Former Scotland rugby international Max Evans admits the end of his career as an elite athlete was hard to accept, but he has found a new avenue to channel his ambitions after taking up the sport of padel.
Evans played 44 times for Scotland in a glittering career and has dipped his toe in celebrity waters in recent years as he finished in third place on ITV’s Dancing On Ice in 2018, yet it is out the padel court where he finds himself spending much of his spare time now.
Max sat down with Tennis365 as he was unveiled as the new padel ambassador for Stoke Park County Park, Spa and Hotel in Buckinghamshire and it was clear that that padel bug had gripped him.
“I’ve been very institutionalised from a young age,” begins sporting natural Max, who also had the option to start a career as a professional golfer before he moved into rugby. “At boarding school, I had a regime where I had a wake-up time and a schedule that I followed and that continued when I became a professional rugby player. You don’t need to think about what your day holds, it is mapped out for you before and after training and your focus is all around the next game, the next big event.
“Then my rugby career came to an end and it was tough to take. No-one is telling me to do it any more. If I don’t go to the gym today, no one will care. You do feel a little like you are not part of anyone’s story any more. There is no match, no target to aim at. How do you get your head around that?
“Then I fell in love with this wonderful new sport I discovered called padel when I was down in Portugal and that gave me a new drive. At first, I didn’t know what padel was. I saw this box with a small tennis net in it and was intrigued by what it was and when I started playing, it was hard not to fall in love with it.
“Padel has become even more popular in Spain than tennis and that is remarkable when you consider they have some of the world’s best players, led by great icons like Rafael Nadal.”
Underarm serves, tricky low volleys and fine-tuning the art of hitting the ball after it ricochets off the back wall may take a little time, but basic padel skills should be relatively easy to master for anyone who has played tennis to a reasonable level.
⏪ ¿Lo recuerdas? ¡Imposible de olvidar!
🏆 Fue el Mejor Punto de 2016
— World Padel Tour (@WorldPadelTour) February 17, 2020
Grand Slam double-winning tennis star Jamie Murray is a big fan of padel along with current world No 1 singles player Novak Djokovic, while the football world is also embracing the sport as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea legend John Terry are padel aficionados.
“I have played a lot of padel with John Terry and he is captivated by the sport, which is a theme that you find with everyone who tries it,” continues Max, who is the cousin of broadcasting legend Chris Evans.
“What struck me about padel is that you can make rapid progress in your development if you have some decent hand-eye coordination. It is not as technical as tennis, there are fewer nuances in the shots you play and the basics of the sport are similar to what we have all done on a beach with a bat and ball. It is all about keeping the ball alive in a rally and very quickly you can enjoy great rallies that you would not be able to construct if you were just starting out playing tennis.
“In addition, I love the fact that you are in such close proximity to your partner and you have to work together as a team, which I have always enjoyed more than solo sports like golf.
“Padel is also great from a fitness perspective. You may not feel like you are running as much as you might on a tennis court, yet you covering a lot of ground in short distances and it ticks all the boxes for me. It’s easy and fun to play and very accessible and that should encourage people to stay on the court.”
Max believes the sport has a joyous appeal for players of all ages, as he suggests female competitors will relish the challenges presented on a padel court.
“With all of us so keen to find activities that fit into our busy schedules, padel is a wonderful option if you don’t have too much time in your working week and you need to fit in some sport around you rote commitments and I’m sure female players will get the padel bug once they get out on court and learn the basics.
“Former Olympic champion Denise Lewis is getting in to padel and she wants to have a game with me, but only when she has had some lessons because she will want to win. Sportspeople level lose that competitive spirit you know!
“Playing a sport like padel with your friends is more engaging than going to the gym and running on a treadmill on your own and once you start playing the game you become addicted. If you have some hand-eye coordination and like a little bit of competitive sport in your life, padel could be the one for you.”
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
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