Rafael Nadal is preparing for the Australian Open but may have had a few sleepless nights before.
No, it’s not because of Novak Djokovic’s pre-tournament visa debacle as their duo will be looking to win their 21st career Grand Slam.
It will be because his beloved Real Madrid will be in action three times by the scheduled end of the Slam.
The famous 35-year-old gets up at all hours of the day and night to make sure he doesn’t miss a game.
There has already been one against arch-rivals Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup final.
Nadal has a connection to both clubs as his uncle Miguel Angel was a Barca hero who won the European Cup with the club in 1992 alongside current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola while he also played with Brazilian legend Ronaldo.
He played over 200 times for the Catalan club, also winning five LaLiga titles during his eight years at Camp Nou.
As a child, the tennis star went to train at the club and his family did not make him forget the time he put on a jersey from the rival club.
He writes in his book My Story: “I often went to see him play, but I especially remember that he took me to the Camp Nou in Barcelona, the biggest in Europe, when I was ten years old, to play with half a dozen members of the first team after the end of their official training session.
“I was wearing a Barcelona shirt that day. It will be a long time before my family stops teasing me about it because, despite the adoration of my uncle Miguel Angel, I have always been and always will be a fan of Real Madrid.
“As everyone knows, Real and Barca are the two fiercest rivals in world football.
“Why am I a real fan? Simple. Because my father is, which gives you the measure of the extent of his influence on me as a person.
Nadal was a talented footballer as a child and he dreamed of becoming a professional.
In his book, he also revealed his efforts to follow Real Madrid games.
He wrote: “Football was my passion as a child, and remains so today. I can go to a tournament in Australia or Bangkok, and if there’s a big Real Madrid game on TV at five o’clock in the morning, I wake up to watch it – even, sometimes, if I have a game later in the day .
“And I will build my training schedule for the day, if need be, around the time of the matches. I am a fanatic.
He continued: “My dream then, like so many boys in Spain, was to be a professional footballer. Although I was also playing competitive tennis, from the age of seven, and doing well, I I was always more nervous before a football game.
“I guess it was because I wasn’t playing for myself; I felt a sense of responsibility towards my teammates.
And it’s clear that the love between Nadal and Real Madrid is mutual as the club congratulated him on winning their latest title in Melbourne last week.
The club posted on Twitter: “Congratulations on your magnificent victory in Melbourne, @Rafael Nadal.
“We are proud that a great Madridista like you and an honorary member of Real Madrid continues to expand his legend with his 89th title.”
Madrid’s biggest star of recent years is Cristiano Ronaldo and their paths have crossed on several occasions.
Nadal has previously said he has huge respect for Ronaldo but wouldn’t go so far as to call him a friend.
“Friend is a very strong word for me,” he said.
“My friends are the little boys from Manacor with whom I grew up.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a compañero, a colleague. I met him several times, I respect him.
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