Former tennis professional James Chaudry has been singing pickleball’s praises across the UK after developing a strong affinity for our nation’s favorite new racket sport.
Hailing from Southampton in the south of England, Chaudry has embraced an advocacy role for the sport after taking it up during the Covid era and becoming a massive fan in the process.
“Not As Complicated Or As Skillful As Tennis(!)”
Chaudry disclosed that his encounter with the sport was unexpected yet warmly welcomed, particularly given his longstanding association with tennis.
“I’m technically a tennis convert, but it’s a little more complicated than that,” he remarked. “I was living in the US playing tennis before settling in Los Angeles in 2017.
“Pickleball was really starting to take off in the States at that time, but I refused to play the sport because I had a misguided view that it’s not as complicated or as skillful as tennis.
“But I moved back to the UK during Covid, and as a consulting practice on the side, I fell in with Pickleball England, and of course I went to try it when the client asked.
“All of my perceptions of the sport being slow and everything were undone within the first ten minutes. It was a lot of fun, challenging, but very easy to start.”
A Natural Aptitude
Chaudry exhibited a natural aptitude for the sport, clinching gold in the men’s doubles at the 2021 National Championships merely months after embracing it,
He showed this was no flash in the pan by bagging the 2022 doubles European Championship title shortly afterward.
The former tennis pro candidly acknowledges that his world now orbits around the sport, and he forms part of the Pickleball England board alongside his role as an international competitor.
A Substantial Impression
Pickleball is now also starting to make a substantial impression in the UK, and Chaudry attributes its meteoric rise worldwide to the remarkable sense of community at its core.
“The people and the community really are the best part of pickleball,” he emphasized. “The low barrier to entry means that people who might feel intimidated playing on a tennis court won’t feel that on a smaller badminton-sized court, which makes it easier to start.
“Pickleball England have also taken the passion at community and grassroots level to drive the sport. We’re able to put on events that let people meet new people and mix with their community in a new way.
“The media attention from the US and celebrity endorsements really has transitioned back here too. I mean, if you see Tom Brady playing pickleball, you might want to as well.”
Strategy And Development Advisor
In his capacity as a Strategy and Development Advisor for Pickleball England, Chaudry has played a pivotal role in formulating the NGB’s five-year strategic plan and spearheading a commercial initiative to foster the game at grassroots and community levels.
The sport has since experienced exponential growth in the community, with over 682 athletes registered to participate in this month’s National Championships at the Bolton Arena, a significant rise from the 430 at the 2022 event.
“It’s Become So Competitive”
Scheduled to return to the court from the 26th to 29th of October, Chaudry reflects on the reasons he initially developed a fondness for the sport as he gears up to defend his 2022 mixed doubles title.
“We’re very fortunate in the UK that we have about the top three men and women in Europe here,” he noted.
“It has become so competitive, and when the National Championships comes along, it’s nice to see everyone competing for those spots.
“I will be competing this month; I love to get on court, and we have several other international competitions to close out the year, so it will be a great opportunity to prepare for them.
“It’s exciting to see the growth of the sport year on year at the top end level of National Championships and the English Open.
“I’ve made so many friends from all different walks of life playing pickleball, and it’s a brilliant community-feel sport.”
2023 English Nationals
The 2023 English Nationals are set to take place at Bolton Arena from Thursday, 26th October, to Sunday, 29th October.
This year’s tournament is sponsored by Franklin, Skechers, Scan, and UK Pickleball Shop, with play commencing at 9 a.m. each day.
For more information or to find the nearest place to play, visit pickleballengland.org.
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