'Cannot let them down': Rafael Nadal's staggering act amid coronavirus crisis

Rafael Nadal in action at the Australian Open. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

Spanish sports stars Rafael Nadal and Pau Gasol have launched a fund-raising drive explaining they wanted to give something back to the coronavirus hit nation that nurtured them to greatness.

Tennis ace Nadal and NBA hero Gasol have targeted raising 11 million euros ($20 million) in the nation that has suffered the second-highest total of coronavirus deaths.

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“The Spanish people have never let us athletes down. We are what we are because of them,” said Nadal, a 19-time Grand Slam winner.

“We cannot let them down now,” said the World No.2 tennis player.

Nadal said he came up with the idea and called his fellow Spaniard and friend Gasol to help promote his drive.

More than 4000 people have died from coronavirus in Spain.

“Spanish athletes have always tried to make our nation proud, today we want to go beyond that,” said Gasol, a double NBA champion.

“We want to raise 11 million euros and help 1.34 million people, those hardest hit by coronavirus,” the 39-year-old centre said.

“My contribution and Rafa's too have already been made and I hope the whole of Spanish sport will rally behind us,” he said.

Rafael Nadal, Usain Bolt and Pau Gasol after the French Open in 2013. (Photo by Christophe Saidi/FFT/ Pool/Getty Images)

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Among the first to react was World Cup winning goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

“It's the time for Spanish sport and it's up to us to do our part,” he tweeted. “I have already contributed.”

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui, a former Spain manager, posted his support on Nadal's Instagram account.

“I hope all athletes will join this initiative and we can return, even if in a small amount, all that support that we have all enjoyed in our careers.”