19-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal is one of the fiercest competitors tennis has ever seen. The Spaniard has won a record 12 French Open titles in his career, on the back of his never-say-die attitude and relentless playing style.
Having earned countless other accolades and the utmost respect of his peers, Nadal has one of the most enviable resumes in tennis history. And off the court too, Nadal is always grounded and courteous. The World No. 2 is incredibly modest whether he wins or loses, a mindset that was inculcated in him right from childhood.
These attributes have helped the Spaniard attract millions of fans all around the world. And one such fan is women's tennis pioneer Kristy Pigeon.
The 70-year-old was one of nine female tennis stars who defied the authorities in 1970 and went on to form the women's tour. The "Original 9", as they were known, signed $1 contracts with manager Gladys Heldman, laying the foundations for the women's game.
Pigeon recently spoke with the WTA site and was full of praise for Nadal.
The video posted by the Twitter handle of WTA showed Pigeon tackle some fun trivia questions. When asked about which tennis player she would like to play mixed doubles with, Pigeon was quick with her reply:
"I will be playing mixed doubles with Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer and Billie Jean King. And we would cream them."
While Pigeon chose Nadal as doubles partner, she chose an even better team for her and Nadal to be pitted against.
Roger Federer and Billie Jean King both have been visionaries of their respective tours. They have popularized the men's and women's game respectively through their remarkable tennis and immense marketability, and they continue to do their bit even beyond their prime.
Rafael Nadal is like a gentle giant: Kristy Pigeon
Asked about her favorite men's tennis player, the 70-year-old responded with Rafael Nadal's name once more. Pigeon also spoke about the contrast in the Spaniard's behavior on and off the court.
"My favorite player to watch is Rafael Nadal, I like watching Nadal because he is cute as a button and never gives up. He fights every point. He is just like a gentle giant almost, for he's sweet and nice off the court but a killer on the court," Pigeon said.
She also stated that she liked watching Serena Williams as far as women's tennis was concerned, but for completely different reasons. Pigeon said she finds it 'intriguing' to watch Williams in losing situations, just to gauge how a player is beating the 23-time Grand Slam champion.