When Nicolás Delgado sums up both his friendship with tennis great Rafael Nadal and the years as a team-mate where that friendship was forged, the co-director of Spanish padel club La Masó says simply: “We’ve each chosen a path, and both have been good ones.”
The two men go back a long way. “I began playing tennis at the age of five and by chance, I was in the same junior category as Rafa,” Delgado says. “Doing national and international tournaments for Spain together meant I was lucky enough to play and travel with him. It was a very special period in my life.”
Nadal’s achievements are rightly famous worldwide. But as he casts his eye across the 15 padel courts that form the beating heart of La Masó, it’s clear that Delgado, too, has found a path to success. In fact, the man whose childhood dream was to be a tennis professional, but who then worked for nearly a decade as a financial consultant as far afield as Latin America, has ended up building and running one of Spain’s foremost padel clubs in the same community where he grew up: Mirasierra, a quietly dynamic residential area on Madrid’s north side.
“As my family roots are in Mirasierra and I have nearly always lived here, I could easily appreciate the scale of the demand for a padel sports facility – not just for this area, but for the whole of Madrid,” he says.
On the site of what was once a football pitch, Delgado and his business partner Antonio Molina have created “a padel club that is innately high-quality – with a great restaurant, a strict maximum on numbers of students for each class, a state-of-the-art gym, and so on.
“But we also wanted La Masó to be a place where people feel at home, somewhere they can bring their kids, have a family meal or celebration – because that’s one of padel’s underlying attractions: it’s a very sociable sport.”
Opened in 2015 and currently boasting 15,000 members, all making the most of the wide range of attractions for belonging to the club, their strategy for La Masó has clearly met with an enthusiastic response, both locally in Mirasierra and across Madrid.
And it is no coincidence that, when Babolat were seeking for a location for their international headquarters for padel last year, they chose La Masó, too.
“It really helps that Babolat is a family business, like ours. From the moment Eric Babolat came here with his directors, we could appreciate that Babolat has a very similar philosophy on crucial questions, like having a strong relationship with the wider padel community.
“Also, La Masó is a high quality brand product, and we want to associate it with other well-recognised, high-quality products like Babolat. Babolat has been mainly linked to tennis, but we believe it has a great future in padel as well, so it makes a lot of sense for us to work side by side, here in the club and further afield, too.”
It’s not only padel players who appreciate what Delgado and his business partner have achieved in Mirasierra. In a short video clip on the club’s website, Rafa Nadal congratulates his friend and former team-mate on La Masó, in what is effectively both the highest of recommendations and a reminder, too, of where it all began for Nicolás Delgado.