Lotto Brussels Premier Padel: “Henin and Clijsters, the greatest Belgian successes”

The Gare Maritime is immersed in its daily hustle and bustle. In two weeks, the routine of the regulars of this Brussels architectural jewel will be disrupted by the third edition of the Lotto Brussels Premier Padel. From April 18, in the central artery, the fields will emerge from the ground with enlarged stands compared to last year. The excitement is building. Mr. Padel in Belgium, Vincent Laureyssens, is in the starting blocks to offer his baby a grandiose third birthday.

Among his prestigious guests, the name of Fernando Belasteguin figures prominently. The 44-year-old Argentinian can boast of having won the world champion title… 16 times! He lived with the number 1 stuck on his back from 2002 to 2018. 'Bela' is to padel what Federer is to tennis. Helped by Vincent Laureyssens, we were able to get in touch with the 'leyenda de Pehuajó' who is playing his last season on the pro circuit.

Fernando Belasteguin, we can no longer count your visits to Belgium. How is the Brussels tournament different from the others?

”The Gare Maritime site is exceptional. In addition, Vincent (Laureyssens, the great organizer of the event) welcomes us perfectly. Everything is professional. And then, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent Belgian chocolate (laughs).”

Are you an expert on Belgium? In your opinion, who is the most famous Belgian sportsman around the world?

”I don't know all the greatest Belgian athletes, but, in my opinion, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters are the finest examples of Belgian success. They were world number one in their sport. They brought Belgian tennis to the highest level. In addition, Kim Clijsters returned to the highest level after becoming a mother. I have great respect and admiration for both.”

After having played so many tournaments around the world, do you still take the time to marvel at everything around the field (the city, the public, the officials, etc.)?

”The most important thing when I enter the field is to concentrate on the game of my opponents without even thinking about the ball or even the public. I don't benefit from anything. So, I have to see the beautiful photos of the center full of spectators to admire the show.”

Are you traveling alone or with family?

To tournaments, I rarely travel with my family to stay very focused. My wife is a doctor and my children go to school in Barcelona. So I only see them when I'm not traveling. If I lose early in tournaments, I can be at home on Saturdays and Sundays with my family.”

There is a legend circulating about your children. They would have learned that you were world number 1 from school friends at the playground. Is it true ?

“Yes, it's true. I didn't want them to be seen as the sons of a champion. Six and a half years ago, I took my son back to school. He told me : 'Dad, is it true that you are number one in the world?' Boys had told him at court. I confessed. Later they will put my name on Google to find out.”

Retirement time is getting closer. In tennis, we see the difficulty for legends to stop: Federer and Nadal. How did you understand that the time to retire was coming for you?

”For me, this decision to continue my professional career until 2024 was carefully discussed with my family. It was decided that I would play professionally until the age of 45 in order to reach 30 years as a professional player. I still want to win tournaments. I could play a few more years for the money but I'm not interested. My only goal has always been to be the best and 45 is a good limit. So I'm going to enjoy this last year a lot. From next year, I will help my wife to educate our children who are growing up and who have to go through a difficult period of adolescence.”

Your legacy will be great. Le padel has taken on another dimension in recent years. Are you relieved to see that padel has really colonized a large part of the world?

”My greatest pleasure is to see the progression of padel in the world. It is one of the most complete sports because it is an easy, social and fun sport. You can play from 5 to 80 years old. Le padel has established itself in new countries. I would like to thank Premier Padel for giving us the chance to play in Rome, Paris, Doha,…and all the emblematic places of sport in the world.”

What worries you today in the development of padel?

”These are the different organizations each pulling their own weight. I would like everyone to take the same path with the International Federation of Padel. It’s still a very young sport that needs time.”

What place will padel occupy compared to other world sports?

”I see padel as a complementary sport to all other sports. We must not compete with other disciplines like tennis but copy what they do best.”

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