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Pickleball Update (Q1)


Pickleball Update (Q1)

I credit my predecessor for planting the seed in me.  One of the first things we did when I took office as the President of the Hong Kong, China Tennis Association was to formally incorporate pickleball into our constitution.

You may ask why?

Pickleball, I regard, as an integral part of the tennis family. The speed of the game is slower, less intimidating to beginners, and makes it far easier for kids to learn basic hand-eye coordination, positioning, and racquet-out-front volleying skills that are essential to tennis.  Pickleball also offers ageing or injured players an alternative sport that keeps them active if regular tennis becomes too physically demanding.

Most importantly, players of all ages and ability can start right away.  Barriers to entry are close to zero.  Requiring a much smaller-sized court in addition to its low-impact, non-contact, and socially-distant nature, the popularity of pickleball took off in the United States amid the pandemic.

The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) has unveiled an updated pickleball participation research, which reported that over 48 million adult Americans – nearly 19% of the total adult population – have played pickleball at least once in the past 12 months.  Participation rates, tournament attendance records have surged.  There are now sanctioned, prize-monied professional tours in North America, Asia, and Australia.

It has attracted the attention of super star athletes LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Tom Brady to invest in Major League Pickleball.  Tennis’ Nick Kyrgios and Naomi Osaka are part-owners of the Miami Pickleball Club.  Add to that a US$1 million showcase event Pickleball Slam 2 this year featuring the likes of Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, John McEnroe, and Maria Sharapova, the buzz around the sport is at an all-time high.

As a service provider and an organisation dedicated to delivering opportunities and support for athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers, the HKCTA has the infrastructure to nurture the growth of pickleball.

The visual similarities between pickleball and tennis are obvious when you see the game being played alongside tennis at a tournament venue. It is not a case of having to play ONE sport and not the OTHER.  The Hong Kong, China Tennis Association prides itself on inclusiveness and it is part of the reason we built pickleball into our mission as a racquet ball sport.

We recognise that pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports on the planet and that, already, almost one third of our affiliated clubs in Hong Kong are offering pickleball as well as tennis. We offer resources and pathways to pickleball players.

Pickleball is now profiled on site in an increasing number of stops on both the ATP and WTA Tour, including the 2024 ATP Finals in Turin, Italy.  We shall pursue the same engagement in our ATP and WTA 250 events in Hong Kong later this year.

Last year, the HKCTA organised an Inter-Club and an Open event and we will continue to do more, including the 2024 China Pickleball Open – Intercity Competition. Stay tuned for details of the coming events.

I will endeavour to undertake more research and to formulate the plan forward.  I credit my predecessors at HKCTA for having that vision in planting the pickleball seed early.

We are tracking pickleball’s worldwide development and we want to become a thought leader in Hong Kong for this sport – as in the case of tennis.

Michael Cheng, President
Hong Kong, China Tennis Association