Rafael Nadal sold out
The 22-time Grand Slam champion’s decision to become an ambassador for Saudi tennis is a blow to his legacy and a reminder of the kingdom’s vice grip over the sports world and its top stars.
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The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was arguably the defining sports rivalry of my youth.
The delicate dance between Nadal's relentless, physically demanding game and Federer's graceful, seemingly effortless finesse painted a mesmerizing canvas on the tennis court. Their epic contests—who can forget the 2008 Wimbledon final—and their mutual respect added layers of narrative complexity and emotional depth, enrapturing fans around the world, and cementing the sport as one of my favourites to watch.
It was also my introduction to sports writing. I crafted match previews and news reports for a meagre $5 an article while I was still in university, and even had the chance to witness both Federer and Nadal in action at various tennis tournaments from my seat in the press box.
While my inner fan has always championed Federer, I held immense respect for Nadal, whether it be for his his warm demeanor, his charitable work, or his commitment to being a role model for future generations–a rare feat among elite athletes.
That all changed this week after 22-time Grand Slam champion agreed to become an ambassador for Saudi Arabia’s state tennis federation.