The Rafa Nadal Academy comlex in Kuwait
The Rafa Nadal Academy comlex in Kuwait Image Credit: Supplied

Kuwait City: Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal would one day like to see a youngster from the Gulf region scale to the highest level of tennis in the world.

“The very purpose of opening our first-ever academy outside of Spain is to ensure we can reach this goal of possibly having a young tennis player from this region,” Nadal told a select group of media after an exhibition match against countryman David Ferrer at the official opening of his Rafa Nadal Academy at the brand-new Shaikh Jaber Al Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah International Tennis Complex, on Wednesday.

“There’s no doubt that we have a huge responsibility towards them. Wherever we go there are kids watching us and wanting to be like us. We can do no wrong.”

The main arena at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Kuwait
The main arena at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Kuwait Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

The 19-time Grand Slam champion defeated former top-ranking ATP player Ferrer 6-4, 6-3 in an exciting display of tennis before a sold-out 1,500-seat outdoor court in the ‘Champions Challenge’ that marked the opening of the new academy.

The Rafa Nadal Academy Kuwait is the second such facility bearing the name of the global tennis icon and the first academy outside the superstar’s hometown in Mallorca, Spain. One of the country’s pioneering public-private partnership projects, this is the biggest sports initiative in value and size under the Kuwait Public Authority for Sport.

Nadal arrives at his academy
Nadal arrives at his academy Image Credit: Supplied

The venue consists of seven indoor courts, another nine outdoor courts alongside a sprawling 5,000-seater multi-sport arena along with a shopping mall and hotel. In addition, there is a yoga studio, two squash courts, a paddle tennis court, a merchandise store, a museum housing Rafael Nadal’s trophies among other stuff, a media lounge and a separate lounge for members, offices of the Kuwait Tennis Federation (KTF), a 25-metre swimming pool and separate TechnoGym fitness centres for men and women.

The courts boast of the latest world-class technology throughout, from the ‘ProCushion’ acrylic international standard surfaces to the advanced soundproofing method. Two of Nadal’s coaches have been stationed in Kuwait since the past three months, driving home life’s lessons that the Spaniard holds close to his heart — tennis training, physical training, mental training, good nutrition and competition.

The academy logo in Kuwait
The academy logo in Kuwait Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

“It is important to use sport as a way to grow our young people with values of life. When you are in a sport you are with good people and good atmosphere. I really believe that with all these facilities like the shopping mall, cinemas and other entertainment, this can be a great place to have kids play tennis and at the same time enjoy and have fun while being educated in what life has to offer,” Nadal said.

“For the moment, the main thing for us is to have a lot of youngsters playing tennis here. The more players we have on court, the more are the chances of discovering a new and big talent in this region. We are here to help to achieve this dream,” Nadal said.

The very purpose of opening our first-ever academy outside of Spain is to ensure we can reach this goal of possibly having a young tennis player from this region

- Rafael Nadal

Not one to shun away from responsibility, the 19-time Grand Slam champion promised his full involvement with his latest project. “I have my people here and I will try to come whenever I have the opportunity to do so. I have my [tennis] calendar and that makes things difficult, but I will find a way to try and come here as often as I can,” he added.

“My expectations for this place are very clear: I am here to help the region and Kuwait in particular while encouraging the young generation to play tennis and promote our sports all around. I want to create the right team to help these young players to become the best they can be and contribute to sport and to society.”

WHY KUWAIT?

One of Spain’s greatest tennis exponent was quick to explain why he chose Kuwait as a destination for his Rafa Nadal Academy – only the second such facility bearing his name.

“We were looking for a place in the Middle East, and we were able to find and connect with the best partner possible in the Tamdeen Group. We felt all their support and when the chairman [Mohammad Jassim Khalid Al Marzouq] visited us in Mallorca, we somehow connected at the personal and professional levels. For us, it was important to see this class and a personal relationship with him. We felt confident that with this association we can set this up in Kuwait to become a meeting point for this country and their neighbours,” Nadal told media after opening the academy on Wednesday.

Located in Manacor, Mallorca - the hometown of Nadal - the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar opened its doors in 2016 for young tennis players to train with the tennis champion’s five-point methodology: tennis training, physical training, mental training, nutrition, and competition. The methodology aims to combine tennis with education in order to develop not only good tennis players, but great individuals who can contribute in society.

“I enjoyed a lot and it has been great being here. It has been a big night and a special moment for all, especially for tennis. It is really great to be able to have a huge opening here, and hopefully, we can achieve great things together,” he smiled.