Rafa: India is always close to my heart

Nadal said that he was looking forward to having Indian kids at his professional academy being set up close to his home in Spain. He was excited about the kids from his academy in Anantpur coming to Delhi to watch the IPTL.

Rafael Nadal said that he enjoys coming to India.   -  PTI

Nadal posing with kids from Mahesh Bhupati's tennis academy.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Rafael Nadal charmed quite a few at the DLTA Complex here on Thursday as he played with the kids of the Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academies, interacted with them, and fielded questions from the media.

“India is always close to my heart,” the 29-year-old Nadal told the kids of the Bhupati’s tennis academy, who had assembled in the show court for a clinic.

He mentioned about his Chennai Open stint and the project he has in Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh that aims at providing a better life and education apart from tennis coaching for the young children.

“It is good to come back to India for the IPTL. Hope you enjoy the competition. Thanks for being here. The Indian Aces team, we will try our best,” said the 14-time Grand Slam champion.

Kids trained with Rafa, Toni

It was a tough grind for the kids as Nadal’s uncle and coach, Toni Nadal had already put them through a brisk training session for about an hour. Thereafter, it was not easy for the kids, to rally with Nadal himself, as he moved them all over the court. But the kids seemed to enjoy every moment with the nine-time Roland Garros winner.

Nadal said that he was looking forward to having Indian kids at his professional academy being set up close to his home in Spain. He was excited about the kids from his academy in Anantpur coming to Delhi to watch the IPTL.

Nadal said that there was no secret to success and it was about having “the right people around you. I had Toni. Without him nothing would have been possible,” said Nadal.

Toni, as humble as his nephew, said that it was Nadal’s work ethic and passion that won him a plethora of tennis titles all over the world.

He can have a better coach; but I am not very expensive: Toni

“He is great, not because I am his coach. Maybe, he can have a better coach. But, I am not that expensive,” joked Toni.

He pointed out that Federer and Djokovic had also won many Grand Slams even when they did not have the coaching support of great players.

“Growing up I had the same dream that every kid has, to play in the French Open, Wimbledon. We have worked hard all our life. We worked with passion for the game,” stressed the former World No.1.

Having weathered tough situations in terms of injuries, Nadal said that it was important to accept the situation, “when you are down”.

Excited to play against Federer: Rafa

Having enjoyed the rivalry against Roger Federer over the years, Nadal said that he was “very excited to play here against him”.

Stating that he enjoyed playing with kids, Nadal said that it was an unforgettable experience for him to play with Carlos Moya during his formative years. Incidentally, Moya, once known as “King Carlos”, was practising on an outer court at the DLTA at the same time, with his team.

Nadal said that 2015 was not the best season for him, but that he was happy with the way he played the last three months and hoped to carry on in the same fashion in the next season.

Eager to play with Sania and Bopanna: Rafa

Expressing his eagerness to play along with the Indian stars Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna, Nadal said that he was enjoying the IPTL after the experience in Manila. He said that Mahesh Bhupathi had done an amazing work with the IPTL and it would be a success for many years as the players were happy with the format and organisation.

The President of the All India Tennis Association (AITA) and the Asian Tennis Federation, and vice president of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Anil Khanna, felicitated Rafael Nadal and Toni Nadal.