Rafa hits the clay in Paris and doesn't break a sweat

It's Paris in the springtime. It's a clay tennis court. It's the heralded arrival of Rafael Nadal. But it's not the French Open. It's a poker tournament where the biggest star is the King of Clay.

This past weekend, Rafa warmed up his competition engines with a 200-player PokerStars Zoom tournament with his fans in Paris.

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"It's no secret that I love the competition, and that's what I like about the game of poker. It's a game of skill that requires mental strength and the ability to out think your opponents and in that way it is very similar to tennis." Nadal said. "As I'm in Paris for the Roland Garros tournament, I wanted to be able to have some fun with my fans, and a poker tournament seemed like a great way to do that."

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At 26 years old, Rafa is in the middle of a comeback for the history books. After a seven-month layoff to rehab an injured knee, Rafa has come back to the circuit with his customary fire and grace. He's won several ATP titles in a row, and is now off to a good start at the French Open.

But during his recovery time, Rafa spent a good amount of effort learning to play poker. So, as you'll see in the video below, he knew exactly how to warm up his brain for this week's Grand Slam competition.

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Rafa's poker coach Alfonso Cardalda said, "Rafa's competitive nature means that he needs new challenges and wants to learn new skills, all the time. Taking on his fans in a friendly poker tournament such as this allows him to put into practice the key lessons I have been giving him based on mathematics, discipline, and psychology."

As it is everywhere Rafa goes, the press followed. In a conversation with the Independent, the obvious question came up. How does a tennis player end up playing poker. It comes down to discipline.

As Rafa told the Indpendent, "Poker is like tennis. You can't play crazy because you'll make mistakes."


Rafa in the news

Nadal didn't managed to win the Zoom tourney, but the experience turned out well for winner Kinkin.a.60 and the top 20 finishers who received a PokerStars chip set signed by Rafa.

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All the attention now turns to Roland Garros where Nadal is looking to book another win. He's already won in the first round, defeating German Daniel Brands in four sets.

We will, of course, keep you updated on Rafa's progress through the French Open as he looks to book another Grand Slam win.

Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Rafa Nadal