Tia Norton has admitted that she is still pinching herself after sharing a padel court with her fellow Game4Padel ambassador and tennis icon Sir Andy Murray.
Norton, the GB women’s No.1 padel player, was on court during three days of our padel festival at Westfield London Retail Centre in Shepherds Bush last weekend and got the chance to battle it out with a string of celebrities from sport and entertainment including multiple tennis major winner Sir Andy and brother Jamie Murray, the former World No.1 tennis doubles player.
We installed a pop-up padel court in Westfield’s spectacular Central Atrium for the three-day showcase to illustrate why padel is growing at such a rate of noughts in Europe and now the UK.
Visitors to the centre were able to try padel for themselves, and to watch celebrity Pro-Am matches, coaching sessions, exhibitions and much more featuring the likes of GB tennis icons Andrew Castle and Annabel Croft and of course in Tia, the nation’s top padel talent.
A jam-packed schedule of activities took place on the court throughout the three days, including an ‘on-the-hour, Open Play Session’ where shoppers were encouraged to get on court and ‘give it a go!’ and Tia was right at the heart of it.
Reflecting on the weekend Tia admits that her meeting with the first knight of the tennis realm has supplied an unforgettable stop on her journey as a Game4Padel ambassador: “I don’t think I ever expected in my life to share a padel court with Sir Andy or Jamie Murray. I had the pleasure of playing with Andy and also against him which was quite incredible.
“It was an honour to share the court with Andy and Jamie 100%. At the time I was like: ‘this is all right!’ but looking back at the weekend now it is a feeling of: ‘wow did that actually happen!,’ said Tia.
The GB padel international continued: “For me the weekend was from Saturday to Monday and I was basically on court with different celebrities who attended.
“So, people like model and photographer Laura Bailey who works for Vogue, Colin Fleming the former GB Davies Cup player and Sir Andrew Strauss the former England Cricket captain. We also had Laura Robson, the former Wimbledon tennis player, as well as presenter and TV producer Jamie Theakston.
“I believe that almost 250,000 visitors walked through Westfield over the 3-day exhibition and a lot of the public got the chance to try out padel and ask questions. It was such a great way to lift the profile of the sport and make people aware of how much fun padel is.”
The pop-up padel court at Westfield was an Instantpadel court, a new, unique design that doesn’t require any major groundwork, enabling the court to be erected in six hours which was a crucial factor in making the event achievable.
With Tia sharing both sides of the net with Sir Andy we thought it only fair to ask her to supply a report card on the double Wimbledon singles champion’s padel prowess and she was happy to oblige: “Andy pretty much sliced everything and as you would expect his technique in volleys and overheads was pretty much what he uses in tennis.
“Both Andy and especially Jamie have very good doubles skills and their network was very impressive. Obviously it is a given that they have good hands as they are both tennis legends so they were really impressive in that respect.
“Andy was asking for different pointers, especially in hitting off the walls, which is the biggest change in terms of going from tennis to padel.
She added: “So, it will be very interesting to see just what happens with them and padel when their tennis careers wind down.”
Yet there was more to our pop-up padel court showcase than just lifting the sports’ profile with the charity ‘Give It Your Max’ right at the heart of the weekend.
As Tia explained it is a charity close to her heart: “There were a few children from the charity ‘Give It Your Max’ along, of which my fellow GB team mate Abi Tordoff is CEO, and I had the pleasure of playing with the kids which was really nice.
“Give It Your Max is a children’s charity working to enhance the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable children and that is something on which I am very keen. So this was a great opportunity to introduce them to padel and let them see how much fun it is. Really the whole weekend was a great success on so many levels.
“As an Ambassador for Game4Padel I was really proud to be involved and represent the company and padel as a sport. If it weren’t for my involvement with Game4Padel I would never have had this opportunity.
Of course Tia spearheaded Team GB’s attempt to qualify for the recent World Championships in Dubai which came up just short and she remains positive about the trajectory of padel in the women’s game.
The GB No.1 said: “I think it is only the beginning for the team and it was a very new team this year. I know that Abi (Tordoff) and a couple of the others have played in big team events before in tennis but it was their first padel event representing GB and the team should be really proud of what we did.
“We beat Lithuania and Austria but unfortunately lost to Sweden but you have to put that in context by the fact they finished sixth in the World Championships last week. So we gained a lot of experience that weekend and we just have to take that into the next event”
With Christmas just five weeks away Tia’s schedule shows no sign of slowing down as she revealed: “I have finished my World Padel Tour season and now I am back home and about to start a training block in London at the Chelsea Harbour Club.
“I have some training matches there and I will also be working with Max Lutostanski, the assistant head coach for the GB Ladies team and am really looking forward to working with him.
“I mainly work with Juan Alday, my coach in Barcelona, stay in contact with him and spend time over there when possible but that’s not easy in terms of the restrictions imposed on the time I can spend in Spain since Brexit took effect.
“So getting the chance to do drills and feeding sessions with Max will be very important and then in December I have a tournament in Morocco followed by a tournament in Finland and by then I will really be looking forward to Christmas with my family.”