Rafa Nadal Academy hosts first-ever Mediterranean Open

Rafa Nadal Academy hosts first-ever Mediterranean Open

DALLAS, TX - The Rafa Nadal Academy is hosting the inaugural Mediterranean Open in Mallorca, Spain this weekend, bringing pickleball to one of Europe’s most elite racket clubs.

“We had a dream of making a really big pickleball service and mixing that with community, lifestyle, and inclusion,” said Luis de Cristobal, director of the Rafa Nadal Academy, during a recent interview with the PPA Tour's Hannah Johns. “In that dream was Rafa Nadal Academy, which is one of the top three racket sports academies in the world.”

After building courts and spreading the word, the Mediterranean Open was born.

“We have a series of four tournaments and they're inspired by the Grand Slam, so we wanted to have four Grand Slams per year,” explained Cristobal.


Two hundred players are competing in the event.

“That's a really big milestone in Europe, specifically because it’s in Mallorca and everything on an island is more complicated for the organizers and players, but we’re hoping to reach 400 or 500 in the next few years,” added Cristobal.

The majority of the competitors are traveling from other locations throughout Europe. Mallorca is located in the Balearic Region, and it was the only region in Spain without a pickleball court until the Rafa Nadal Academy came on the scene.

Now, the facility is receiving lots of calls from locals inquiring about courts, players, and how to play.

Meeting that demand was a top priority.

“We’re focused on the expansion of the sport. We have a membership with the clubs. We call it Mediterranean Associated Club, and we help the tennis, racket, and pickleball clubs to grow,” shared Cristobal.

The main strategy for expansion is staging elite tournaments.

“Once the tennis and padel players start to see pickleball as a very competitive sport, it will change. If you mix venues like the Rafa Nadal Academy or Ferrero Tennis Academy, that will change the minds of people who see it as a sport only for old people,” insisted Cristobal.

This Mediterranean Open has traditional elements, including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles play. It also features an elite player category and an inclusive category as well.

The inclusive aspect, in particular, is rather intriguing.

“We have a tournament called No Limits that’s sponsored by Joola. It’s built for people with intellectual disabilities and for people with brain acquired damage and cerebral paralysis. We're starting the tournament with the No Limits category, and then doing an inclusion tournament mixing elite players with people with disabilities. We are having relationships with social entities to make the inclusive part of pickleball growth in Spain and Europe,” revealed Cristobal.

The No Limits concept illustrates the incredible diversity pickleball brings to the table.

“Pickleball is for everyone, and it’s the only sport that's for everyone. You can have the most aggressive and intense match next to four 75-year-old friends playing at the beach,” concluded Cristobal. “Our purpose is for the racket clubs and people to know, play, and love pickleball like we do.”