30 years as a professional padel player and 25 as a trainer and coach: Marcelo Capitani was number 20 in the world, more than 10 times Grand Slam champion, champion of Italy in 2020 and 2021 and of Europe (with the Italian national team) in 2019. A long and exciting sports career, which at the age of 46 still hasn't stopped and which today sees him also selector and coach of the Italian Under national team and founder of the Padel Italia Academy.
Exclusively for the FLOKY Community, he tells us his love story with padel and reveals some tips for anyone who wants to get closer to this increasingly popular sport.
You have been playing padel for thirty years. How did you get into this sport? What's your story?
I was born with a racket in my hand. I started playing tennis when I was 4: my parents had a tennis court in Santa Fe, Argentina, where I was born. At 15 I met padel and I fell in love with it. At 17 I turned professional in Argentina: we still played with a wooden racket. I've made it to the quarterfinals a couple of times. At 27 I moved to Spain, did 13 seasons with the World Padel Tour and became number 20 in the world. I have played with internationally renowned athletes, such as Paquito Navarro and Sanyo Gutierrez. I've had a very long career and I also owe this to my team mates: padel is a team sport, you have to find the right partner and I was lucky. Today I'm in Italy and I'm delighted that padel is spreading here too. I would like to be able to bring him to the level he deserves: we have all the cards in hand to reduce the gap with Argentina and Spain, today at the forefront of this sport. The future of our sport is in the boys and the Federation is doing a great job with them. If the boys are on the pitch, sport is vital and has a future.
What did it feel like to win your first game? And the first major competition?
Wearing the blue shirt was a huge emotion. I had a lot of satisfaction playing for the national team and representing Italy in two European championships: in one we were champions (in Rome in 2019) and in the other vice-champions (in Spain in 2021): a very high emotion, as never before in my career. When you wear the national team shirt, you don't play for yourself, but for all of Italy. You know that all of Italy sees you. Many former footballers with very high visibility, such as Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi, Dario Marcolin, as well as well-known personalities of the rank of Gianluca Vacchi, are in love with padel and are rooting for the national team, they send support videos and this gives us the charge.
You have been a padel master and coach for 25 years. What does coaching and bringing more and more people closer to this sport mean to you?
I try to motivate people to train and play because padel is a very fun sport, but it also has a highly strategic component. At first it doesn't seem like it, but when you start making a course, when you really get into the sport, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand technique and tactics. Padel requires a whole preparation that was unthinkable until a few years ago. It is becoming an elite sport, increasingly professional, with increasingly higher sponsorships and prize money.
How is your training week going?
I'm 46 years old and I'm playing professionally on the Italian circuit: nutrition is essential for me and must be taken care of as much as possible. As for the actual training, I spend 1-2 days in the gym with the athletic trainer and on the other days I do specific exercises to prevent injuries, increase flexibility, resistance and elasticity. I am delighted to have known FLOKY socks, since I started using them I never want to take them off. They make me gain 20-30% of stability in the foot, with enormous effects also on performance. Not having them now would be like using a racket without a grip for me: something would be missing. When I participate in a tournament, before even starting, I prepare 4-5 pairs of FLOKY socks of different colors, one for each game, and I hope I can use them all because it means I'll get to the final!
Your favorite moment in training and in the match.
My favorite time during the week is when I wake up, have breakfast and wait to go to the gym to train. It gives me peace of mind knowing that I'm doing things right, that I'm preparing properly for the race this weekend. My favorite moment in a match is when the first set ends because that's where I really feel inside the game, I observe what happens and I understand what I have to change. At that moment I feel that I am doing what I like and I try to do it to the best of my ability.
And after a game, after training? How do you recover your strength?
I stretch, eat well and am already thinking about the next race. But without neglecting rest, which is very important.
In addition to physical training, is there also mental training in your preparation to maintain energy?
Before a game I always try to mentally visualize the whole process: how it will start, how it will develop, how the confrontation with opponents will be. I think about the things I wish would happen. By visualizing them I can make them real and it becomes easier to realize them. It's something they also teach in tennis and football: take a moment when you're most energized and motivated to visualize how you want the match to go.
In a game, how do you overcome critical moments?
In those moments I try to observe what is happening, to understand together with my partner what we can change to reverse the situation. It's not easy, because the opponent knows it: if he's above the score it's because he's playing better than you. Sometimes you don't have to change anything, it's just that others play better and there's nothing you can do about it. But other times you need to know how to change plans, understand what is happening, what the mood is and what can be done differently to improve the result.
What would you recommend to those who play padel?
Padel has become a much loved sport for those who need to let off steam after a long day at the office, but you should avoid entering the court directly after work, without a warm-up. Joint and muscle mobilization is very important, especially in winter! My advice to everyone is to try this sport, because it's a lot of fun, but without neglecting your physical preparation. This means taking care of hydration and never skipping the warm-up, to improve performance but above all to avoid injuries.
Have you ever been tempted to hang up your racket? What motivated you to continue?
Right, lots of times! Especially when I was traveling alone by car to play on the World Padel Tour: I traveled 900-1000 km to go and play in Seville, Barcelona, Madrid. When I lost and went home alone I was often tempted to give up everything. When you're in the throes of frustration, it's easy to lose motivation. Then I thought: even number one loses! So I kept working and persisting, doing what I liked. My advice for those who are faced with these doubts is not to give up, to accept that moments like these will necessarily exist, and rather to reason and think that even the game that is lost is part of growth and indeed it is essential to become more experienced and better players.
What do you like doing in your free time?
I really like playing tennis, reading books and watching Formula 1. I have a real passion for Formula 1: I like studying machine engineering, even if I don't understand anything about it. Another passion is playing soccer. But the reality is that I also like being on the sofa, resting and watching Netflix.