Pat Cash says he knew immediately that Rafael Nadal was something special after losing to him when the Spaniard was just 14-years-old.
Cash, a former Wimbledon singles champion, ran into Nadal in a local event in Mallorca just before he retired from tennis.
Nadal, by comparison, had not even turned professional yet, although he would just a year later.
Cash, though, was blown away at Nadal’s level even back then.
“Obviously, he didn’t hit the ball as hard then, but he played with the same intensity, topspin,” Cash recalled.
“I was kind of shocked by it all [smiles]. At the time, I was 38 and was still hitting the ball pretty well.
“He won the first set and the crowd thought it was hilarious. They were roaring for us.
“So we were on the court together, and I started chip-charging, serve and volley, that sort of stuff, and won the second set pretty comfortably, 6-2 I think.
A ten-point tiebreaker was then required to break the deadlock, and Cash got his first glimpse of the now iconic Rafael Nadal intensity.
“99 percent of the kids would have choked and fallen apart,” Cash explained.
“He was just tearing it up everywhere, all over the court, and hit some unbelievable winners.
“I lost that match. I don’t remember what the score was, but it was close. He didn’t get nervous or anything.
“Obviously, he didn’t have anything to lose. But I came into the locker room after, the guys sort of looked at me, just to look at my reaction.
“And my reaction was losing to a 14-year-old and I just sort of looked at them and said, ‘Wow, this kid is something else!’”
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