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Win. Play Badly

Sanyo Padel
© World Padel Tour

Honest question, what do you play padel for?  If your answer is “to have fun”, don’t read any further. If your answer is “because I enjoy competing and winning”, the following is for you.

“Win, but Play Badly”, is the title of chapter one of the great padel book Common Sense, written by my colleague Nito Brea   I borrowed this title for my article to make an important point that will help you win more matches.

The good player. The big looser

I regularly see intermediate and even advanced padel players –mostly in Holland and Northern Europe- that play padel with beautiful style and taste.  They play great fast shots and short angles; and super smashes.

They imitate professional padel players.  They watch the rails or “best of…” edits of the World Padel Tour.  They imitate such incredible shots and plays.  They want to play “well”. They are good players, some may say. And yet, they lose most of their important matches.

Why do they lose if they play well?

Here is my theory.  They play for the tribune.  They play for their short term ego booth produced by trying to play a nearly impossible shot.  For trying to imitate professional padel players. For the after-match beer, when they will remember and discuss the beautiful almost-in shot.  In doing this, they make plenty of unnecessary mistakes during all of the match, and most importantly, during the key points of the match.  Padel is a sport of statistics.  In comparison with time based sports, such as football, it is very difficult to speculate with the result.  Hence, the stats will be against this kind of “good” players.

Forget the World Padel Tour

Stop watching the World Padel Tour if you want to become a better player.  Hold on. There is a trick in what I say.  I mean, stop watching the “best of…” edits of the World Padel Tour.  If you want to really learn, watch a full World Padel Tour match.  Especially watch the ladies. There you will notice that to play high level, you need to play ugly “bad” boring padel.  That is how you will learn to win matches.  And forget trying to imitate the guys, who are in a state of rocket-science-physical-shape.  Your belly, hurting shoulder and weak legs would not allow you jump half a meter high, brutally accelerate your arm or run half a court within half second.  So, no, don’t try to imitate them. Your body won’t allow. It won’t be effective. You will simply make mistakes –or even hurt yourself-.

How can you win more?

Short answer. Play ugly. Imagine you are an old smart dog. Play sure shots.  Don’t overdue.  Forget the short angles. Play with plenty of margin.  Play a lob. Play another lob. And another. Until your opponent hates you.  Until the tribune says that you are an ugly boring player.  Play “bad”.

Yes, during the after match beer, your opponents may say that you played ugly and badly.  They played more beautiful and stylish; they deserved to win because they are “better players”.  They will remember their beautiful shots.  And they will forget that you won.  You will go home with the trophy.

I leave you with three thoughts inspired by three people I learnt a lot from:

  1. Johan Cruyff, who inspired me to think the following:  “Padel is simple. The trouble is that playing simple is complicated”. You surely understand the complexity in that simple saying.  
  2. One of my mentors, Prof. Jorge Nicolini, who once asked me “… do you play to be the hero of the club or the champion of the next tournament…?”
  3. “I don’t care how much applause I get because if I won, I was the best”, Nito Brea.

Play “well” for the tribune or play “badly” for the win.  Play to become the “hero of your club” or to become “the next champion”. You decide.

If you want to learn more padel philosophy, buy the Common Sense book. There is a lot to learn there that will help you win more matches and have more fun.  Available at great prices on Bol.com or ebay.com (English).