Child of Bilbao, the Basque Andoni Bardasco was 25e world player in 2014, but then had to end his career prematurely due to multiple injuries. At only 30 years old (he celebrated them on February 13), he is now converted into teaching and organizing internships with the company Padel Stuff.

We are devoting to this endearing player, who was the youngest to play in a final draw on the professional circuit, a portrait in several parts. Today we focus on his debut in the padel and his early years as a passionate and then professional player.

► The first steps

"I started the padel around 8 or 9 years old, at home, in the Basque Country. The tracks were not as modern and pleasant as they are today. At that time, I also played football. Around 12 or 13, I had to stop playing football to only play padel. Reconciling the two was not possible: I had three football training sessions per week and matches every weekend. However, when I started padel in competition, I did tournaments every weekend, first in my region but then national competitions outside the Basque Country. »

► A 6/0 6/0 defeat that… motivates him

“I remember very well my first national competition, a national FEP circuit tournament in Bilbao: I was 10 years old and I took a 6/0 6/0 in the first round. It's something that I really didn't like, but it motivated me to progress, encouraging me to work even harder. I said to myself that if I had a new chance to play such a match, I wanted at least not to be ridiculous any more, not to experience such humiliation any more. I love challenges, I like to lose in a certain way, because it pushes you to go back to training to improve and not lose again the next time. I like challenges, I love trying things that I don't know how to do to try to master them. At that time I got motivated, I started wanting to train more and more. I found very good coaches in Bilbao, people who looked after me very well and taught me the padel.

► Spanish and world champion at 12 years old

“The year I turned 11, a player who had seen me play in Bilbao suggested that I play with him in a national FEP tournament in Seville. And there, we lost too, but only in the final and in three sets: nothing to do with a 6/0 6/0 defeat in the first round. Then in the next tournament, which was just in Bilbao, we were in the final again. This motivated me to travel and participate in more and more tournaments: we obtained good results and at the end of the year we won the Spanish championship in our category and also the world championship in 12 year olds. It pushed me to continue, to play the circuit and, the following year, to try to do as well and even better.
At 14, we again won the Spanish championship and the world championship. And the same then in the 16-year-old category, with my last partner in minors, Matias Marina, who then became a professional player. But after that, a back injury prevented me from playing my last year on the minors circuit. »

Andoni Bardasco in 2016

► First experiences with seniors

“Fairly young, I started playing the Basque circuit among seniors, where the game was very tactical. At that time, the fields were made of walls and not glass, the grids were flexible and the balls heavy because we have a humid climate. It had nothing to do with the bright and fast balls we have today, with now more powerful racquets. When we played a match in December, for example, it was impossible to win points quickly by hitting hard. So we had to play a very tactical game, with a lot of strategy. It motivated me a lot, because I played a senior tournament almost every weekend. At 12, I lost in 3rd category, at 13 in 2nd category, and then at 14, I won my first tournament in 1st category among seniors in the Basque circuit! Gradually, it motivated me to continue. »

► At 15, he faces Belasteguin / Diaz

“In the year I was 15, with my coach at the time, we signed up for the Julio Alegría Cup, a tournament of Padel Pro Tour (the ancestor of the World padel Tour). We first won five pre-qualifying matches, and then we went through the qualifiers until we reached the first round of the final draw. And there, we met Fernando Belasteguin and Juan Martin Diaz, the world No. 1: for me, it was obviously a dream! I didn't even dare to say hello to them and shake their hands before the game. I still remember the score but I think this time it's not the important thing in this story [laughs].

Juan Martin Diaz Fernando Belasteguin Padel Glory and Passion
Diaz and Belasteguin formed the best pair in the world for 13 years

It was a very weird match, because they were so superior that it looked like an exhibition. Already, we weren't expecting to get out of qualifying and we face the best pair of padel of all time, when they were strongest. And then I was very nervous, we had no chance of causing them the slightest problem. »

► Youngest player in a professional draw

“Despite the loss, playing against Bela and Diaz made me super happy. I was the youngest player to play a final draw on the professional circuit, not even 15 years old. They were super nice and since that day, I have kept a very good relationship with Bela. I think the padel has a huge chance that the best player in its history is Fernando Belasteguin, because he's a good person – and it's not just an image. With me, he was always beyond kind. Whenever I needed something, I could call him, he helped me whenever he could. »

► A prize money of… 101 euros

“My first experiences on the professional circuit date from the end of Padel Pro Tour, just before the advent of World Padel Tour. The prizes weren't huge, but there were prizes. I remember that after this lost match against Bela and Diaz, I left the field and the referee intercepted me to give me my prize: 101 euros, a 100 note and a one euro coin. I said to myself “great, I will go to the cinema with my friends, but for a professional player, it is useless to earn so little. A few years later, that changed, with between 300 and 500 euros for a defeat in the first round.

“After this tournament in Bilbao, I started to play the professional circuit, but not all the tournaments because I had to go to school. In my sixteenth year, I again played final tables, even reaching the round of XNUMX at the end of the year, again against Belasteguin and Diaz. This time, at least, they had to force themselves a little bit. The score was still very much in their favor, but the feeling was different.
Then, when I was 17, I decided to play all the stages of the circuit and quite quickly, I managed to integrate the final tables without having to pass for the pre-qualifiers and the qualifiers. So, fortunately, I didn't experience the difficulties of players who never manage to reach the final table. Unfortunately, I injured my back the following year and lost my ranking because at that time the “protected ranking” did not exist in the event of an injury. So I had to start from scratch the following year but we managed to escape qualifying in July. So I avoided financial worries: when you're in the picture, you have a price, you have sponsors and then when you're young, you have few financial needs. »

► Becoming a pro, a random and complicated journey

“To become a professional, you have to be lucky. At the start, you have to have a bit of talent, find the right people who will take good care of you and help you. The job of parents in sport is to find the right coaches who give a young person a good foundation. But I would not advise a young person to have the goal of becoming a professional sportsman, because it is something really complicated. Even doing everything very well, it is only very rarely enough to become one of the very best. I have known a lot of very good young players, who trained a lot and did not reach the level they dreamed of or did not manage to earn a living thanks to the padel. I think the best thing is to enjoy this sport, to take pleasure in improving, in training, in progressing. And if at the end there is a career and success as a professional, well that's good. »

In the next episode of this portrait, Andoni Bardasco will tell us how, at 19, he moved to Madrid to continue his ascent and pursue his career.

More information on Padel Stuff HERE

Padel Stuff
Andoni Bardasco turns 30 on Monday

After 40 years of tennis, Jérôme falls into the pot of padel in 2018. Since then, he thinks about it every morning while shaving… but never shaves pala in hand! Journalist in Alsace, he has no other ambition than to share his passion with you, whether you speak French, Italian, Spanish or English.