This unlikely group of Australians will face the world’s best padel players in Las Vegas

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By a twist of fate, Erin Purtle created one of Australia’s newest sports teams.

The Australian, who is currently based in Barcelona, ​​Spain, says that never in her wildest dreams would she have thought that she would be called upon to become captain of her country’s padel team.

Considered the fastest growing sport in the world, padel is a cross between tennis and squash and is mainly played in Europe and the United States.

The game uses the scoring system and the ball of tennis and uses the characteristic speed and inclination of squash to hit walls.

Like tennis, it can be played in singles or doubles.

Team captain Erin Purtle (right) from Mulwala, NSW, has been playing padel for seven years.(

Provided: Erin Purtle

)

The game was invented in 1969 by Mexican businessman Enrique Corcuera, who allegedly wanted a tennis court but didn’t have enough space. He therefore obtained a padel court measuring 10 meters by 20 meters.

“The rules are really similar to tennis in that you have a serve and a sub-serve. It’s a lot easier in the sense that the courts are smaller and there are walls to bounce the ball.” Purtle said.

“In a way, padel has really become the fastest growing sport due to COVID. It is the perfect combination of an outdoor sport with walls and … [can be played by] individual players.

Australia’s wildcard opportunity

Four players holding rackets next to a net in a tennis court
The Aussie Crocs want to become the first Australian team to compete in the veteran padel world championships.(

Provided: Erin Purtle

)

Unexpectedly, Purtle will represent Australia in the sport after receiving a call from the Australian Padel Federation who have been unable to send a team overseas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I said ‘Yes’ and they said ‘Well you’re the number one player for Australia right now, you can go play for the Crocs,’ said Purtle.

Purtle has assembled a team of 13 Australian padel players who currently live in Spain. Most of the team started playing the sport within the past six months.

A group of people standing in front of a padel court holding the Australian flag
Team captain Erin Purtle (left) says she hopes more Australians start playing padel ahead of the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane.(

Provided: Erin Purtle

)

The team had hoped to compete in the first veteran padel world championships in Las Vegas next month, but the event has been postponed until March 2022.

“Every year they have a wild card and Australia for the first time received one of these wild cards to go on the world tour,” Purtle said.

Damien Harris, from Parkes in mid-west New South Wales, has only recently returned to the sport but is excited about the opportunity to represent his country.

Smiling man with a tennis court in the background
Damien Harris has lived in Spain for 20 years and will play padel for Australia next year.(

Provided: Damien Harris

)

Having lived in Barcelona for the past 20 years, Harris says the sport is incredibly popular.

“You can’t really live in Spain and not know padel, it’s like growing up in Parkes and not knowing hockey,” said Harris.

The team follows a vigorous training program with Paula Eyheraguibel, eight-time padel world champion.

The Argentine-born coach has offered to coach the team ahead of the world championships.

Olympic bid for Brisbane 2032

As the team prepares for the next tournament, Purtle hopes to bring the sport back to Australia in time for the 2032 Olympics.

“There is a process, but the first step is for padel to be played as an exhibition sport that will make its debut at the Olympic Games in Paris,” she said.

“So who knows, I hope that by the next Olympics Brisbane could be the first place where it could be an official Olympic sport.”

But for now, Purtle plans to return to Australia and set up padel courts with the Australian Padel Federation to involve more young people in the hobby.

There are currently three padel clubs in Australia – one in Sydney, the Gold Coast and Perth.

Purtle believes the key to the sport’s success will be bringing it to the regions.

“Regional Australia in particular has great potential, you have these wonderful cities, the rent is cheaper and the people are much sportier.


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