Rafael Nadal received a surprise visit at his own academy from a Spanish tennis champion who is still playing at the age of 90.
Throughout his career, Nadal has been a source of inspiration to many up-and-coming tennis players and has even set up an academy back home in Manacor for the sole purpose of nurturing young tennis talent. But Nadal's resilience, dedication, and discipline to the sport have also inspired 90-year-old Enrique Ayala.
The veteran won the Over-90 Spanish Championship in June, which was held on the clay courts at the Rafa Nadal Academy. He defeated Manuel Villanueva in straight sets in the final. But disaster struck soon after, as Ayala was diagnosed with Covid-19 following his trip from Mallorca.
He was in critical condition and spent nearly two months in the ICU fighting for his life. As he combated the deadly virus, 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal sent a heart-warming video message to the veteran which Ayala described as having a "great influence" during his recovery process.
Nadal sent his best wishes for a full recovery and also invited him to a meeting at some point, but didn't expect it so fast and at his academy out of the blue. This week, Ayala paid a courtesy call to the academy and Nadal, and both of them appeared in good company.
"In June 2022, Enrique Ayala Hernández was proclaimed Spanish champion of @rfetenis veterans in the + 90 years category at the @rafanadalacademy. Quite an inspiration! After going through a delicate period of health, Enrique has returned to visit us at the academy."
37-year-old Nadal will look to emulate a man who has defied biology and age to remain active in life and sport. Nadal is plotting his comeback from injury at next year's Australian Open and has been intensively practicing in recent weeks.