REPORT - A real phenomenon in Spain with nearly four million followers, the padel takes, over the years, its takeoff in France. With Padel Attitude to Lesquin (near Lille) and Real Padel Club in Sophia-Antipolis, the Complex is part of one of the three major clubs in France.

Here, two steps are enough to reach the Wimbledon court from the Roland-Garros court. Here is the Complex. A multi-sports center of one and a half hectares - including 3500m2 of building - which saw the light of day on June 4, 2014, at the Porte de Manosque. In addition to its four five-a-side football pitches, the Complex stands out because it is one of the first sites in France to have offered padel. The first, at least, stamped with the Henri Leconte brand. Seated in one of the leather armchairs in the dining room, Olivier Amoureux, 40, one of the two co-founders explains the reasons for such a choice: “ It was a bit of a crazy gamble to open this to Manosque, in this small town of 23 inhabitants. From the start, we had planned 000-a-side football in our activities. But we knew that for the customers it could be quite complicated sometimes to meet 5 to organize a match. "

He stands up and continues: " So we wanted to make an offer to fill this gap. Something innovative. " Yet, when starting the project, neither of the two entrepreneurs know this discipline. " For us it was a water sport, which was practiced on a board and with a paddle ”, recalls the former manager of a pizzeria. It is a friend of their own, living in Malaga, who offers them to learn about this activity. “He told us that the owners of villas in Spain were removing their swimming pools to put up padel in place. " A little tour on the internet, some video views, and now that Laurent Chaumeton, his partner, decides to put on paper the plans of the three courts that will be built in addition to futsal.

During the months that follow, everything is linked quickly. "We did a market study, forecast plans, rewind Olivier. The more the weeks went by, the more the feelings jostled. Haste, stress, then euphoria. "

Leconte Advantage

The 4 June 2014, the Complex opens its doors after nine months of work. Without the support of the municipality, through grants or the organization of discovery days for young people, the democratization of this discipline promises to be complicated. But the duo of entrepreneurs can count on a timely boost from a former tennis champion: Henri Leconte. The following is Laurent who tells it, while he joins his partner in the lounge area: “He heard about our project, so he wanted to benefit from the showcase there was here to launch his brand. The partnership was as follows: he could put his name on our walls, and in return he undertook to create events, activities, to bring the padel around his name. The advantage of having a partner like Henri Leconte is that he is passionate about it and that he invests himself fully. " Very quickly, thanks to the support of the former tennis player, but especially the work done by the two managers, the padel attracts a few curious people to the Complex.

After a few weeks, Olivier and Laurent show a trend. The most frequent customers are the employees of local businesses who come to hit balls between noon and two, before sitting down at the restaurant for lunch. The other most popular slots are Tuesday and Thursday evenings, between 18 and 21 p.m. "For two years, over six days of opening, there has been an average of forty visitors per day"Olivier completes in his black shirt and raw jeans, as a real entrepreneur he is.

In addition to these employees, other people come to try this discipline. Among them, Sylvain and Vanina, a young couple who moved to the Alpes de Haute-Provence a few months earlier. He, sports journalist and tennis judge in his spare time, is no stranger to the world of racket sports. She does not have the same ease racket in hand. “Sylvain offered to give me a try and I just said yes. I'm quite a novice but I try to do my best. Sometimes it goes to the other side of the net without really knowing how… ”, jokes the manager in marketing and communication.

Easy tennis

And yet, in the opinion of many practitioners, the padel is one of the most instinctive racquet sports. “I have the impression that it's more accessible than tennis, maybe less technically demanding. The fact of having walls which delimit the court, visually it helps to play in the field "argues the one who is also a fan of tennis. On this point, Olivier Amoureux joins him: “It doesn't require much. Just the will to try. This is the easiest activity to master in half an hour. You can have fun right away, it doesn't matter whether you are playing with someone of the same level or not. " His associate, son of Michel Chaumeton, manosquine figure, complete: “It's not a power sport, but more touching. It is necessary to be able to anticipate the rebounds, the trajectories, the races of the adversaries… The most effective blows are the placed blows, where the ball crushes in an angle. A powerful strike can give an attacking ball for the opponent ”, unlike tennis and squash.

Another special feature is the instrument used. “Its appearance is funny. It looks like a frying pan for cooking chestnuts ”, describes Vanina. Almost. “The racquet, made of polyester, graphite and carbon, is perforated to facilitate penetration into the air. It is also relatively thick to be able to absorb the shock with the ball ”, said Henri Leconte in a report broadcast on Télématin.

By virtue of its rules, the appearance of the racquet, the configuration of the court and the fact that it is mainly played in doubles, the padel is akin to a sport that is both fun and inclined to competitive practice. No coincidence, therefore, that the French Tennis Federation, "Strong of its million licensees, but also anxious to stop the erosion of the number of its practitioners, has decided to take a serious interest in this discipline by having obtained the approval of the Ministry of Sports which entrusted it with the responsibility of managing the padel until December 31, 2016 through a delegation ”, as Tennis Magazine explained in July 2014.

Harry Hoze

Harry Hozé discovers the padel a bit by chance, thanks to a friend. A true tennis enthusiast, he immediately hooks up with this discipline. His day of glory comes in May 2017 when, as part of a report for a regional newspaper, he hits the ball with Henri Leconte.