Rafael Nadal may be arguably tennis’ most fearsome competitor of all time, but he put those instincts aside on Thursday after a panicked mother lost her child in the crowd. Nadal was about to serve during an exhibition match in Mallorca, when the mother’s distressed cries alerted him to the situation in the arena. The 30-year-old paused play until the relieved spectator located her daughter. After signaling to the Spanish tennis great that all was well, Nadal smiled and play resumed.
Nadal was partnering with Swedish former world No. 1 Mats Wilander to take on fellow Mallorca-native Carlos Moya and John McEnroe in an exhibition match to mark the opening of Nadal’s new academy on the island.
The center, in his hometown of Manacor, includes a school where emerging tennis talents can continue their academic studies. Nadal is one of three directors, along with long-time coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, and former Spanish player Carlos Costa. Thursday’s match was a rare chance for Mallorcans to see their island’s most famous son in action.
Nadal has not played since a surprise fourth-round exit from the U.S. Open at the hands of Frenchman Lucas Pouille. Currently ranked at four in the world, he will return to competitive action at next week’s China Open in Beijing.
While he has shown signs of getting back to his best this year, particularly in winning the Masters 1000 title in Monaco, Nadal has again been afflicted with injury. He was forced to pull out of the French Open with a wrist problem, which also kept him out of Wimbledon. He returned to action at the Olympics and made an impressive run to the semifinals in Rio before losing to Juan Martin del Potro.
Nadal’s hopes of securing the title in Beijing have been helped by the withdrawal yesterday through injury of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.