During this year’s strict pandemic lockdown in Spain, athletes, like everybody else, had no chance of getting out of their homes to do sport – but one family of padel devotees in Madrid came up with a solution.
‘We shifted everything around in the flat so we could use the wall of one room for practice,’ recounts long-standing padel player Claudia Sirvent. ‘It kept us active and that way at least we were able to work on our racquet technique.’
You’d imagine family members with no interest in the sport could have objected to a partial flat conversion into a padel practice room. But in the Jensen Sirvent household, that was never going to be a problem … because there are no family members with no interest in padel.
All five – the parents Claudia Sirvent and Cristian Jensen, and children Enzo, Cristian and Claudia, aged between 14 and 16 – are deeply passionate padel players. Claudia and Cristian Sr are both full-time padel coaches, and Cristian was a top professional in his time. Now their children are adding a growing haul of World and National Championships medals and titles to the family trophy cabinet, and have coaching and/or WPT careers among their long-term goals.
‘Sometimes kids will initially play the same sport as their parents, but then they’ll try something different,’ says Claudia, as she explains her family’s deep-rooted dedication to padel. ‘But I’m a player and trainer and I believe that when I was pregnant, my children could hear the sound of padel balls hitting racquets. They were born with that sound in their ears.’
One reason padel has such widespread appeal is that it’s ‘a very democratic sport,’ says Cristian Sr, who organised his children’s daily fitness sessions during Spain’s three-month lockdown. ‘Padel doesn’t require a great deal of equipment or, at least initially, a well-developed technique. It’s very accessible, for everybody from six to 80.’
There is space in their family for other activities, confirms his son Cristian, who says his younger brother Enzo has, like him, dabbled in football and boxing – ‘it’s like I’m his reference point, I’ve set an example for Enzo to follow.’ But there’s no doubt which sport tops the list of his favourites – indeed everybody’s favourites in the Jensen Sirvent household.
All five, who have dual Italian-Argentinian nationality, have been part of the circuit of padel competitions across South America and Europe for years. ‘My schoolfriends do ask why I’m travelling so much,’ says Claudia Jr, but all five acknowledge that, while so much travel has the occasional downside, it also brings unexpected benefits.
Her mother recollects a non-stop family dash by car from Barcelona to a town south of Rome, so an Italian coach could see her children play. ‘It was a never-ending journey,’ Claudia Sr recalls, ‘but it was rewarded on the return leg with sightseeing on the Côte d’Azur, just one of the many places we got to see thanks to padel.’ The lure of travel is something that appeals particularly to Enzo, their youngest child, who is currently itching to return both to France and Barcelona.
Playing as a family also brings some additional benefits, such as when all five took team victories in a Spanish competition – and were each awarded a giant leg of cured serrano ham. And just like any Argentinian family that hits the road, the Jensen Sirvents never forget their flask of mate green tea along with any edibles.
But Claudia also has another piece of sound travel advice for any padel players before leaving home: ‘If you’re flying, always take your racquet in your hand luggage. Your clothes going astray in your luggage is one thing. But a racquet? – that’s like an extension of your hand.’