Padel power: How one woman is pushing the game in Dubai

Sara Essa tells Khaleej Times about her passion for the sport and a community project that is close to her heart: ‘The Padel Collective'


Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Thu 16 Mar 2023, 3:22 PM

Ever since Sara Essa won a tournament on the day she landed in Dubai less than a year ago, she has been hooked on to the sport big time.

So much so, she went on to set up an initiative called the Padel Collective, and this weekend she is organising the first female padel tournament.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Sara spoke about her passion for the sport and the community project ‘The Padel Collective’. "I set this up to be social fun place where women can meet other players with no pressure to win. It grew from there,” she said.

Soon, she thought of launching a women’s tournament, but said it was quite a challenging task. “It was hard to find women for the tournament. I think the word ‘tournament’ can be a bit daunting,” she said.

According to the British expat, the ‘Head Women’s Challenger’ competition celebrates female participation and brings together women from different communities who play the sport. “The aim is to try and inspire other women to join and to know that it’s not only about competition, but also about having fun,” she said.

The tournament, taking place this Saturday at the new Danube Sports World, will include 64 players across 4 categories and is endorsed by the Dubai Sports Council.

The Padel Collective meets twice a week, is open to both women and men, and has members ranging from 10 to 64 years. Today they have more than 300 active members, and have successfully introduced more than 50 new players to the sport.

Over the last few years, padel has gained a lot of popularity, with more padel courts coming up in residential communities. It’s popularity, according to Sara, is mostly because it’s easy to pick up. “You don’t need previous sports experience, very low barrier to entry, not a lot of hand-eye coordination and your speed of development is very quick, so it’s very satisfying and rewarding,” she explained.

In addition, there’s a social element which makes it appealing, she said. “It’s fun because it’s always played in doubles so it's very social. You can always rotate partners,” she said, adding that because it takes place in a smaller court with walls, not a lot of time is spent running around picking up balls.

“I’m very happy and excited about this tournament. I love the idea of challenging myself. There are many tournaments happening, but this one looks so interesting,” said padel player Alexia Gabr, adding that she will be coming all the way from Abu Dhabi to take part.

Finding a purpose

Lisa McCarthy said that she is very grateful for the Padel Collective as it helped her find purpose when she was between jobs last year. “Sara has created something very special. Last year I was in between jobs and I had a few months where I had a lot of time. I played twice a week, I played in socials, I took lessons. It gave me a purpose to wake up every day and I got fit. It was everything I needed at the time,” she said.

She said that it even challenged some of her perceptions. “I thought I didn’t have a good eye for the ball, but I think I’m moving forward in the right direction. I am excited about this tournament it gave me a goal, a reason to get better,” she said, adding that she met many friends through the game.

Another padel enthusiast, Farah, said that she’s really excited to play at the Women’s Challenger this weekend. “It’s great to be heading into a tournament knowing that the levels are well matched and that you’ll have some fun challenging games ahead of you.”

As for The Padel Collective’s future plans, Sara, said that there are exciting plans planned, but nothing that she can reveal yet.


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