When the first wave of the pandemic was overcome and the Government of Spain began to open its hand and reduce restrictions, the paddle tennis courts became overflowing with people after a few months closed tight. In many places it was impossible, for example, to reserve a facility in the afternoon if it was not done with several days of margin. "But not only when it was reopened, is that right now almost all the clubs are full," says Ramón Morcillo, president of the Spanish Paddle Federation (FEP). The boom in this sport, which in 2019 surpassed tennis in federative cards for the first time in Spain, has helped it overcome the restrictions due to the coronavirus despite the difficulties posed by the hardest months of confinement. The owner of an industrial warehouse with five tracks in Galicia sums it up: “People want to. If before five or six people called you a day to book, now they call you forty because with curfews there are also fewer hours to play. ”
The paddle, according to data from the Higher Sports Council (CSD), added 75,818 licenses in 2019, 4,727 more than tennis. It was the first year in history in which the sport of the shovel managed to surpass that of the racket, which has a centuries-old tradition in Spain. Since in 1994 the CSD began to register the numbers of this specialty, paddle tennis has grown inch by inch, but in the last decade it skyrocketed: between 2009 and 2019 the chips rose by 283%. “I don't mean to say it's easy to practice, but you'll have fun right away if you find a group at your level. Unlike other sports, it engages the entire family, from the youngest to the elderly. With my 56 years I do not see myself playing football, and I do see myself playing paddle tennis ”, jokes the president of the FEP to explain the boom in recent years.
Women are also dedicated to this specialty: 32% of the federated they are players. If years ago the best were Argentines, now Spaniards dominate : the top three in the men's ranking – led by Madrid's Alejandro Galán, 24 – and twelve in the women's ranking – where Alejandra Salazar, also from Madrid, is tied (35). and the Catalan Ariana Sánchez (23) -.
In year I of the pandemic, paddle tennis was one of the sports that came out almost unscathed despite the restrictions: the clubs suffered and were closed for months during home confinement – and in Later waves lowered the gate again in some communities—, but the number of federation members remained stable with 75,548, only 270 less than in 2019. In women's football, another sport that stopped due to covid-19, the annual decrease was enormous , from 52,653 chips to 33,138 —a drop of 37% -, according to data from the Royal Spanish Football Federation.
The stamina of the paddle has different edges. It has resisted, among other things, because it is not a contact sport – there is less danger of contagion – and because a majority of the autonomous communities allowed them to continue playing. “It has been associated with a safe sport: a track 10 meters wide by 20 meters long with four people practically without the possibility of touching. With the restrictive closures for non-federated sports, in many communities there has been an opposite effect, an increase in licenses ”, details Ramón Morcillo.
Two examples of these regions are Galicia and Andalusia, where the chips rose in 2020 by 14% and 28%, respectively. In both it was necessary for months to be federated to play, but the police did not stand at the entrance of the facilities to review. "Is it that what sense does it have that a person can play to pay 50 euros and another who has not paid them cannot do it? If it's safe, it's safe for both. They never fined me because the police did not come to see that everyone who plays has a token, but they would have fined me if they had come because not everyone had it and I did not ask for it ”, says the owner of a club in Galicia who prefers that his name does not appear.
The federative record worked in many communities as a safe-conduct. Without it, players who came to the clubs risked being fined if they were stopped and had no proof. Noel Tenorio, a 30-year-old chemical engineer, paid 50 euros last December to be able to go in 2021 from his town, Cangas do Morrazo (Pontevedra), to other towns to play games. In his municipality, which was then closed on the perimeter, there are no clues. For him, as for many other players, federation for the first time was the only solution: "There was that legal vacuum, because really neither my teammates nor I compete, we are not in any league, but that way I was able to move and continue playing."