FEATURE: ‘I was so scared for her’ – The time Rafael Nadal hit a ball girl and kissed it better

Right now, you’d probably be forgiven for thinking that Novak Djokovic was the only player to ever hit someone with a ball, but it can happen to anyone. Just ask Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic was sensationally defaulted form the US Open last month after accidentally striking a line-judge when hitting a spare ball away at the end of a game.

The world number one also hit a line-judge at Roland Garros this week, although this time it was during play and quite rightly faced no recriminations from tournament officials.

The media have been less kind to Djokovic, as so often can be the case, but he’s not the first player to accidentally hit a line-judge.

In fact, he’s not the only one of the ‘big three’ to do it, and he’s not even the only one of them to do it this year.

Let us cast your minds back to the Australian Open in January. That is January this year, by the way, although given everything that has happened in 2020 you’d be forgiven for thinking it was decades ago.

Rafael Nadal was playing a wholly unremarkable second round match at the Australian Open against Argentinian Federico Delbonis. Unremarkable, that is, until the deep in the final set.

It was at that point when Nadal directed an attempted return of serve down the line and directly into a ball girl’s head.

Like Djokovic, it was completely unintentional and, like Djokovic, concern and care was shown immediately to the person unfortunate enough to find themselves in the firing line.

Nadal, who was the world number one at the time, gave the girl a kiss by way of apology, and everyone got on with their lives.

“She’s a super brave girl,” Rafael Nadal told the crowd at the Rod Laver Arena. “For her, probably it was not a good moment.”

“I was so scared for her honestly. The ball was quick, and it was straight on the head.

The young girl, who’s name is Anita, later got to meet Nadal and all was well that ended well.

COLUMN: Novak Djokovic deserves to be defined by his achievements, not his accidents

“I was extremely excited because I had finally gotten to meet my favourite tennis player like really close up,” Anita said after the meeting.

“I can’t believe it. He’s my favourite tennis player so I never expected this at all.

“He asked me if I was okay and we just talked about how he was going.

“It was just so nice to meet him and to talk to him and he gave me this hat that says ‘To my friend Anita, all the best’.”

Fast forward nine (admittedly long) months, and you’d think that what happened to Djokovic this year was some kind of new thing that tennis needs to stamp out in outrage. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and nor is there any reason why it should.

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