In a sport perfectly suited for the Cypriot mentality, ELENI PHILIPPOU finds growing interest on the island for a simple and social pastime

Cypriot weather is ideal for outdoor sports enthusiasts, and recently, the island has found itself captivated by a new passion: Padel tennis, with the 2nd Padel League Cyprus Finals set to take place in July. A significant driver of this newly popular sport is Constantinos Constantinou, the visionary who established Nicosia’s first Padel courts and who has been instrumental in igniting this fervour.

Padel has taken not only Cyprus by storm but the whole world. Thought to be the fastest-growing sport globally, Mexico-born padel is a scaled-down version of tennis, played on a smaller court with walls and a slightly lower net. Social in its nature, it is often played in doubles and Padel federations and tournaments worldwide have been trying to keep up with its popularity.

In Cyprus, the padel scene has been active for just three years, gaining fans even among non-sporty folk. Europe is under padel fever as well with Spain estimated to have about 5 million players and Italy seeing a fivefold increase in Padel courts since 2020. Constantinos first stumbled on the sport during a business trip to Spain in 2014. A short game was enough to ignite the spark and due to its easy-to-play nature, he recognised that it could have an impact in Cyprus so he decided to introduce it to locals.

He set up Padel courts in Nicosia in 2021 at the Spazio Health and Leisure Club where he is the owner and also a trainer. For 18 months, Spazio was the only padel club organising casual padel games for friends to try out the sport, although Aphrodite Hills Hotel in Paphos was the first to set up padel courts on the island. Spazio quickly gathered regular players and within two months, people were travelling from Paphos, Paralimni, Limassol and Larnaca every week to play.

Three years later, Cyprus now has 17 padel clubs around the island. Seven of them are in Nicosia, Limassol has four, Larnaca two and Paphos one while the Famagusta district has three. Influenced by other racket sports such as tennis, beach tennis and squash, padel is similar and easy to get to grips with. It follows a few different rules in terms of its courts and game points but players of any level can dabble in padel without having to master specific techniques. Perhaps its easy-to-pick-up nature is why the sport is so popular.

“Padel has certainly risen in popularity not only in Cyprus but internationally simply because it is an easy sport and can be played by anyone,” Constantinos says. The sport’s simplicity encourages people to just pick up a racket – which is different to a tennis or squash racket – and just play. “Technique can be developed later with practice, training and games,” Costantinos explains. And there are plenty of chances to do so.

In addition to booking a court for a private game, local competitions now also take place. In 2023 the first Cyprus Padel League (CPL) was welcomed and on July 19-20 the second edition will take place with 16 teams battling it out in the finals from all over Cyprus. “The CPL Finals 2023 were hosted by Mall of Cyprus in an exceptional event with a portable court in the parking area with bleachers for spectators. A total of 60,000 people passed by the event last year so you can imagine how important that was for padel promotion in Cyprus.”

Other padel clubs organise their own tournaments which Constantinos says is a great way to get started. Although the sport is young in Cyprus, its infrastructure is rather impressive.

“As strange as it sounds,” Constantinos says, “I find that in Cyprus we have better infrastructure than other countries given that padel here is only three years old and combined with the Cypriot mentality of perfection, our clubs have the latest generation courts and equipment available in the market.”

The next important step is to establish the Cyprus Padel Federation as Constantinos sees it as a vital stage to grow the sport and train young athletes who could represent Cyprus nationally and internationally. He sees Padel becoming an Olympic sport in the next few years and aspires for a Cypriot team to compete. The International Padel Federation aims to have 75 established national federations for padel to become an Olympic sport for the Summer Olympics 2032.

Local padel players, he says, range from 19 to 50 but abroad, the range is much wider, from teenagers to 70-year-olds. “It is the only sport that you can play as soon as you decide to get up from the couch and with zero skills,” he adds.

The sport’s casual and social traits make it ideal for Cyprus. “Padel fits perfectly with the Cypriot mentality. You can combine a match with friends with afternoon coffee, a post-game bite or a networking tournament. It is a game for everyone,” says Constantinos.

Head coach at the Nicosia Beach Tennis Club Stefanos Charalambous has been involved with the padel scene since it started on the island. “I got hooked immediately and though I play pretty much all racket sports, padel became my favourite one. I love that you can arrange matches easily with an application called playtomic, making payment and booking effortless. It’s also a sport with a lower risk of injury given of course that you have the correct accessories and do the proper warm-up,” he says.

It seems that padel in Cyprus is here to stay. “Padel is a fascinating case study,” Stefanos admits. “I don’t remember any other sport developing so quickly. There are many courts, the community is growing rapidly, and coaches from Spain have come for practice sessions. Tournaments are held almost every weekend now. I remember a particular tournament held six months ago where the registration of more than 40 teams was completed in just one minute! You can call it a trend or whatever you like, but even when the rapid growth slows down, I think padel will remain a popular sport.”

Find out more about the sport and the Cyprus Padel League 2024 at @Padel_by_Spazio