‘An honour and a pleasure’ – Rafael Nadal humbled to inspire Australian Open junior star
Rafael Nadal briefly met with inspirational junior player Meshkatolzahra Safi following her groundbreaking heroics in the Australian Open girls’ singles.
By defeating Australian qualifier Anja Nayar in the Australian Open first round, Safi, 17, became the first Iranian woman to win a junior Grand Slam match.
As a result, the Middle-Eastern teen has quickly become a poster girl for the development of the sport in non-traditional tennis countries.
Soon after, Safi revealed the inspiration that 20-time Slam champion Nadal has played in her journey to become a top player in her own right.
“I remember the day I was watching television with my mother and we were watching Rafael Nadal,” she said.
“We were so curious to see if there is any tennis court in Iran that we could go to just try.”
Now, Nadal has described his experience of meeting Safi while at the Australian Open.
“I was in the corridor and somebody from the tournament just introduced me to her and explained to me a little bit her history,” Nadal told The National
“For me it was a pleasure to know more about her, I think it’s amazing, her story.
“[It’s] super special to see players from different parts of the world, especially parts of the world that historically never had players on the tour.
“I think it’s fantastic to see a player from Iran that now is in the juniors and she already won a match.
“It’s a great story and it really was a pleasure to meet her.”
Addressing the fact that Safi pointed to Nadal in particular as a big inspiration to her, the Spaniard had the following to say.
“For me, it’s something special.
“If I am able to inspire anyone to help them to make positive decisions in their lives, it’s something that I am very proud of.
“In this particular case, if that helped her to try to play tennis and now she is where she is, it’s a big honour for me and I’m super happy for that.”
Safi, 74th in the ITF junior rankings, lost in the second round to eighth seed Sofia Costoulas of Belgium, who went on to oust top seed Diana Shnaider of Russia in the quarter-finals and will fight for a place in the girls’ final on Friday 28th January.
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