ASTANA – Much excitement was generated by the Sept. 24 arrival in Astana of world famous Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal and his playing partner French athlete Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The two players held a press conference, spoke to students at Nazarbayev University and seemed surprised by the level of attention they received. They also met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is an avid tennis player himself.
“This is a great event for beginning Kazakh athletes. You gave them the opportunity to play with you, which is a significant incentive for them. You also could see our country and visit iconic objects of the capital,” the President told the players, noting that despite Kazakhstan’s lack of a tennis history, much work has been done to develop the sport.
“For example, I started playing tennis after I was 40 years old. Today, across the country, in all regions, tennis centres are being constructed, and the work on its promotion is underway. Of course, we cannot yet be compared with Spain, but eventually we will be able to prepare our worthy athletes,” Nazarbayev said.
In turn, the two tennis players thanked the President for his invitation, noting that it was a great honour for them to come to Kazakhstan. They expressed the hope that their visit and match will raise interest in tennis in Kazakhstan. At the end of the meeting, Nadal presented his racket to Nazarbayev.
The players then played with young Kazakh tennis players Zhangir Almashev and Danil Ozerny before holding an exhibition match. Nadal won the match 6-7 (3-6), 6-3, 6-4.