Denmark's first-ever WPT: ”Hope to organize one of the world´s biggest tournaments in the future”
In May next year, the World Padel Tour is coming to Denmark for the first time in history. Padel Alto met the people who have taken the world's biggest tour to one of the many countries where padel is growing explosively.
— We hope to organize one of the world´s biggest tournaments in the future, the Tournament Director Mikael Thobo says to Padel Alto.
Padel is growing rapidly in many countries worldwide, and countries will fight to bring World Padel Tour tournaments to their country. Sweden led the way in the Nordics and hosted the first World Padel Tour Open championship in the region in 2018.
Next year, the tour will come to neighboring Denmark for the first time in history. The competition will be called the Danish Padel Open.
— We think it's an excellent opportunity to take padel to another level in Denmark. It's been booming, and it goes very fast. It looks like the same boom as Sweden had before. We are just some years after, Mikael Thobo, the Tournament Director of Danish Padel Open, says to Padel Alto during the Barcelona Masters.
Tine Naja Hauth Larsen and Mikael Thobo. Padel Alto
”Decided last year in Menorca.”
He and his partner Tine Naja Hauth Larsen, who own the Padel Club in Denmark, will organize the first World Padel Tour on their home soil. Together with PadelPadel, who is going to host the Pre Previa and Previa-rounds.
Mikael and Tine found padel by chance back in the 90s during the summer holidays in Marbella.
— Then we went home to Denmark and forgot the rules for the next year, remember Mikael Thobo.
A lot has happened since then. After a few years living in Madrid, they put their heart and soul into bringing the sport home to Denmark.
— We looked first in Spain, and how much it boomed, then we saw Sweden. The same thing happened there, and then we thought it was possible in Denmark to do the same. We wanted to open a club in Denmark, Mikael Thobo says.
After scanning the market for padel courts, they were asked to own the agency of Padelgalis on the Danish market. Now, a couple of years later, Mikael Thobo and Tine Naja Hauth Larsen will bring the world's biggest tour, the World Padel Tour, to Denmark for the first time.
— I came back to Denmark in 2020. We have been to a lot of WPTs and got to know the people in the organization. The last December in Menorca, we agreed that Denmark will have a World Padel Tour tournament in 2022 and 2023, Mikael Thobo says.
Neighbouring Sweden got its first Open tournament in 2018. After two successful summer tournaments outdoors in Bastad, the decision was made to move the tour to Malmo and the Malmo Arena, which takes in 13,000 spectators.
”We know how crazy all Swedish people are”
While the tournament in Malmo is in November, the Danish Padel Open will be played in week 20, in May. And there is no question whether Denmark is ready for that kind of tournament.
— We think it's booming extremely fast at the moment. Every time we go to a padel center we don't know anyone. There are so many new players. It's going very fast, the Event Coordinator of the Danish Padel Open, Tine Naja Hauth Larsen, says.
— We are 100% sure about that. It seems that it's great interest from countries around and also in Denmark. People from Finland have called and wonder about tickets in advance. We know how crazy all Swedish people are about padel, says Mikael Thobo.
It is not yet clear where the tournament will be played. But it will be played near Copenhagen, and the pair hopes that the tournament will continue even after the two-year contract deals with World Padel Tour.
If it is a success, there is a possibility to extend the contract for another five years.
— We have a couple of different venues, and we are deciding which one in a couple of weeks. We hope to organize one of the biggest tournaments in the future. Denmark has the arenas for it, and we hope to let as many people as possible see the best players in the world, Mikael Thobo says.
— Maybe not as many as in Malmo for now. But close to 5000 spectators a day is the aim at the moment.
Danish competition for wild cards
They both talk a lot about finding a venue that they fill instead of playing in a place that takes 10,000 spectators, and only 3,000 are in attendance.
— We are trying to find the best venue for this event and find the best place to fit the number of spectators. An outdoor venue is not an option. It's too risky, fills Tine Naja Hauth Larsen in.
In cooperation with the national federation, the Danish players will get the chance to compete in the Danish Padel Open as the World Padel Tour gives out several wildcards. Who gets the opportunity will be decided in a Danish tournament where the winners will have the honor of participating in the competition.
— We didn't want to judge, so we are having a competition about it. It begins in January and ends with the final in April. Every center in Denmark can sign up, Tine Naja Hauth Larsen says.
It is not clear yet if the wild cards will give a place to the pre-Previa, Previa, or main tournament. Nor how many Danish wild cards will be awarded.
— It's tough for the danish players, of course. But it's a boost for them to have the opportunity to face top players in the world, Mikael Thobo says.
”It is a bit surreal.”
Denmark's best players on the men's side are Esben Hess-Olesen and Nils Skajaa. Together they are unbeatable on Danish soil so far. The former tennis players started to get into padel a few years ago. At that time, a World Padel Tour in Denmark was not on the map.
— Padel was a social thing with a lot of my tennis friends. I joked about WPT when I started playing, but I never actually thought it would be a reality, Esben Hess-Olesen says.
Esben Hess-Olesen during the European Championship. Filip Björne
They both played in the European Championships in Marbella this summer, where many were surprised by Denmark's high level. Then they faced Spain with stars like Paquito Navarro, Alex Ruiz, and Juan Martin Diaz. The country finished in ninth place ahead of the Netherlands, among others.
Unbeatable is something that Esben Hess-Olesen and Nils Skajaa want to continue to be on Danish soil and take home a wild card to have the chance to play against the world elite again.
— I have had the chance to play some of the world's best players a few times, so I know what awaits me if I win the wild card. Tennis was a huge part of my life for 20 years, but I never played a the ATP tournament. Therefore, it is a bit surreal that I, after 3-4 years, have the chance to play on the World Padel Tour.
The Danes want to see the same development as in Sweden on their home soil. Something that Esben Hess-Olesen thinks is a possibility after events like the World Padel Tour.
— The tournament will attract sponsors, more media, and more spectators who will help padel grow here. A WPT in Denmark will get so much attention, and I think we only see the top of the iceberg now, he says.