Former Huddersfield gymnast and pub landlord Brian Hayhurst and his wife Elaine are ex-pats who have lived just outside Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol for 20 years. He writes every fortnight for Huddersfield Hub.

Anyone for tennis? Or, rather, anyone for padel tennis?

The worldwide growth of padel is remarkable, especially here throughout Spain, but it’s also growing back in Huddersfield too thanks to the padel courts at Huddersfield Lawn Tennis & Squash Club.

We’ve a group of friends over here, many from Huddersfield, who have become smitten by this fast moving and demanding sport.

Quite close to where we live is the immaculate and busy Cerrado del Aguila Sports Club, where the dedicated gang meets up three or four times a week.

They share the cost of a court, after ensuring a booking (€20), and thrash bang for 90 minutes. Several world class teams played here in the World Padel Tour prelims recently.

What is padel?

  • A mixture of tennis, squash, and racketball, played indoors or outdoors in doubles format
  • The court is two thirds the size of a tennis court and enclosed with wire mesh
  • The glass walls at either ends are used to play off (like squash) which means you can have long rallies
  • Scoring is the same as in tennis but with underarm serving – easy!

Padel was invented by a wealthy Mexican businessman – Enrique Carcuera – when he created a court at his holiday home in Acapulco having seen a smaller form on board a cruise ship.

This young sport has seen a massive outburst of players of all ages, and the demand for arena seats to enjoy competitions is incredible, as over 20,000 spectators can easily fill places.

This padel centre has 13 floodlit indoor courts which are available 9am to midnight, seven days a week and are almost always full. This amply demonstrates the popularity and demand for this, the fastest growing sport in the world.

My research shows that there are at present in the UK, 165 courts at 66 venues. Here in Spain there are literally hundreds of courts and the World Padel HQ is in Mallorca. Jurgen Klopp and Lionel Messi both have courts in their gardens!

The mixed group, who bash out games on three mornings, has over 20 players of varying skill levels and are all predominantly Spanish residents.

Graham Stacey, who owns a squash and fitness club in Honley near Huddersfield, is often the organiser who decides the doubles and courts.

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It’s over a year ago I first saw the group playing with max enthusiasm, and this week I could see a vast improvement in all of their performances.

The group was first set up about eight years ago by our old friend and former gymnast, Allen Conroy. The banter amongst the players is infectious and I do miss that team camaraderie, especially as they conclude with a pint at the club bar.

Peter Emsell

Another excellent player is Peter Emsell who has done much to develop the sport in our town being the director of the 135-year-old Huddersfield Tennis & Squash Club.

Mainly through Peter, the club was the first in the UK to add two padel courts. His slogan – ‘come and have fun playing padel with three of your friends’, was most effective and attracted lots of new members.

Also amongst the group is the wiry and ultra-fit Jeff Parkin. He’s the man to beat, according to the other players.

Jeff, now 77, was one of the top squash players in the country, playing in the prestigious Yorkshire League for over 25 years. A cracking golfer also, he was a marshall for 15 years at the salubrious Marbella Golf Country Club.

Marbella Council is encouraging more women to participate in padel having set up this week a series of workshops and competitions in a bid to stimulate the game further.

Whether you’re in the Costa del Sol or Huddersfield, why not give padel a try?

Main image (top): From left to right: Mike Sibbles, Allen Conroy, Jeff Parkin, Colin Whiteley, Graham Stacey and Nigel Thornton