In order to inaugurate a replica of his now-famous statue displayed in the Porte d’Auteuil stadium, Rafael Nadal and his entourage played host to Amélie Mauresmo and Gilles Moretton in Manacor. It was an opportunity for the 14-time champion of Roland-Garros to express his fondness for the Parisian Grand Slam and for the directors to join him for a guided tour of his academy.
Rafael Nadal: "Having you here is a very special moment"
We take a look back at the FFT’s visit to the Rafa Nadal Academy, joined by the greatest-ever champion in the history of Roland-Garros.
On Wednesday, the Nadal clan and the French Tennis Federation spent the day together in the Rafa Nadal Academy in Majorca. The encounters and experiences they shared during the day enabled Amélie Mauresmo and Gilles Moretton to see all the work the champion and his team do for the young players in his academy.
“I was really impressed with the facilities that were built, step by step, and the way it was designed for all the populations that are going to come here, all the people that are going to practise or go to school here. It’s really unbelievable,” explained Amélie Mauresmo, director of the Parisian Grand Slam.
“For me, when I walk in the academy, what I see is the spirit and the values and the hard work, and that’s what makes Rafa’s personality that we see on the court. We kind of know who he is, what kind of man he is, it is reflected in his academy… All the kids came in to say hello, they greet each other, they embrace what they have, they encourage each other. For me, that was really something that stood out during the visit today. Of course, great facilities any everything, but the spirit and the values are really good.”
As they looked round the practice courts, the Roland-Garros restaurant and the famous museum, where the many trophies Rafa has won throughout his career are displayed, the directors were highly impressed with the facilities. “I knew that you were a great tennis player, but now I see with all your family, you’ve done a good job, so congratulations for everything, and I will say one word: respect!” said Gilles Moretton.
The aim of the day was also to present the Majorcan with a miniature replica of his sculpture, the original of which is displayed in the Roland-Garros Stadium entrance. “On behalf of the French Tennis Federation, I would like to congratulate you for everything you have done for tennis and everything you’ve done for Roland-Garros. Our names, Roland-Garros and Rafael Nadal, have been closely linked for many years now, and it is my pleasure to give you this trophy, as I know how much you love the original,” the president continued.
The man himself – whose fondness for the tournament is no secret – was particularly touched by this kind gift. “It is a great privilege to welcome you here in my academy. You know how much Roland-Garros and this place mean to me. Having you here is a very special moment, and I can’t thank you enough for coming, along with some of the staff with whom I am very close at Roland-Garros. Thank you so much for sending this replica of the big one at Roland-Garros. For me, it is incredible to have my sculpture at Roland-Garros and now I have one here, and that means a lot! Thank you very much for everything, and I really hope to see you again this year at Roland-Garros, and I’ll try to be competitive [smiles].”
The Spanish player has a long and inspiring relationship with the tournament, and their two names will forever be linked. “The story of Rafa with Roland-Garros is an incredible one, an extraordinary one. I always say it’s one of the most incredible accomplishments in sport, not just in tennis. For us to welcome him every year, and I guess also for Rafa, coming to Roland-Garros is so special. The court, Philippe-Chatrier court, where he feels so good… That’s what we want to see in the relationship that we have, that Roland-Garros has with Rafa. I was talking about the values of his academy, and this is also what we want to have at Roland-Garros: tradition and welcoming people. We are very lucky to have Rafa in the stadium every year. Roland-Garros is Rafa and Rafa is Roland-Garros. The bond is very strong,” concluded Amélie Mauresmo.
The next meeting between Rafael Nadal and the French Tennis Federation is already in this year’s diary: at Roland-Garros.