LONDON (Reuters) – Throughout his incredible career it has taken a pretty special opponent to worry Rafa Nadal but the Spanish great met his match in the form of Instagram Live on Monday.
Push the 33-year-old into a corner on a tennis court and he inevitably unleashes a wickedly spinning forehand or backhand to crush the spirit of the guy across the net.
Fans logging on to the social media platform for Nadal’s eagerly-anticipated live chat with Roger Federer saw a very different side of the Mallorcan.
He may have 19 Grand Slam titles, one shy of Federer’s all-time men’s record, but when it comes to IT skills, he resembled a Sunday morning park hacker crumbling under pressure.
With 40,000 viewers logged on, a flummoxed Nadal stared into cyberspace, trying to figure out why the Swiss maestro, isolating at home in Switzerland, refused to appear.
Eventually, to Nadal’s obvious relief, the great man popped up to share a few minutes of chit-chat about how each is dealing with the shutdown of tennis because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Finally!” Nadal said to a chuckling Federer.
While Federer said he has been practising against a wall, when not entertaining his four children, Nadal said he has not struck a ball. “Perfect! You won’t be able to play tennis any more when you come back,” a laughing Federer said.
Swiss Federer said the extended lay-off has meant he has had time to rehab his right knee after surgery in February.
“I’ve got plenty of time, there is no stress, no rush, if there is a positive that’s it,” he said.
After 10 minutes Federer signed off, leaving Nadal wrestling with his technology as he tried to locate Andy Murray, who began the trend of Instagram Live chats last week with Novak Djokovic.
“I think Andy’s hiding, where are you man? ” Nadal said, staring forlornly at his screen.
Murray, who trails Nadal 17-7 in head-to-heads, clearly enjoyed his old adversary’s discomfort when he finally popped up sitting on a large white sofa.
“It was very amusing watching you,” Murray said.
After some pleasantries, the conversation moved on to the forthcoming virtual Madrid Open being contested with joysticks rather than tennis rackets.
While Nadal admits he is an esports novice, Murray said he might have found an early edge.
“I played last night and I played as you,” Murray said. “I played as you against Roger, on clay obviously.
“We, I mean me and you, we were playing unbelievable but after a set your character was unbelievably tired. I thought I had never seen you getting tired after one set before.”
After Nadal then challenged him to a game, Murray said he does not even have his own character on the video game.
“I can’t be myself so I have to choose someone else so maybe I will choose Nick (Kyrgios)!”.
While Nadal said he has sometimes being going to sleep at 2am or 3am during lockdown, Murray said having three young children meant he was tucked up early for the 6am alarm call.
“I hope to be in this situation in not a very long period of time,” Nadal said to which Murray teased “Well now is a good time, now you’re home all the time.”
Earlier, Nadal spoke of how hard the situation had been in Spain but said that he was encouraged that things were beginning to look a little less negative.
Nadal said he has been sending food, hygiene products and educational resources to needy families in Palma.
He also said 85 young tennis players have been confined to his academy in Manacor.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)