Coco Gauff pays touching tribute to Rafael Nadal with selected words

Gauff asked about Nadal playing his last season in pro tennis.

by Dzevad Mesic
Coco Gauff pays touching tribute to Rafael Nadal with selected words
© Getty Images Entertainment- Jamie McCarthy

Coco Gauff says she finds it "weird" as a fan to accept that Rafael Nadal and also admits she feels "sad" over the Spaniard's retirement because he has always been one of her favorite players to watch.

Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion who turns 38 in early June, is playing his last season in pro tennis unless he makes a last-minute decision and decides to keep playing beyond 2024. 

Althugh Nadal revealed his retirement plans already in 2023 May, it didn't hit Gauff until this past Madrid Open and seeing the Spanish tennis icon having a little ceremony after losing to Jiri Lehecka in the round-of-16. 

“Yeah, honestly it's very weird for me as a fan to come to terms with just because the majority of my life he's been the Roland Garros winner. Yeah, I mean, I guess it's now hitting," Gauff said in Madrid.

"I think I was in Madrid. It didn't really hit that he was retiring yet. Now when I saw them do the little ceremony after, I was like this is real life, this is for real."

Coco Gauff and Rafael Nadal
Coco Gauff and Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Entertainment - Jamie McCarthy

Gauff: I would literally zone when practicing next to Nadal's court

When addressing Nadal's retirement, 20-year-old Gauff - who is the reigning US Open champion and the third-ranked player in women's tennis - revealed she would zone out when practicing on the court next to Nadal's.

I feel a little bit sad about it because he's definitely one of my favorite players to watch. His mentality and intensity is something I admire. Honestly, he's probably the only player that when I practice on the court next to him, I would literally zone out of my practice to watch him," Gauff added.

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

After revealing that, Gauff underlined she meant no disrespect to other players but just wanted to show how big of a respect and appreciation she had for Nadal.

In the interview, Gauff also applauded the way in which Nadal has carried himself over the years and also revealed that during the 2022 French Open, Nadal tapped her on the back and applauded her on her great run.

Meanwhile, both Gauff and Nadal are set to compete at this week's Rome Open.

Coco Gauff Rafael Nadal