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Beckham isn’t the only athlete who has been promoting padel: Rafael Nadal, Juan Carlos Ferreo, Zinnedine Zidane, Maria Sharapova, and Neymar Jr, who put two courts in his villa in Rio de Janeiro, and notables like Gianluca Vacci and Bradley Walsh have also embraced the game. ‘People are finding out through social media that high-profile individuals have been playing padel for a while now,’ explains Santiago Gomez, who opened New York ‘s first padel facility, Padel Haus, which is a 16,000 square foot full-service luxury fitness space in Brooklyn in July 2022. ‘David Beckham attends many major padel events, while Swedish pro soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimoić and British tennis star Andy Murray both have their own padel clubs. Lionel Messi also has a padel court in his home.’

While over 25 million people worldwide play padel according to the International Padel Federation (FIP)—the largest and most loyal followings are located in Spain and Argentina, the two countries that provide almost all the players on the pro circuit and where padel is second only to football for amateur participation—padel has always been a sport that curries favour with the elite. It was invented in 1969 by Mexican billionaire Enqirue Corcuera in Acapulco and soon Corcuera’s wealthy friends spread the game to Marbella, Spain and eventually Argentina.

‘In part, padel’s popularity has to do with the pandemic,’ explains Gomez. ‘During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, European governments restricted all team sports except padel, so it became even more appealing to meet up and play a match with friends. This exposed the sport to a lot of people and investors, who financed the sport’s growth into new geographies.’

Now, with interest from new investors, resorts popular amongst well-heeled travellers are looking to capture the padel market by adding courts onto their current lists of amenities. This includes Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire, which gives guests of the hotel and its tennis members access to the padel courts, the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne, Florida, Forte Village in Sardinia which has a whooping 12 courts, and a luxury resort located on the south-west side of Nassau in the Bahamas called Albany, which added two panoramic padel courts.

Padel hasn’t quite reached the popularity in the US and UK that it has seen in Europe and in Central and South America quite yet, but that is soon expected to change. While there were only 40 courts in the UK in 2019, there are now close to 200 and an expected 400 by the end of 2023: Babington House has partnered with Padel Social Club to offer free use of courts to members for the summer and more public courts like the six at Rocks Lane in Chiswick, are popping up all the time.