It’s a little past 8pm in Barcelona, and Rafael Nadal is fresh off of a hard day’s work of training for the Barcelona Open. Later he’ll be all business as he defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas in nail-biting, match point fashion but he’s currently in a chipper mood. From his hotel room, Nadal hops on our Zoom call rocking a clean white tee with a pink sports cap — and says a warm hello before we chat about his his wardrobe choices, newest collaborative initiative, and more.
“I love to play in bright and happy colors because I feel that it matches both my passion and my personality on the tennis court.”
Our chinwag kicks off by us speaking on his personal style. As many avid tennis watchers can confirm, the Spanish athlete’s on-court swag goes just as hard as his topspin groundstrokes. Whether he’s conquering the clay at Roland Garros or gracing the grass at Wimbledon, you can almost always count on him to be rocking vibrant apparel and sneakers as well as a color-coordinating headband. On top of that, he’s also known to have his wrist game on point as he’s often seen strapped up with a luxury timepiece during matches. “I love to play in bright and happy colors because I feel that it matches both my passion and my personality on the tennis court”, the “King of Clay” says when talking about his wardrobe choices. “During my days growing up, I always looked up to my current coach Carlos Moyá for style inspiration, especially because he’s from the same island as me.”
This vivid and playful fashion sense is also translated onto his latest charity-focused initiative: a collaborative tennis bag that’s made in partnership with Kia and Babolat, both of which have had a relationship with Nadal since the start of his career. There’s an extra layer too, as the children of the Rafael Nadal Foundation have been tapped to assist with its design. Only a mere 100 pieces have been produced worldwide, many of which will be gifted to fans, friends and the kids of the Rafael Nadal Academy — but one will be auctioned off to raise funds for the Rafael Nadal Foundation.
In order to make the project as authentic as possible, the colorful tennis-inspired drawings that the Nadal Foundation’s kids adorned the bag with were left unchanged. Printed across the item’s lower half is a collage of their movement-inspired artwork which ranges from rackets to Spain’s flag to palm trees and more. “It’s great that two of my partners, who have supported me since the start of my career, are able to come together and create this beautiful bag,” said Nadal,. “My foundation is a big part of my life and for the children to have played such an important role in the design is fantastic. I was happy to hear the children had so much fun with their drawings and the opportunity to have their designs featured on this bag.”
“For the last 50 years we’ve been damaging our planet and it’s important that we protect it. Working with sustainable materials is something that I am with 100%, especially because I really care for the ocean and I just want this planet to stay as beautiful as possible.”
Sustainability is also an element that “Spain’s Raging Bull” holds close to his heart. So when it came down to engineering this new handmade product, he made it a point to have his design team construct it with eco-friendly leather. “For the last 50 years we’ve been damaging our planet and it’s important that we protect it. Working with sustainable materials is something that I am with 100%, especially because I really care for the ocean and I just want this planet to stay as beautiful as possible.”
Just before the Mallorca native and I part ways, we spend a few minutes chatting about how his illustrious career was affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. For someone who is in the latter stage of his professional playing days but is still in peak form, one can only imagine how it must have felt to have your entire athletic career come to an abrupt halt. No more matches. No more traveling across the globe. Nadal puts the feeling into context by saying, “The first few months were extremely tough because we had never seen anything like this before, and because of all of the confusion and fear we were worried about people like our grandparents. Everything that you were reading or seeing on TV was negative, and that was a really tough situation for me.” He would later go on to explain that it was the quality time spent with his wife and the daily training regimens that he created for himself that helped him muscle through the lengthy quarantine period.
Nadal has nothing left to prove in his career, and the 87 titles that he’s racked up is a true reflection of that. However, he still feels like he’s got plenty more to accomplish. Tennis will always be the main cornerstone of his life, but now he’s looking to impact the world beyond the court lines by being a role model to his fans as well as taking part in more philanthropic and sustainable efforts. This latest bag team-up is a small piece of that as it not only commemorates Nadal’s personality and originality, but drives awareness to his Foundation and its ongoing efforts to help drive the next generation forward.