A Champion’s Heart: Rafael Nadal’s Time with a Tennis Veteran

Rafael Nadal serves as a remarkable source of inspiration for both budding athletes dreaming of a professional career and seasoned veterans looking to defy age-related limitations.

In June, Enrique Ayala clinched the Over-90 Spanish Championship, triumphing over Manuel Villanueva in the final at the Rafa Nadal Academy.

However, Ayala’s joy soon turned to adversity as he contracted COVID-19 upon returning from Mallorca, resulting in a harrowing two-month battle in the intensive care unit. During this challenging period, Ayala received an unexpected yet uplifting message from none other than Rafa himself.

The video of support played a pivotal role in Ayala’s recovery. Not only did Rafa offer encouragement, but he also extended a heartfelt invitation for a future meeting. This heartwarming encounter became a reality last week at Rafa’s Academy, where, four months after his championship victory, Ayala had the privilege of meeting the legendary athlete in person.

This meeting exemplifies the profound and ageless impact that Rafa has on individuals, proving that he is not just a role model for the young, but also a source of inspiration for the young at heart.

Photos: Rafa Nadal Academy


  1. My heart goes out to Senor Ayala! I’m 84 and just recovering from my first – and hopefully last! – bout with covid. Rafa is an absolutely amazing human person, and his astounding achievements in tennis aren’t even the best part of it! So proud to be his fan. I, too, became his fan while watching the amazing 2008 Wimbledon match. I’m no athlete but I’ve always enjoyed watching competition and I was hungry for some tennis in 2008 so I tuned into the RG final. Great result but hardly competition! So I figured I’d watch Wimbledon. Was startled to learn that Rafa could play on grass so I cheered for him all the way through. Been cheering for him ever since, through the good times and the bad times. Vamos!

  2. I agree with the other comments, he is an extraordinary human being in many ways, he can wear many hats. Hope to see him on court again but only if he is totally healthy.
    I do not want to see him hurting.

  3. Rafa is the epitome of an exceptional human being in every way. It is so heartwarming to see all his wonderful qualities all these years. I have been an accidental fan since he beat Roger at Wimbledon in 2008. I don’t watch sports much, and I saw him on TV at a friend’s house in 2008 and it was just mind boggling. I have been an avid fan since. Miss him a lot.

    • Me too😉 I have been a Big fan since watching that same match back in 2008… I still remember I turned on the TV in the middle of that final.😳💪👏🏆🤩😍

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