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A new challenge for Nadal

Written by Ben Blaschke

With the US Open tennis starting tonight and the promise of a memorable race to the men’s title between Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and reigning champion Andy Murray, we noted with interest news released by online poker site PokerStars over the weekend that Nadal will play his first live poker tournament in December when the European Poker Tour (EPT) heads to Prague.

The world No.2 attracted headlines when he became one of PokerStars’ sponsored pros earlier this year – a clear attempt to lure a new wave of fresh-faced players to the online site that might otherwise have never heard of it. Although they have sponsored other sports stars before including Boris Becker, Dutch hockey star Fatima Moreira de Melo and Swedish cross-country skier Marcus Hellner, none of these have the global pulling power of Nadal.

It will be interesting to see how Nadal goes. He made it quite clear when he joined PokerStars that he had very little idea how to even play the game – itself highlighting the site’s clever strategy in getting him on board – and has been working hard to improve his game ever since. A chronic knee injury that has seen him spend plenty of time on the sidelines over the past 12 months has no doubt helped in those pursuits.

All things considered, we expect Nadal to go much deeper over the coming fortnight in New York than he will in Prague but wouldn’t it be great to see him do something unexpected when he finally hits the tables? Poker has copped a rough time of it in the media the past few years – some of it warranted, much of it not – so we’d warmly welcome the sort of good news story Nadal could provide.