bonded very well but we have also come together with the other teams off court and it is just a great environment to play padel in.”