It is rare for any sport to have one single undisputed, incontrovertible “GOAT”. While its cousin tennis is still arguing about its Greatest Of All Time, in the world of padel there is only one name - Fernando Belasteguín - “Bela” to his friends and fans (16 years in a row number one of the world). From 2002 right through to 2017 he was the unprecedented, in any other sport, World Number 1, claiming no less than 230 of the 286 finals he played.
Padel is very much an up and coming sport. Bela hails from Argentina where it is a national sport with 4 million players and lives in Barcelona where it’s 2nd only to football. Imagine a high-octane cross-over between tennis, squash and badminton. The sport of padel combines speed, precision, and concentration. Points are won on what appears to be a split-second gut instinct, but success derives from years of on-court reactivity. “The ball goes very fast, but they key is not so much the speed but the concentration. On the court I am totally in the zone.” says Bela.
Bela's journey into padel began at a young age, fueled by his passion for sports. In his early years, he showed exceptional talent and dedication to various sports but it was in padel that he truly found himself. His professional career took off in 1995 at only 15 years of age, where he started competing at the highest levels on the world professional circuit.
Belasteguín's exceptional hand-eye coordination, strategic acumen, and unmatched work ethic allowed him to excel in the game. He has an elastic relationship with time. Between competitions, apart from a grueling physical routine, he spends half an hour a day “visualizing” – inhabiting a mental landscape where the ball is in slow motion, but where he himself reacts in accelerated mode.
“We share the same attention to detail. We both believe in breaking barriers. It’s all about family. If anyone knows a better motivation, please tell me! Triumph for me is not being at the top for 16 years – it’s being able to look in the eyes of my parents, my wife and children and know that I did the absolute best I could.”
Bela is convinced being part of the Richard Mille family will help his quest to make padel grow its ever-increasing popularity. There are two reasons he is delighted to wear the RM 35-03 Automatic Rafael Nadal. Firstly, Rafa is “my all-time hero, in any sport” – and secondly, he glows - “just look at the colours. They are the white and blue of Argentina - it’s just perfecto!”
Beyond his on-court achievements, Bela's impact on the sport extends to his sportsmanship and dedication to promoting padel worldwide. In 2020, he created the first Bela Padel Center, a padel-specific sports complex and also home to the Bela Padel Academy, which offers lessons for players of all levels.
His charismatic personality and engaging playing style have contributed significantly to the sport's growth and popularity across all continents.