Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nadal in tears during homage to Ballesteros

Sunday, May 8, 2011

MADRID ? Rafael Nadal wiped away tears shed for Seve Ballesteros after reaching the Madrid Open final, saying his win over Roger Federer on Saturday was too inconsequential to dedicate to the golf great he describes as a Spanish sporting pioneer.

Before his semifinal match against Federer, the top-ranked Nadal watched the video screen showing images of Ballesteros' career. Nadal's eyes welled up and he brushed away tears before the start of the match.

Nadal, sporting a black ribbon on his bright yellow shirt in memory of Ballesteros, went on to win 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 to reach his third straight Madrid final.

Ballesteros, a five-time major champion who won a record 50 European Tour tournaments, has been a major figure in contributing to Spain's sporting achievement, as noted by the 24-year-old Nadal.

"It's a sad day in general for Spain, for the world of sport. He was one of the best athletes that this country has ever had — he was a pioneer," said Nadal, who has won nine Grand Slams himself. "This win is much too small to dedicate to Seve —he's one of the greatest players in the history of our sport."

Nadal had been in contact with Ballesteros' brother on Friday who informed him the former Ryder Cup star was in very bad shape.

"This morning the first thing I did was to turn on TV, and the first thing I saw was that he had died. It's a day of sadness — when you wake up with news like that you face your day differently," Nadal said. "It is a loss that we'll never get back due to all the values that Seve had. But luckily we have all of his videos and also we can remember him.

"Luckily one day I had the chance of playing 18 holes with him and it's an unforgettable memory."

Former Spanish tennis great Manolo Santana was also in tears as he watched from court side at the Caja Magica. Santana, a four-time major winner, and Ballesteros were arguably Spain's first international sports stars.

"We had something in common in that we made minority sports popular, which was key in Spanish sport," Santana said. "Once we played a round of golf and he gave me a beating. But, of course, if we had played tennis I would have been the one handing out the thrashing."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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