Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud have completed the first chapter of their South American exhibition tour. In the first match, held in Argentina's capital city of Buenos Aires, the Spaniard prevailed over Ruud with a strong 7-6(8), 6-2 performance.
Apart from some high-quality tennis that the two players produced over two sets, the world saw Nadal hit a unique shot too. In the ultimate game of the match, he jumped in the air to put all his energy into a down-the-line forehand winner and end a rally that lasted just seven shots.
Ruud could only watch the ball come back at lightning speed.
Nadal's fearsome shot left the fans in the stadium and those watching on television spellbound. Many wished that the legendary player had used the shot in tournaments like the 2022 US Open and the recently-concluded Nitto ATP Finals, while others just lauded him for his exceptional skills.
"When I tell u his tennis makes me feel more human emotions than anything else, I really mean it," a fan tweeted.
"If Rafa had hit more of these against Tiafoe at USO 2022, we would have been sitting at 23 instead of 22," another user wrote.
"Um, he was airborne. How? Just where does that speed come from?" one tweet read.
Here are a few more fan reactions:
After the singles match, former Argentina players Gabriela Sabatini and Gisela Dulko joined the duo for a single-set doubles contest. That match was won by Nadal and Sabatini as they defeated Ruud and Dulko 6-4.
David Nalbandian, who retired as a professional tennis player in 2013, was also in attendance.
Looking back at Rafael Nadal's 2022 season
After ending 2021 without adding to his 20 Grand Slam titles, Rafael Nadal bounced back strongly to take the first two Majors of 2022 — the Australian and French Open. He also pocketed ATP 500 and 250 titles in Mexico's Acapulco and Australia's Melbourne cities.
The Spaniard dealt with numerous injuries (a long-term foot problem, a rib fracture, and an abdominal muscle tear) throughout the season. He ended the year ranked World No. 2, with 39 wins and eight losses.
In a press conference after his last match at the ATP Finals, the 36-year-old stated that he was satisfied with his performance and was ready for next season.
“I can’t ask for more. Two Grand Slams and finishing the year in a high spot in the rankings. So, I can’t complain at all," he said, adding, "At my age, to be able to achieve and be competitive means a lot to me. For 2023, just let’s try to have the right preparation, work the proper way, and start the season with the right energy, the right attitude, to reach the level that I need to be competitive from the beginning. Let’s try it, I am excited about it.”