From "never being able to walk again" to one of the world's best: Martín Di Nenno's incredible story

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"The only thing I wanted was to play padel again, I didn't want all of this." These were the first words Martín Di Nenno could utter after winning the Estrella Damm Barcelona Master 2021 on September 19th, his first title in World Padel Tour. The Argentinian was still fighting back the tears in his post-match interview.

While winning your first tournament is a big moment for any player, even more so for 24-year-old Di Nenno. That is because five years and eight months before that Sunday in Barcelona, he lost two friends and almost his own life in a car accident and was told he could never walk again. This is the incredible story of Martín Di Nenno.

Early life and 'super pibes'

Born in Ezeiza on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Martín Emiliano Di Nenno was surrounded by padel since he was born. His parents owned a bakery and a padel club in Ezeiza, and that is the environment he grew up in.

While he briefly tried football and tennis, Martín always preferred padel. In 2007, at just ten years old, he qualified for the under 14's World Cup. For the qualifiers, he was paired up with Franco Stupaczuk. Despite having never met him let alone played with him and ten-year-old Di Nenno and 11-year-old Stupaczuk playing against much older competition, they won the tournament.

This is where the super pibes or 'super kids' nickname began. Di Nenno and Stupa would win many more World Cups and Panamerican tournaments together. Stupa, who is from Chaco in the north of Argentina, moved in with Di Nenno's family for two years so the pair could train together.

The two continued their rise to fame, winning the World Cup and youth World Cup in the same year. In 2015, they moved to Spain together to start competing in World Padel Tour.

The accident that changed everything

On January 11th, 2016, Di Nenno's life changed completely. After a promising debut season in World Padel Tour, winning the Barcelona Challenger, he was preparing for the new season.

Then, in a car with fellow professionals and close friends Elías Estrella and Gastón Rodríguez, they had an accident. Estrella and Rodríguez both lost their lives, sending shockwaves across the sporting world.

Di Nenno still had his life but had broken both of his legs badly. The femur in his right leg was broken in half and the kneecap in his left leg was shattered.

 

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During the ten days in the ICU and another bed-ridden month, doctors told him he could never walk again, let alone play professional padel.

Three months later, he was on his feet already, slowly regaining his footing. The teenager endured the pain through his iron will and determination and made big strides in his recovery.

Di Nenno himself says he was reborn at 18 years old, as he had to learn to walk again and could not do the simplest thing without asking for help.

Stupaczuk meanwhile teamed up with veteran Marcello Jardim, marking the end of the super pibes. When Stupa shockingly made the semi-finals in his and Di Nenno's native Argentina at the Buenos Aires Master, he sought out his former team-mate in the crowd and dedicated the victory to him.

Bonafide superstar

In October of 2017, the day of Martín's return finally came. 16 months after his near-fatal crash, 16 months after having to learn to walk again and slowly building his body back up, he was back.

Together with Brazilian talent Lucas Campagnolo, Di Nenno competed at the A Coruña Open. They got through all three qualifying rounds and made the final draw.

As the seasons went on, Di Nenno gradually worked his way up the rankings, making semi-final appearances in 2019 and 2020. To cap off a 2020 in which he was one of the break-out stars, he made his Estrella Damm Master Final debut at the end of the season. Unexpectedly, alongside Maxi Sánchez, they beat Fede Chingotto and Juan Tello and ended in the semi-finals.

For 2021, one of the best players of all time in Paquito Navarro came calling to partner up with Di Nenno. The two clicked straightaway. Di Nenno's unmatched defensive play combined with Navarro's ruthless offensive might made them one of the best pairs in the men's Circuit.

After making three finals but losing out, the moment Martín Di Nenno waited for his whole life finally came on September 19th in Barcelona. Five years and eight months after the accident, he finally became a champion.

Navarro and Di Nenno would make a total of ten finals in 2021 and won three of them, making eight straight finals appearances to end the season.

This left them within touching distance of becoming the number ones in 2021, but they would just fall short at the Estrella Damm Master Final 2021.

For 2022, this will be the clear objective for the potent pairing of Navarro/Di Nenno. Now a fully-fledged star at the top of the World Padel Tour pyramid, Di Nenno's current standing is a pure reflection of the work he has put in since he was that child in Ezeiza.

Still just 24 years old, the future has never looked brighter for Martín Di Nenno.

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