“This Kid Is Something Else”: When Tennis Legend Talked About Losing To A 14-Year Old Rafael Nadal

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The world knows all about the greatness that Spain’s Rafael Nadal has achieved on the court. However, the former Australian great, Pat Cash, had a unique encounter with the King of Clay that very few know about.

As a last-minute replacement for Germany’s Boris Becker, Cash faced the then-junior world champion–14-year-old Nadal. And, the story turned out exactly as one would expect.

In Mallorca, the Australian took his place opposite the ever-energetic Spaniard. On his first thoughts as the match begin, Pat recalled the determination Nadal displayed. Cash told.

“Obviously, he didn’t hit the ball as hard then, but he played with the same intensity, topspin. I was kind of shocked by it all [smiles].”

“I was being nice to Rafael Nadal”: Cash on losing the first set

Rafael Nadal - ATP Finals, London
Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – November 19, 2020, Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his group stage match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

In his journey of 20 Grand Slams, Nadal has always been under the shadow of Roger Federer. But, the Spaniard’s determination is out of the world as he continues to be at the top of his game. Cash didn’t know that then.

“As a young kid his age, it wasn’t as if it was something I couldn’t handle but, the crowd was quite amused when he won the first set against me. I was sort of being nice to him… ‘Okay, no more Mr. Nice Guy because this kid is really good. He’ll beat me if he can’,” said the Australian Pat Cash.

Cash realized that he needed to go beyond ordinary to counter the gritty Spaniard. He geared himself up and was ready for the second set against now World No. 2.

Rafael Nadal at French Open 2020
Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his semi-final match against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Cash won the second set against Nadal comfortably

“He won the first set and the crowd thought it was hilarious. They were roaring for us. So we were on the court together, and I started chip-charging, serve and volley, that sort of stuff, and won the second set pretty comfortably, 6-2 I think.”

The story then moved on to a close 10-point tiebreaker which separated the winner from the loser.

“99 percent of the kids would have choked and fallen apart. He was just tearing it up everywhere, all over the court, and hit some unbelievable winners. At the time, I was 38 and was still hitting the ball pretty well,” explained Cash.

“This kid is something else”: Pat Cash on Rafa Nadal

Over the years, Nadal has snatched many victories from the claws of defeat. That same competitive attitude burns with the same intensity even after 20 years in Nadal.

Cash confessed, “I lost that match. I don’t remember what the score was, but it was close. He didn’t get nervous or anything. Obviously, he didn’t have anything to lose. But I came into the locker room after, the guys sort of looked at me, just to look at my reaction. And my reaction was losing to a 14-year-old and I just sort of looked at them and said, ‘Wow, this kid is something else!’”

Nadal is currently campaigning to win the ATP Finals title, one which he has never won before. He is in the semi-finals after he defeated Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Also Read: “It’s Just Different”: Taylor Fritz Ranks Rafael Nadal Ahead of Peers

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