Good morning Emilio Alvarez, great to have you here today! Can you start by introducing yourself and a little about your career in the tennis and padel industry?
Well, good morning to you too and thanks for having me.
I am Emilio Benfele Alvarez, and I was a Pro ATP Player from 1989 to 2005.
After retiring, I started working tennis with young competition players in Germany and then later had my own academy in Spain. After a few years I moved more and more into the adult amateur competition tennis, which is what I have been doing for about the past 7 years.
As for padel, I have been an enthusiastic semi-pro padel player for about 30 years and it’s been only about three years since I created the pádel company with my son, that I am getting busy with pádel training at all levels.
I did try to introduce pádel in Germany and Austria in 2003, resulting in a monumental loss of time and money.
It was the right thing but the wrong moment… The people weren’t ready to embrace it!
Thanks Emilio. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you moved into the padel world from having a career in tennis?
I always found pádel pure, raw fun; a sport that is perfectly designed to just go and play and have a great time.
That’s the reason why I always felt that this game had to get bigger; had to go global.
So, when my son decided to create a company to promote pádel in many different ways, I knew that the time had come to put my energy there one more time. I wanted to help him build it and get pádel everywhere and to everyone in the German speaking countries.
I love tennis, with all my heart, no question about it though I love pádel too, maybe just as much!
It is pádel time now though, and I want to be right in the middle of it and play my part in its evolution.
Padel is growing all the time, all over the world particularly in Europe and the Middle East. How do you feel this will affect the professional tennis world?
Well, here is where it gets tricky because pádel is just starting to explode now, and the growth is exponential.
It is the beginning, there is no culture and no history basically almost anywhere, meaning that nobody knows for certain what and how will be the actual development of this game worldwide.
This is what I think will happen in the next 10 years: (please note, it is only my opinion, I could be very wrong).
- In 3 to 5 years, pádel will be the sport with the most active players in the world!
- It will be popular with people between the ages of 30 to 50-55, but tending toward older players too.
- From what one sees in Spain, Italy, Belgium and Holland there will be a lot of women all ages playing.
- A lot of players who didn’t really got out to play anything before, so the spectrum of possible players got no limits…
- It is the sport for EVERYONE!
- So much demand will need lots of courts, and here is the first issue that collides frontally with tennis.
Business-wise one cannot even begin to compare both sports.
In the grounds of one tournament size tennis court, you can fit THREE pádel courts. That translates into 12 paying clients instead of (usually) just two. That is around six times the rental income for the ground and this is why I belive new investors are surely going to go with pádel. Plus tennis clubs are going to sacrifice courts to turn them into pádel because they are the ones who got it easier: they have the grounds, the permits and licenses already. Less tennis courts means less space for tennis players, which might not reduce the number of tennis players at first, but it will reduce the number of people actually playing.
Pro Tour Scene
In the same period of time, we will see a huge development in the professional tour scene, with more and bigger tournaments, multiplied prize money, much more TV exposure and therefore new sponsors for both players and tournaments.
This process has already started, with the Arab Emirates betting hard on the new tour, increasing heavily prize money and live streamings.
Kids: I believe will choose padel over tennis
So, the public is going to start to see that in pádel there is a career and a future to be made. The new pádel fans are going to start bringing their kids to pádel training, instead of tennis.
The level of play will automatically develop and rise, and so will the training programs, coaches and pádel facilities around the world.
So, to come to the point, pádel will prevent a few kids from even trying tennis out.
It will also deviate many adult beginners from tennis to pádel, because it is much easier to start and have fun with.
And it might steal sponsors away from it too, (that’s a guess)
Any sport that looses active users/players for whatever reason, suffers at professional level automatically: sponsors, material sales, tournament tickets, etc…I don’t see a way around not losing players for tennis because of pádel, it has happened in Spain and it will happen in many other countries.
Why do you think Padel is growing so quickly and do you consider this a threat to tennis?
The main reason why this game is so addictive is because it is fun right away, and the better you play the more fun it is.
As is tennis too, of course, but we all know how difficult it is to start controlling tennis. As a kid or an adult, it takes time and it will take some money if you want to learn it properly.
Apart from that, it is played by four people, which is already a group so it is even more social than tennis and it creates a great club atmosphere. To top it off, you can actually play a match as an almost beginner which will push local and club tournaments, leagues of all kinds and tournaments in general to have lots of people participating, helping the growth even more.
A threat? As written above, it will diminish the number of courts and deviate new players, so it will be the direct cause for tennis (at least) not growing in the next few years. Tennis players will not necessarily stop playing tennis, though I also see them playing pádel from time to time.
Plenty of tennis coaches appear to be getting certified in Padel Coaching these days. Do you consider that a Padel coaching certificate is a necessary added dimension for tennis coaches?
I know first-hand there is increasing demand to get pádel certification of this or that kind, because is one of the things we do with our company.
On the one side, I feel that if there are tennis pros who want to get into pádel just because there is work demand and money to be made, I think that in the long run it´s not going to work good.
I am a pádel coach because I love the game since the first time I saw a court when I was 13 years old, and I have the same passion for it as I have for tennis. I am sure that in the future many clubs will have both sports and maybe they will tend to search for coaches that can work both, so probably the certificate will become a necessity.
As a certified tennis and padel coach, which sport do you prefer coaching and playing and why?
I´ll start with playing……pádel, pádel and give me some more pádel after that!!!!
It is my favourite movement sport (poker and billiards are for me right up there, but you don’t move much).
Finally, the million dollar question… Why is it so much fun?
I don’t think I have an explanation as to why, I guess I’ve always been a creative sort of touchy tennis player and that is kind of what pádel is about…bothering opponents with little angles and low balls.
I love tennis but if it is for my personal fun….pádel!!!
I have been coaching tennis for 17 years, and for the last few I think it is safe to say that I have become a good coach. I also know now how bad I was the first couple of years! I am pretty new, in comparison, as a pádel coach and I am sure that I will learn a whole lot through the next few years. I think I am equally excited about coaching both sports.
This was an incredibly interesting interview – great to see the growth of padel from someone who has been playing and coaching for years! It’s exciting to see what’s to come!
Until next week,