At first glance, padel might seem like an unusual investment for a Hollywood star like Eva Longoria.
But – as the world’s fastest growing racket sport, boasting investment from stars such as Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Robert Lewandowski and Longoria herself – padel appears to be on the brink of breaking into the sporting mainstream.
Longoria is “addicted” to the sport and “watches it all the time on TV, all the time on my Instagram,” she told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies from the inaugural Hexagon Cup, which took place in Madrid last weekend. ElevenEleven Team USA, a team owned by Longoria, was participating at the event.
Played on a court one third of the size of a tennis court, padel is low-impact and low-intensity compared to other racket sports – something that, together with the satisfying “pock” noise of striking the ball, has contributed to its popularity.
Unlike tennis, padel is generally played in a doubles format, although the same scoring system is used in both sports.
“I was exposed to padel about 10 years ago through my husband and I became a fan,” Longoria said, adding that the sport has a large fan base in Mexico, where it was first invented and where she lives.
All serves are underarm, and once returned, shots can be played on the volley, after one bounce or after rebounding off the wall. Players can also hit shots into the side and back walls lining the 20-meter-long, 10-meter-wide (65.6 x 32.8 foot) court on their side of the net.
Still relatively new, padel is, to a certain extent, unencumbered by the historic gender inequality that is entrenched across most other sports, allowing issues such as equal pay to be built in from the start.
“Women are super talented in this sport,” said Longoria, best known for playing Gabrielle Solis in the TV series “Desperate Housewives.”
“So women should absolutely be heading these teams and being a part of management and a part of strategy for where the sport needs to go … These women on the padel tour are bringing a lot of fans to these matches.”
Other sporting ventures
Longoria’s portfolio of sports teams stretches beyond padel and into pickleball and soccer, where she is an investor in NWSL team Angel City FC in Los Angeles and owner of Liga MX team Club Necaxa in Mexico.
Angel City was established in 2020 by a majority woman-founded group, led by Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, partly as a reaction to the equal pay dispute in US women’s soccer at the time.
“The ownership team behind Angel City was born of that gender parity in pay,” Longoria recalled. “Natalie Portman came to us and she’s like, ‘Did you guys know that the women’s team doesn’t get paid the same?’ And we were like: ‘What?’
“So Natalie Portman said: ‘What if we created a team that was the example of the thing we’re trying to say?’ And so to have majority female ownership of a female team, that was a big deal.”
And Longoria is already looking forward to watching padel grow and grow from its current state as it becomes a more established sport like soccer.
“We’re going to be able to see in 10 years: ‘Wow, look at this sport, remember when it was just starting.’ That’s exciting to me.”
CNN’s George Ramsay contributed to reporting.
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