Rafael Nadal’s capacity to delight fans from any generation was in the spotlight again this week. An idol to young hopefuls, a mirror for adults and an example to even the oldest of players, the Spaniard is a sporting icon whose fanbase spans every age group.
Nadal welcomed a very special fan to the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar this week. Ukrainian player Leonid Stanislavskyi, 97 years of age, holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest player in the world with an International Tennis Federation (ITF) licence. He was delighted to meet the Mallorcan ex-world No. 1.
The two spoke together, exchanged greetings and knocked up on court, in a demonstration of the connections that can be made while playing. It was an unforgettable day for Leonid, who professes an eternal love for the game of tennis.
As a result of his passion for the sport, Stanislavskyi, who has been competing in amateur tennis for over half a century, sent a letter to the ITF a few months ago asking them to create a new veteran category for players in his age range. For the first time, the ITF introduced a new category for over-90s at the ITF Super Senior World Championships.
Born on 22 March 1924, Leonid has been able to witness many generations of tennis. From the amateur period, through the start of the Open Era in 1968, to the professional tennis of today, he has followed the careers of the great legends of the sport. His excitement at meeting Nadal in person was a crowning moment in his story.
During his visit, Leonid took the opportunity to see the Rafa Nadal Museum, where he was able to take a close look at the trophies won by the Spaniard during his legendary career. There, among all his other prestigious silverware, his current haul of 20 Grand Slam titles and 36 ATP Masters 1000 trophies can be found.
After a left-foot injury brought his 2021 season to a close, Nadal is continuing to work on his recovery. The Balearic Islander won two titles this year, taking the spoils at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, where he extended his record to 12 titles, and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he reached the magical figure of 10 cups.