Rafael Nadal has melted the hearts of tennis fans after meeting and posing for a picture with a ball girl he accidentally hit with a stray shot earlier on the week.
The Spanish star was widely praised for his classy move in checking on 13-year-old Anita Birchall in the dying stages of his second round win over Federico Delbonis.
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A searing forehand winner from Nadal crashed into the teenager’s head, and Nadal provided one of the moments of the tournament when he planted a kiss on her cheek after checking to see she was alright.
Clearly not content with their on-court interaction, Nadal later posted a picture of the pair on Instagram, after meeting up with Anita and her family off the court after his match.
“Very happy to see that Anita is doing well,” Nadal wrote on Instagram.
“I also had the chance to meet her, her brother Mark and parents. Thank you.”
Nadal gifted Anita a signed hat, with the teenager interviewed by broadcaster Channel 9 a short time after meeting him.
She said Nadal was her favourite player, and that she hadn’t been expecting someone of his stature to check on her after she was struck.
“I just got to have an interview with Rafael Nadal. It was amazing,” Anita said.
“I can’t believe it. He’s my favourite tennis player so I never expected this at all.
“He asked me if I was OK. And he talked about how he is going.
Heartwarming! 🥰️— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 24, 2020
We caught up with Anita, the ball-kid struck by a stray Rafael Nadal shot last night. His reaction and kindness leaving the tennis world in awe.
Stream: https://t.co/XV4witV3Uk#9WWOS #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/s8ndgOuu1n
“It was just so nice to meet him and to talk to him. And he gave me this hat which says, ‘To my friend Anita. All the best’.
“I was touched by his kindness because most tennis players, if you got hit, they’d ask if you were OK, but they wouldn’t interact with you as much. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
Nadal praises ball girl after ‘scary’ moment
Nadal said seeing Anita be hit by the vicious forehand was one of the most ‘scary’ moments he’d had on court.
He wanted to check on her knowing how hard he had hit that particular winner.
“Well for her, was probably not a good moment. I was scared for her, honestly,” he said.
“The ball was quick and straight on her so she is a super brave girl.
“Honestly, it was one of the more scary moments I have had on the tennis court. I am very happy that she is good.”