AHEAD of this weekend’s LTA Padel Regional/Game4Padel Tour Mixed Tournament at Edinburgh Park we are delighted to share with you our first event preview.
As part of our continued commitment to grow the sport of padel throughout the UK and our determination to nurture a growing sense of community within sport, Game4Padel is keen to share the stories and showcase the players who are already helping to fill our venues with competitive vibrancy, enthusiasm and a warming social spirit.
Where better to start then than with Mercedes Perez Gonzales who partnered Flora Sanches Rubio to victory at our first Game4Padel Tour event at Thistle Tennis and Padel Club last month and will once again be among the favourites for glory at our Edinburgh Park HQ this weekend.
Mercedes has been settled in Scotland for six years now after leaving her home city of Jerez to pursue a career as a vet and is in no doubt about the importance of the Game4Padel Tour in helping grow the game in Caledonia.
Over to you ‘MPG’: “What was really great about the first Game4Padel Tour event was the number of ladies who signed up for the tournament” said Mercedes.
She continued: “I have played now for over three years in Scotland and there has never been so many (20) entries in a tournament and that is across Grade one, two, three and four.
“So although it was great for Flora and me to win the first event, what was much more important was the depth of the field, how much enjoyment everyone got from their padel and how well it was organised.
“There are several leagues in England but no one has set anything like this up in Scotland so the fact Game4Padel is doing it here is really good and very important to growing the game in this country.
“For me this is all very exciting and this weekend in the mixed event I am partnering Antonio (Fernandez- Llebrez Martin) who coaches at ESC (Edinburgh Sports Club) and he asked me to enter and so I was very excited to play as I know a number of the other players and it is a good standard.
“But the social side of the tournament is also very good and I am really looking forward to catching up with a few people.”
Mercedes, who is already established as one of the finest female padel players north of Hadrian’s Wall, is in no doubt about the importance of creating a competitive structure for the game in Scotland and she said: “To improve your game there is nothing better than to play with other people and to play competitively and the great thing about the first Game4Padel tournament was that we had ladies down from Aberdeen and that just shows you how hungry women are to play padel in Scotland.
“In my opinion over the next few months we need to expand the grading of the tournaments as we are starting with grade fours, grade fives which are good to encourage ladies who haven’t competed in the past but, as I know, it can be a bit scary if you are new to competitive padel and you are against someone who has been playing for a while and is experienced.
“So we need to give it a big push to grow the numbers and then in time we will increase the number of higher graded tournaments. Hopefully with every Game4Padel tournament we will take a good step to achieving that.”
Now well established in her adopted Scottish ‘hometown’ of East Kilbride and as one of the leading players at West Of Scotland Padel it was interesting to find out more about how Mercedes took the game up.
The maiden Game4Padel Tour event champion shared: “With work it is only a couple of times a week l can manage to play padel but I am a member at ‘WOSP’ and really enjoy playing there and how friendly everyone is at the club.
“I came to Scotland six years back from Spain and I learned my padel back home as a 17-year-old and I played for a year in the Andalusian League which is not quite national level but maybe regional standard.
“I played on a ladies team back home in Jerez and just really enjoyed my padel but then I left to get my degree and then my masters and an internship and then six years later I am in Scotland and it has been a big break for me from padel.
“So I had to find somewhere to play and really I never thought the UK would have padel but there were courts in Ayrshire thankfully and that is how I came to join up at WOSP.”
Although a proud Spanish senorita Mercedes has already been sounded out about a switch of padel nationality to play with Team GB while in the future the call of Caledonia, she admits, may prove too tempting to turn down.
Mercedes revealed: “Alvaro (Fernandez Guerrero, GB Ladies Head Coach) the British coach, is a friend of mine and he did ask me but I would have to give up my Spanish passport and I am not quite ready to do that just yet!”
“You cannot play in the British team unless you have a British passport – there is no Scottish team just yet although hopefully that will be coming.