MANILA, Philippines – Rafael Nadal, currently ranked world no. 5 in tennis, felt the love of Filipino tennis fans who came to see him play in the 2015 International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) on Monday, December 7 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Filipinos loudly cheered and applauded the 29-year-old known as the “King of Clay” from the moment he was introduced at around 4 pm up until he wrapped up a close set against Tomas Berdych in men’s singles at around 7 pm.
“It had been a great afternoon. A lot of the crowd behind me, supporting us,” remarked a smiling Nadal who is in Manila for the first time as part of the Micromax Indian Aces. “I’m just happy to be here in the Philippines for the first time in my life.”
A sizeable crowd inside the arena had trouble keeping silent whenever the ball was in play during Nadal and Berdych’s set as other spectators responded with “sshh." Members of the crowd yelled various cheers and expresions every chance they got.
“Vamos Rafa!” (Come on Rafa!)
“Laban Rafa!” (Fight Rafa!)
“Go papi!” (A term of endearment for an attractive man)
Nadal is feeling the warm welcome so much that he looks forward to making a return trip.
“I’m enjoying, the people are so friendly. I really hope to come back in the future,” he told reporters. “I know I have to visit the islands too and I hope to do it in a couple of years and I hope to be back here to play in Manila soon.”
Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam champion and 2008 Olympic gold medalist, spent his first full day in Manila Sunday conducting a tennis clinic for 60 Filipino youths at Colegio San Agustin in Makati. (WATCH: Rafael Nadal, uncle Toni teach young Filipino to play tennis)
“Always playing with the kids is special,” he remarked of the experience. “I always had a very good connection with kids, I feel very close to them. I love them. Playing with kids is always a very, very special thing.”
Nadal had a second good day in the Philipine capital as he won back-to-back sets in men’s doubles and men’s singles to contribute to the Aces’ 30-18 rout of the OBI UAE Royals. The defending champions solidified their hold of the top spot with an 82 games won to 64 games lost record. – Rappler.com