From an unexpected epiphany to number one in the world rankings, history and thoughts of the padel queen

“A few years ago, padel wasn’t structured and it wasn’t a first-choice sport. A lot of players came from tennis, of course. Today things are changing, children are starting their sporting journey playing padel. I hope and believe that this process will evolve more and more. Soon it will be even more natural to see a boy or a girl take this path…. It is a matter of time. And for me it’s a source of pride to be a key figure, it’s great to have the opportunity to inspire the next generations.”

It’s a matter of time and Gemma Triay knows it. This quote encapsulates her approach to the universe populated by bandejas and chiquitas, globos and por tres. Because the contemporary and undisputed queen of padel, holder of an astonishing record of 294 Ws out of 386 matches played on the World Padel Tour, had to come to terms with the ‘time factor’ before she elegantly hegemonised the glass walls – but also with tennis, her first passion, with temporary inactivity and fate, which knocked on the Menorca native’s door during a placid university period.

“I started playing tennis very early, at the age of 4, and quit it when I was 19. At that time I decided to move from Menorca to Barcelona in order to study Languages and I stopped playing sport. But I missed the sense of competition, the taste of challenge, and after a couple of years I got involved in padel. It was 2013 and in Spain, unlike many other European countries, this discipline was already very well known. I remember that for Christmas I got a ‘pala’ ordered on Wallapop and from then on I embarked on amateur tournaments first, Catalan championships later and finally my first high-level events. I asked my father for help to pay for my flights and travel, he asked me if I was sure about what I was doing, or if padel was just a hobby. My answer convinced him to support me”.

It is a matter of time, we said. And for the new Gemma, time became magically precious. In addition to her father’s support and in order to start her career, Gemma devoted every minute to the padel courts, both as a player and as an instructor. Today, a decade later, she could just confine herself to the typical stresses of the top ranking, she could just devote her time to international events, first-class tournaments, sponsors and fans… Yet this is not the case, as evidenced by Gemma’s role as IPPA vice-president (the union of professional padel players) and her dream of dressing padel with the five Olympic rings.

For the first two years I worked five days a week. I gave padel lessons to support my dream. When I started climbing the rankings, the working days decreased, and the travelling and workouts increased. I was lucky, because the girls who had been number 1 in the years before my advent didn’t earn what they deserved…. I happened to be in the right place at the right time, just when padel was starting to expand like wildfire in so many different countries. But this is just the beginning, I’m sure about it, in five years the movement will be even bigger and more structured. And I hope it can reach huge stages, like the Olympic Games. I’m striving to achieve this goal and I’m working to ensure that my colleagues of the present and especially of the future can play and live their careers in the best conditions. I’ve so many things to focus on and it’s tiring, but I enjoy being part of this evolution.”

Within this constant shifting of focus, Gemma also manages to enjoy one of the greatest privileges of professional ‘padelistas’: the chance to jump from plane to plane and merge with different and unknown cultures. Her typical vibora traces lethal trajectories in every latitude of the globe week after week, and it was during one of these trips that we came across her inspiring testimony. We’re at the Platys Center in Verona, where the number one in the world joined Italian champion Carolina Orsi in order to celebrate the aggregative power of padel. We are in Italy, in the country that has now become a second home for the Spanish talent. We are, above all, inside a virtuous process: the dissemination of the padel verb.

“I love to travel thanks to padel, it allows me to learn about different cultures, to explore and understand them. Padel is a profession, but also a pleasure. When I’m not playing I immerse myself in the museums and gastronomy of each place. I have a special relationship with Italy, I am a member of the Circolo Canottieri Aniene in Rome and every time I go to the capital I feel like family. These events help make padel known and bring people closer to the sport. It is essential to organise them everywhere, the 2032 Olympics are just around the corner and I hope that by taking padel to countries like the United States, Australia or Eastern Europe and the Far East in general, it’ll be possible for our sport to be selected. After all, it’ll be only a matter of time. Again”.