ROME – Russian star Maria Sharapova giggled with delight as she revealed how she plucked up the courage to pop the question and got to practice with Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open.
The two former world number ones hit balls together on the red clay of the Foro Italico where they are both multiple winners.
“I saw he was practicing on the court right before me,” explained Sharapova, after advancing to the second round on Tuesday past Australian Ashleigh Barty.
“And I said to my team ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if I just came up to Rafa and said ‘would you hit a couple balls with me?’
“And they’re like, yeah, what’s wrong with that? And I was like, a lot of things. There’s a lot of things wrong with just coming up to Rafa.
“They’re like, no, you should. It’s not like you’re asking him to go on a date. And so I did. He probably thought I was really weird. I think he still thinks I’m really weird.”
The Russian was overjoyed at being able to rally with the 16-time Grand Slam champion, tweeting: “Two minutes on court with the GOAT @RafaelNadal #BucketList Was so nervous.”
In Tuesday’s match played in rainy conditions, five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova needed two and a half hours to master 18th-ranked Barty 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in their first round game.
She next meets Slovak Dominika Cibulkova as she bids to recapture the title she won three times in 2011, 2012 and 2015. (Agence France-Presse)