Top 50 influencers

Part 5: Top 50 most influential persons in the ”new” padel world


In recent years, padel has experienced a remarkable surge in popularity, emerging as the fastest-growing sport globally. With its origins rooted in Spain, padel has transcended borders, captivating enthusiasts across continents and becoming a worldwide phenomenon. 

From the proliferation of new padel clubs and facilities to the increasing participation in professional tournaments, the rise of padel in recent years has been nothing short of extraordinary. 

With the industry starting to take shape, sports marketing professional and padel enthusiast Freddie Hanbury looks at 50 of the leading influencers in the ever-evolving padel industry. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors.

Five articles will be published in the coming week, each focusing on people who have a major influence in the world of padel. 

The Padel Alto editorial team was not involved in the selection process. 

Part 1: Read here.
Part 2: Read here.
Part 3: Read here
Part 4: Read here
Part 5: 10th May 2024

”New Padel Markets” Top 50 Influencers’ (Part 5)

Joe Middleton 
Pulco Studios

Pulco. See what they did there? Yes, well, there are brands that just have that look. And Pulco is one of them. Uber-cool-looking, minimalist and, well, let’s be honest, just hitting the mark, Pulco looks to be a brand that could dominate the top of the premium apparel pyramid, and if the quality, as well as the look, of their kit is anything to go by, it’s well deserved. Its Advisor / CEO, Joe Middleton comes with a rich sporting pedigree, having worked as CEO of sportswear giant Canterbury, as well as Speedo and Levis Strauss. There’s no doubt the Englishman understands what it takes to succeed in this industry, and he’s spotted an opportunity here, with Pulco, which is already stocked in Padel Social Club in London (telling you what you need to know about this top end clothing manufacturer). With sportswear becoming the new normal to wear outside the court, there was an obvious gap in the market for Middleton’s Pulco to tap into and with the brand’s distinct look, it appears he will be doing just that. 

Using his extensive experience, Middleton hopes to champion Pulco to the most desirable clubs of the industry. Something tells us, he might just succeed.

Tom Bergqvist 
Founder of Padel Šolta

When thinking about the best way to get people into padel, not many would think to fly across a continent and set up their own holiday escape. Yet, that’s exactly what Swedish entrepreneur and padel enthusiast Bergqvist has done in, yes, that jem of the Adriatic, Croatia. Using will, determination, energy and a lot of planning, Berqvist created Padel Šolta, a padel paradise on a gorgeous unspoilt island off the coast of Split (a city that has been home to other racket sport royalty, including former Wimbledon champion, Goran Ivanisevic). What is there not to like about this unique concoction that Bergkvist and his son, David? It has sun, sea, delicious seafood, beautiful views and of course padel! 

Being from Gothenburg, a city which is booming with padel in the current day, Bergqvist had well and truly caught the bug and used all of his knowledge about the sport to help guide his latest ambition. It is simply the perfect place for those wanting to try the game out for the first time on holiday or for the seasoned pros who are looking for a non-traditional padel market in which to play. And with Croatia’s punching-above-weight racket sport success in recent years, perhaps Bergkvist might have something to do with the nation’s arrival on the padel scene.

Pep Stonor 
Head of Femme Open UK

Sociable, outgoing and an expert networker, the UK- based Aussie has fast made a name for herself in Britain, successfully bringing together a fast-expanding women’s movement of padel players for tournaments, networking and social gatherings under the Femme Open brand founded by her friends, Johanna Livijn and Johanna Aybar. 

With not enough women playing padel in the UK, Stonor has changed that. Attracting the best women’s players in this racket sport nation, bringing on board sponsors such as Wilson, and bringing the likes of BBC Strictly Come Dancing personality Katya Jones into the movement, this has been a success story that has no intention of finishing yet. Stonor has quite simply changed the narrative in the UK for women’s padel.

Hernan Auguste
Head of International Relations, Mejorset Padel Courts

There can be few better known figures in the world of padel than Hernan Auguste. Widely considered the all-time GOAT (player of the sport), this hugely likeable Argentine grew up with tennis in the blood, achieving status as Junior Argentinean Number 1 and Junior World Number 17. Having moved to the famous Bolletieri Tennis Academy in Florida, Auguste later found padel (in 1991, the same year as FIP was formed coincidentally), and a whole new chapter began. After 22 years on the circuit, with a World No.1 ranking held from 1997 - 2000 and two World Championship titles, these days the 53-year-old is making waves off the court as the well- respected former World Padel Tour and LeDap executive today find himself globetrotting for Mejorset. With the ambitious Auguste, however, many will be watching what the future holds for him as the padel industry grows exponentially.

Nancy Malone 
Former Pro Padel League Advisor and President of Padel Canada

Malone was an advisor to the PPL in its debut season which took place in Tampa, Florida. Now, strictly speaking the Canadian Malone might appear on our Top 20 Influencers north of the border. However, America’s growing padel brand is North America’s growing padel brand too, and there are few individuals more critical to the sport’s upward trajectory in the North American continent than the Canadian. 

As President of Padel Canada, Malone is an influential figure in her country’s padel journey. Statistically, there is currently only 1 court per 3.9 million people in Canada (!), but with clubs now opening in Toronto (The Pad, T10 Padel), Montreal (Club Padel Montreal, Prestige Padel, Padel Sport), Alberta (A.E. Cross, Aforza Tennis Club and Padel Zone), and British Columbia (Lake Country Padel), expect padel, under Malone’s watch, to accelerate across the ‘The True North’ soon.

Andy Knee 
Co-Founder and CEO at PadelStars

The UK - not least the racket sport hungry ‘home counties’ - needs more padel courts and PadelStars hopes to bring them that by working with existing sports clubs and leisure facilities to introduce padel tennis to their site. With a large number of sites, the first in Reading, and a newly announced investment from Dwellcourt Group, there is little to suggest that the growth of this organisation won’t continue. With the backing of some high- calibre investors and ambitious plans for future growth, PadelStars aim to operate the best padel clubs in the UK and be at the forefront of the evolution and growth of padel. 

Andy Knee is a man who has enjoyed a long career of success in the sporting sector having worked for IMG, the football league and XiX entertainment. When the opportunity to combine a passion for padel with the expertise he has obtained over the years arose, there has been little holding him back. Under his guidance along with his partner at PadelStars, Jamie Brooke, Andy is on the rise and one of the key names in the UK game to look out for!

Alan Flatt 
President, Investtrek Capital

For someone that set up the first padel-dedicated VC company in the world’s largest sports market (AKA, the USA), Flatt deserves recognition at the international level, too. He  was majorly involved in EEP’s acquisition of Los Angeles BEAT. EEP was the first dedicated venture capital company for the emerging US Padel market and their involvement with the inaugural PPL team in Los Angeles firmly placed them on the map. It possessed the tools and knowledge to help US based padel entrepreneurs succeed in the emerging markets. 

Flatt understands the craze and potential which padel has for the US. “Padel is something that’s a little more of a business but shares that exact same quality of people spending time together.” A clear understanding combined with the success which Flatt has had in his career makes him someone who will have a major impact on the success of Padel across America in the years to come.

Sarah Horrocks 
Brand Manager UK of Slazenger Padel and Co-Founder of Padelaid

Under Horrocks' guidance, Slazenger Padel has become synonymous with quality and innovation in padel equipment. Through strategic product development, marketing initiatives, content creation and modelling she has helped position Slazenger and other padel brands and companies on the market both in the UK and internationally. 

Horrocks recently joined PadelAid, where she is now championing charitable efforts aimed at promoting padel and supporting initiatives for social good, under financier and entrepreneur Jonathan Rowland’s new R3 concept. Her dedication to the sport's growth and community engagement has made her a widely recognisable figure within the padel industry.

Dani Homedes 
Partner, Founder & CMO of DPM Capital

If you’re a business partner and Hexagon Cup team co-owner of Eva Longoria, then you know you’re in good company. 

Alongside his new role as Co-Owner of the Eleven Eleven team, however, Dani Homedes is a former ATP tennis player, and made his name as the owner of the renowned, iconic Wynwood Padel Club in Miami, and Founder of Dara Sports. Formerly of Octagon Sports Management, Homedes is someone on an upward trajectory in padel, and as a Miami-based entrepreneur, stands at the crossroads of the sport’s ascent in the United States.

Gilles Verbraeken 
Global Padel Consultant

​​With extensive experience and expertise in the sports industry, Verbraeken has a deep understanding of market trends and consumer behaviour which have proved crucial to the success of Padel Mate. Driven forward by a passion for sports and commitment to fostering a vibrant and inclusive padel atmosphere have made him one of the most influential and exciting operators in the padel industry and his businesses have proved crucial to the sports development and sustainability on both a local and global scale.

Having started his padel career at Playtomic before moving to MATCHi, he has worked for two of the most successful and influential operators in our game which makes him one of the most valuable assets in our game. No matter where he goes, and what he does, he is helping our game reach a new level.

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