Dora Andrejszki has her eyes on the Olympics. Not Paris in 2024 and not Los Angeles in 2028, but Brisbane in 2032. “Maybe I will have kids by then, but that won’t stop me from playing,” the 30-year-old says with a laugh.
Dora is the Hungarian No 1 in padel, a sport which devotees are hoping will become an Olympic event in time for Brisbane. She will be 39 by then, but says that one of the joys of padel is the age range of those who play it.
“I think I still have quite a few years ahead of me because I see a lot of 40-plus players still able to compete at the top level,” she says. “If I can stay in shape and keep playing then I don’t think my age would be an issue in 2032.”
Dora, who is sponsored by Babolat, is a comparative latecomer to padel. She was a promising junior in tennis and played briefly on the Futures circuit, where her opponents included the future Roland-Garros champion, Barbora Krejcikova. She went on to play college tennis in the United States for five years, but by the time she returned to her home city of Budapest in 2020 she had given up hope of becoming a professional tennis player.
“I had decided that I didn’t want to do anything tennis-related,” she said. “I wanted to make a fresh start.”
On her return to Hungary, Dora started work as a personal assistant to a CEO at an innovation agency. She was not playing much tennis at the time, but a friend asked if she would train with her at a local club, which also had some padel courts, so Dora gave the new sport a try.
“At first I didn’t enjoy playing it, but I had just moved back home, so I thought maybe it would be good for me to go along and socialise,” she said. “I started to go once a week. It was fun. And the more I played the better I became.”
Within a year of taking up padel, she was selected to play in the Hungarian national team in the European Championships in Bilbao. The following year she competed in an international tournament in Hungary alongside another former tennis player, Palma Juhasz, who has been her doubles partner ever since. They were knocked out by an Argentinian pair, but Dora noted that both of their opponents were over 40.
“That match was a big mindset-changer for me,” she said. “I could barely sleep for the next few days. I was starting to think: ‘What could I achieve in padel if I didn’t have to work 40 hours in an office every week? What if I could spend a lot more time on the court?’ Coming from tennis, I knew what it takes to give up time and sacrifice myself for the sport.”
Dora, who now works for Szinga Sport, which has the distribution rights for Babolat in Hungary, has since enjoyed padel training blocks at the Andres Gimeno academy near Barcelona. She wants to do more and plans to play in more tournaments in the future.
“Now I would love to be a full-time professional padel player,” she said. “Right now Palma and I are the two top female players in Hungary and the sport is evolving and blooming.”
In tennis, Dora always preferred playing doubles to singles. Does she find padel, which is based around doubles, a more sociable sport than tennis?
“I would say so, yes” she says. “And at the tournaments I’ve played I’ve found that people are easier to approach. Some of the people I’ve competed against are now some of my best friends.”
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