Padel by the water: Tennis craze comes to Docklands

David Schout

Pitched as a smaller, social and easier-to-play version of tennis, “padel” is fast gaining popularity, and Melbourne’s first-ever club recently opened in Docklands.

When Jason Gasper’s friend returned home to Melbourne from Amsterdam around two years ago, he was keen to share all about one of his newfound passions discovered in the Dutch capital.

“Padel”, or paddle tennis, had grown steadily as a social sport on the continent, and Austin Simms wanted to know if there was any take-up in his home city.

“He’s addicted,” Jason said of his mate.

“He plays three times a week. When he came back to Melbourne wanted to know if there were courts here.”

It turned out there wasn’t.

Padel, which combines large elements of tennis with squash, was not available to play in their home city.

So, Jason, Austin, and two other friends (Cory Jimmieson and Matt Levey) “got started on some homework” to see whether they could bring the growing sport here.

The four Melburnians brought a diverse range of expertise; Jason is a tennis coach, Matt is a builder, while the other two possess marketing and corporate experience.

Around the time of Melbourne’s first lockdown in 2020, they threw up Docklands as a potential destination for the city’s first padel courts and began discussions with Development Victoria (DV).

Soon after, they landed on a Lorimer St location which — crucially — sits directly under Shed 21, immediately making the courts an all-weather option.

“They [DV] came up with a few options for us but this was the one we felt was right, due to the fact it was under cover, they’d just re-laid the concrete so we could lay our padel tennis courts straight onto the concrete. And, of course, the backdrop to the city is absolutely incredible so we just thought it ticked all the boxes.”

The foursome built three new courts in the space, and officially opened Melbourne’s first paddle tennis club called “One Padel”.

The club now plays host to everything from casual hire to local competitions, and corporate days to social events.

 

 

For Jason, whose tennis expertise sees him take charge of operations, the sport is a fun and easily accessible way to enjoy the game.

“Someone who has never picked up a racquet before can come and play padel straight away, due to the fact it’s easy to play and it’s not as technical as other racquet sports,” he told Docklands News.

“You seem to be getting people having longer rallies as soon as they jump on the court, which makes it really enjoyable. And they get a really good workout, too.”

For beginners, traditional tennis is a difficult sport to master initially.

Stringed racquets and light balls mean that, uncontrolled swings can easily see the ball fly way out of bounds.

Overhead serving is another technical impediment, while the confines of the court can enhance difficulty early on.

Padel goes a long way to solving these early obstacles, making the sport an anyone-can-play activity.

The equipment, plus walled boundaries, simply keeps the ball in play for greater periods.

“It’s conducive to longer rallies … for you to get more of a feel for playing tennis can take a lot longer. Whereas using the string-less padel racquet and having the glass there means if someone does miss the shot, they can still keep themselves in the rally.”

Serves are underarm, delivered to the opponents’ side at or below waist height.

“Being able to just drop-bounce and hit the serve makes it a lot easier to start playing points.”

The Lorimer St courts are available for booking via the Playtomic app, and Jason encouraged Docklanders to come and try the exciting sport.

Racquets and balls can be hired from the small on-site pro shop.

What is padel tennis? An explainer

  • Played on a smaller-sized tennis courts surrounded by glass walls.
  • Played with a stringless padel racquet as “doubles” (pairs).
  • Serving is executed underarm at or below waist height.
  • Ball can be played off the glass.
  • The scoring system is identical to tennis (usually best of three sets).
  • Strategy, rather than strength and power, plays a key role in gameplay.
  • Invented in Mexico in 1969 •

 

Caption: “One Padel” co-director Jason Gasper hopes the paddle tennis craze kicks off in Melbourne. Photo: Murray Enders.

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