Prague (AFP) – World tennis number one Rafael Nadal, a fervent poker player since a knee injury sidelined him from his day job in 2012, will play his first live poker tournament next month, organisers said Wednesday.
Nadal will play in a charity tournament in the Czech capital Prague on December 12 — part of the European Poker Tour, to be held from December 8 to 18, said online gaming firm PokerStars, with whom Nadal has an endorsement deal.
“Rafa will play against some of the biggest names on the international professional poker circuit, along with other sporting legends, who will be announced over the coming weeks,” the company said.
So far the Spanish tennis champ has only played in online poker tournaments.
“I have been playing poker online for almost 18 months and now I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing my first live tournament,” Nadal, 27, said in a statement released by PokerStars.
“It’s no secret that I love the competition and that’s what I like about poker,” he said. “It’s a game of skill that requires mental strength and the ability to out-think your opponents and in that way there are similarities to tennis.”
Nadal’s “poker coach”, Alfonso Cardalda, recently told journalists in the Czech Republic his trainee had started out with only a “basic notion” of poker but had made rapid progress thanks to his “competitive spirit”.
Nadal has made a blistering return to tennis from his career-threatening knee injury, winning 10 titles — including the French and US opens — in the past 10 months and closing out the 2013 season in the number one spot.