Interview to Andrea Melisi

Andrea Melisi, class of 2001, is one of the most promising young Italian talents on the international padel circuit. Let’s find out together how his passion for tennis and padel was born, what led him to move to Australia as coach at one of the most prestigious academies in the world, and what his goals for the current season and FIP world rankings are.

When did you start playing tennis?

I approached tennis when I was 6 to 7 years old. I was playing football at that age, and next to the training field there was a tennis club, where, with other team-mates, I would often stop and watch the exchange of some shots between the teachers and their students. I was fascinated by it. I wanted to try it, and it was love at first sight really. The first few lessons were enough to convince me to abandon football and dedicate myself entirely to tennis. At 12, I was already doing 5 training sessions a week at the Gavardo tennis club, and, eventually, I managed to combine it with my first job as a first-grade teacher.

You have now lived in Sydney for just over a year now. Tell us about the path that brought you to Australia at just 20 years old.

The opportunity came a year ago. The occasions for getting out there, showing what I could do, and racking up my first ATP points in the midst of the Covid pandemic were increasingly rare. I had participated in some tournaments, but the path forward was quite fragmented. So, I decided to concentrate on coaching at the Gavardo tennis club, just a stone’s throw from Brescia. It was there that I got the ambition to train new junior talent, introduce them to the international ITF circuit, and then coach them at tournaments. Unfortunately, I had limited possibilities to do this in Brescia, so I started researching and contacting international clubs that could help my follow through on my aspirations. After various online meetings and sending several videos, the Voyager Tennis Academy in Sydney hired me as a coach for their Junior Elite Academy, giving me the opportunity to train Australia’s most promising young players. After the first 6 months, we decided to continue on this path together, and I currently have a visa that will allow me to stay in Australia for at least another two years. I currently train both boys and girls, ranging from under-10s to under-18s, and there are already several talents there who are among the top 10 in their respective categories. The goal is to get as many of them as possible to play on the ITF circuit and start to accumulate ATP points. It’s a long-term but extremely stimulating project.

It’s not just tennis. Today, you are ranked number 572 in the FIP padel world rankings.

Yes, for the moment it’s an excellent ranking that I want to continually improve on. I started playing padel just 5 years ago in Brescia. At the start, I saw it almost as a diversion from tennis, but, tournament after tournament, I began to find myself among the top 100 in Italy.
From there on, I began competing in my first international competitions, and, today, I’m placed 572 in the world, and I’m in the top 10 in Australia, thanks above all to the points I won in January at the international tournament in Melbourne, where I got through to the semi-finals.

How much has the padel movement grown in Australia, and what differences are there, if any, compared to Italy or Europe in terms of organisation, clubs and tournaments?

In Australia, there has always been a great culture and lots of attention paid to tennis and the racket sports world in general. When new trends come on the scene, the publicity machine tends to go into overdrive. Today in Sydney, there are only around twenty facilities where you can play padel, but courts are multiplying at an impressive rate, and have almost quadrupled in just 2 years. Compared to Italy or Europe, there are no big differences. Padel arrived here later, but has nonetheless generated a lot of attention. To give you an idea, they have built a new padel centre at the Melbourne Arena, where they organize the Australian Padel Open, in conjunction with the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Playing at the Padel Open, I also had the opportunity and thrill of meeting the most famous tennis players on the international circuit. An assimilation process has also begun with pickleball, and I believe it will gradually spread throughout the whole country.

In terms of international commitments, as far as padel is concerned, you have some pretty intense months ahead of you.

My next commitments will take me first to Perth, then to Bali, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, on the Asian Pacific Padel Tour, together with my team-mate and Australian number one, Tim Brown. We will also play together on the Australian Padel Tour.

How do you manage to combine your activities as coach, padel player, tennis player, in the Australian Premier League, and pickleball player, which we know is your latest passion?

I do all I can to fit everything in. At the moment, my priorities are to continue coaching and tackle the Australian Premier League as best I can with my Tennis Academy. In November, as I was saying, I will leave for the Asian Pacific Padel Tour, and I’ll be focused on winning as much as possible, together with Tim.

I currently coach 50 hours a week, so the time I have left for padel and pickleball makes it a hobby for now, but a very fun one.

When did your relationship with ProKennex begin?

It properly started a year ago, though a ProKennex was the first racket I started playing tennis with. While I was playing in the Serie C league in Italy, I felt the need to find equipment that was able to guarantee a high level of game performance and, at the same time, protect my elbow and arm. Recently, I’ve suffered a few elbow problems, and I needed a racket that would give me peace of mind at tournaments and over 10 hours a day on court. I already knew some people among the Italian ProKennex staff, and, thanks to them, I was able to try various different models in the range, and then choose what my current rackets are, on the tennis, padel and pickleball courts.
Ours is a relationship of great mutual respect and trust.
Then, in the Kinetic System I found the solution to all the discomfort that my elbow was giving me, especially while playing padel. The balls are quite weighty, and having a racket that can absorb the vibrations from shots is essential for playing a lot and with peace of mind from start to finish.

You use our Black Ace for padel. What sensations does it give you on court?

The Black Ace is a very technical racket that combines control, spin and power. As a right-sided player, its fits my playing style perfectly. And I don’t know how many smashes I’ve scored over the fence panels…

Instead, for tennis, you chose the Ki Series, specifically the Ki10. Did you make that choice to up your baseline game? What kind of strings are you using?

Yeah, I play tennis with the Ki10. I love red clay, and, with this racket, I can bring out my best qualities as a baseline player, who runs a lot and applies a lot of top spin.
I’ve paired it with monofilament IQ Hexa strings, which I’ve tuned to 23 kg, with 4 knots.

You recently returned to Italy to play in the Venice tournament, promoted by the Veneto Padel Club. How was it coming back and playing at home? You and Tim Brown just missed out on the final.

It was just over a month ago now. Tim and I lost the semi-final against Japan, but it was a fantastic and very intense tournament. It’s always great coming home!

Andrea, it’s been a pleasure, and I wish you the best of luck with all the commitments you’ve got lined up!