Rafael Nadal is melting hearts around the tennis world again after a photo emerged of his incredible behind the scenes catch-up with the ball girl accidentally struck by a stray ball on Thursday night.
The Spanish champion showed his reputation as an athlete of absolute class runs right to his core when he produced a touching moment during the third set of his second round win over Federico Delbonis.
A blistering forehand from the Spaniard flew down the line and scarily crashed into the head of a ballgirl standing near the umpire’s chair.
The crowd shrieked as Nadal rushed over to check on the wellbeing of the youngster.
As he consoled the ballgirl he planted a kiss on her cheek to the delight of the crowd.
Nadal even planted a friendly kiss on the girl’s cheek which was met with wild approval from the crowd inside Rod Laver Arena.
The 34-year-old showed his classy concern for the ball girl was much more than a cheap gimmick when he sought her out at Melbourne Park during his day off on Friday, before his third round match on Saturday.
Nadal posted a photo on Instagram of him and the ball girl, whose name was later revealed to be 13-year-old Victorian Anita Birchall.
“Very happy to see that Anita is doing well,” Nadal wrote in an Instagram caption.
“I also had the chance to meet her, her brother Mark and parents. Thank you.”
Channel 9 cameras were there to see the moment Nadal met the family and revealed Nadal had even handed over a special gift to his new friend.
“I just got to have an interview with Rafael Nadal. It was amazing,” Anita said.
“No, I can’t believe it. He’s my favourite tennis player so I never expected this at all.”
She said the concern Nadal showed was heartwarming.
“He asked me if I was OK. And he talked about how he is going,” she said.
“It was just so nice to meet him and to talk to him. And he gave me this hat which says, ‘To my friend Anita. All the best’.”
Channel 9’s Clint Stanaway then said: “You’re besties”.
Anita responded: “Yep. It seems like it.
“I was touched by his kindness because most tennis players, if you got hit, they’d ask if you were OK, but they wouldn’t interact with you as much. I didn’t expect that to happen.
Nadal said after the match he was scared for her after seeing the stray ball strike her.
“Well for her, was probably not a good moment. I was scared for her, honestly. The ball was quick and straight on her so she is a super brave girl,” Nadal said.
“Honestly, it was one of the more scary moments I have had on the tennis court. I am very happy that she is good.”
Fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta now awaits Nadal in the last 32 before a potential mouth-watering fourth-round meeting with local hope Nick Kyrgios.
The duo have long-butted heads and Kyrgios may have stoked the flames of their discontent by mimicking Nadal’s serve during his second-round win over French journeyman Gilles Simon.
“I really don’t care,” Nadal tersely told a journalist when informed of Kyrgios’ impression.
“I am here to play tennis. Honestly, I don’t care at all. If was funny, good.”
Even playing against an increasingly popular Kyrgios on his home court, it is impossible to think anybody would be cheering against Nadal for the rest of the tournament after his true class was revealed in his gesture to ball girl Anita and her family.
Source: The Daily Telegraph
Photos: EFE; The Daily Telegraph
Rafael Nadal via Instagram:
"Very happy to see that Anita is doing well. I also had the chance to meet her, her brother Mark and parents. Thank you "