It is no coincidence that the first tournament for the Belgian Padel Tour will be played on the courts of Padel 4U2: the club from Gentbrugge already opened its doors in 2012 and the Belgian top players Nick Braet and Jana Bonnarens run the business. “A tournament for the Belgian Padel Tour should not be missed at this location”, laughs Jana Bonnarens. “It is also the intention to organize a large number of tournaments here. After all, the demand for tournaments is high, the offer somewhat smaller.”

Bonnarens realizes that she is an outsider in padel Belgium. She never played tennis and now sees a pack of ex-tennis players storm the national padel top. “It is clear that those good tennis players need less time to padel at a very solid level,” says Bonnarens. “The level in Belgium has risen enormously in the last year. Everyone wants to get better and better and the growth margin is still large.”

Jana Bonnarens is the hostess in Padel 4U2 in Gentbrugge and is also in the final round at her own club
Jana Bonnarens is the hostess in Padel 4U2 in Gentbrugge and is also in the final round at her own club © Geert De Rycke

Saturday, for the men, and Sunday, for the women, will be the final day of this first tournament of the Belgian Padel Tour. “Ranking points can be earned at this tournament for the Belgian Championship that will be completed in June 2022,” says Bonnarens. “The circuit was shut down for too long due to corona to organize a BK this year. This is the first of six tournaments of the Belgian Padel Tour. Tournament number two will follow in Genval at the beginning of August.”

Good padel in Gentbrugge and Genval also means for our Belgian padel top the chance to participate in the Belgian qualifiers for the Knokke Padel Exhibition at the end of August. If you get out of those qualifications, this event of the World Padel Tour will in any case be a meeting with real world toppers. “And you don’t get that chance every day,” says Bonnarens. “Of course it is purely to do the experience, because there is nothing to argue against those Spanish world top players. Afterwards you just realize that you still have a lot to train (laughs).”

Together with Charlotte Swaans, Bonnarens qualified at their own club for the final day of the tournament in Ghent. Bonnarens recently experienced that competition in Belgium is becoming fierce. She just missed the selection for the European Championship in Marbella. “That was a disappointment,” she admits. “Of course it is not easy to make a selection of eight players. With a few exceptions, the level in Belgium is very close. All I can do is try my best and hope it works out next time. The shape of the day naturally plays a major role on such a selection day.”

Babette Wyckaert (in red) and Elyne Boeykens (in blue and white) attended the European Championships in Marbella and are among the favorites this week
Babette Wyckaert (in red) and Elyne Boeykens (in blue and white) attended the European Championships in Marbella and are among the favorites this week © Geert De Rycke

“Solidarity among the clubs is important”

Jessie Brouwers also qualified for the final day in Ghent alongside Katrien Hermans. Brouwers is the padel manager of Tennis Vlaanderen. Managing the huge influx of padel players was of course no mean feat in the past year. “At the end of last year we counted 123 clubs, in the meantime there are two hundred clubs in our system, thirty of which are still in the construction phase,” explains Brouwers. “There is still a lot of demand from interested parties and investors for the construction of padel courts. The large rush to find a free ground – most clubs have been full from the early morning hours in recent months – now seems to have stabilized somewhat. The rush to the competition continues, especially in the lower series. After the opening of registrations, those series are already full after just under two minutes.”

Brouwers therefore calls on the clubs to organize additional padel tournaments. “A lot of tournament places have been added recently, but unfortunately there are still too many clubs that don’t organize a tournament. The clubs must show solidarity, because sport without competition is not sport.”

Geert De Rycke
© Geert De Rycke

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