Abdullah Shelbayh reveals Rafael Nadal applauded his first Challenger title but also told him that he "could not be content with just one result" and that he must continue putting in hard work daily. Shelbayh, 20, trains at Nadal's academy so he has kind of been taken under the Spaniard's wing.
After winning three Futures titles last year, Shelbayh won his first Challenger title in Charleston in late October and early November. Now, Shelbayh is also enjoying a career-high ranking of No 185 in the world. Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, had an important message he wanted to share with the Jordanian after his big day.
Shelbayh reveals Nadal's message
“He told me it was a big step in my career, and that I had to enjoy myself and not be content. He told me that I couldn’t be content with just one result because everyone is trying to improve at the same time, so you have to keep going with what you’ve been building.
That doesn’t mean that you’re going to win all the big tournaments, but you have to keep up the good work and not let the important moments that will help you achieve your goal pass you by. It was very special to hear those words from someone like him, who has been my idol since I started to play tennis," Shelbayh told the ATP website, via the Next Gen ATP Finals website.
Meanwhile, Shelbayh kicked off his Next Gen ATP Finals debut in Jeddah on Tuesday. In his first match, Shelbayh suffered a four-set defeat as Luca van Assche beat the Jordanian 4-3 (5) 3-4 (5) 4-1 4-1. After losing a tight first set, Shelbayh bounced back by winning a tight second set and tying the match to one set apiece.
But Shelbayh failed to keep up the same level of play in the third set as van Assche went up by two sets to one after breaking the Jordanian in the first and fifth games. In the fourth set, Shelbayh started with a break in the opening game but van Assche responded by winning the next four games and completing a four-set win in style.