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Tennis ace Rafael Nadal wishes Tiger Woods healthy return to golf

Rafael Nadal, tennis’ world No. 1, walks 18 holes to see golf legend Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge on Sunday and tells Hindustan Times he doesn’t rule out a strong comeback

other sports Updated: Dec 05, 2017 11:16 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Albany, Bahamas
Rafael Nadal,Tiger Woods,Hero World Challenge Golf
Sam Woods (daughter of Tiger Woods, far left), Charlie Woods (Woods' son, second from left), Erica Herman (third from left) and Rafael Nadal stand on the third hole during the final round of the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany on Sunday.(USA TODAY Sports)

Rarely does anyone have Tiger Woods vying for attention on a golf course. But Sunday here was one of those rare days when Rafael Nadal decided to follow Woods for 18 holes, watching intently as the host of the Hero World Challenge ended his final round at eight-under here. “This is the second time I have done this,” Nadal told Hindustan Times while walking the course as Woods completed his first tournament in 10 months.

“The first time I had done that was in Shanghai. But that is following him live. Whenever I have the time, I have followed him on television,” said tennis’ world No 1 while walking the 184-yard, par-3 17th hole here.

READ | Rickie Fowler wins Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods makes strong comeback

Rafael Nadal was here with his girlfriend Xisca Perello and friends. He had posted pictures of a seaside vacation on Instagram recently without mentioning where he was but the blue-green waters of the Atlantic seemed enough of a giveaway. The visitors’ pass bouncing on his back because Rafael Nadal had worn it the other way, he obliged everyone who wanted a picture, acknowledged greetings in Spanish to all those who shouted out and fistbumped with those who reached out from outside the ropes.

He spoke to a golf channel off the greens and then rushed to catch up with Woods. “Let me do it because I want to see that shot of Tiger,” he told a group seeking to capture for posterity a moment with the tennis legend but only after helping click the groupfie with a left hand significantly longer than that of the rest.

READ | Tiger Woods’ daughter describes dad as the ‘Messi of golf’

Fully expecting to be turned down, Hindustan Times inquired whether he would take a few questions while following Woods. Putting his left arm around your correspondent’s shoulder Rafael Nadal indicated they be fired away.

“I would be no one to tell Tiger what to do but the most important thing is that I wish he stays healthy,” said Nadal when asked what he would make of Woods’ return given that he too has battled a litany of injury worries.

READ | ‘YouTube legend’ Tiger Woods seeks a rewind on comeback trail

“If he is healthy and can train properly and stay motivated, he will make a good return,” said Rafael Nadal seeming to be in no discomfort while speaking in English.

When the conversation shifted to Spain and Portugal being in the same group in the 2018 World Cup finals, Nadal smiled and said: “That’s good. We are neighbours so even in the World Cup we are in the same group. I just hope both go through (to the round of 16).”

And off he went to watch Woods on an elevated green.

First Published: Dec 05, 2017 08:54 IST