July 16, 2024
Rafael Nadal

Jiri Lehecka weighed in after Pedro Cachin’s request to Rafael Nadal sparked a divide.
The tennis world has been divided after one of Rafael Nadal’s opponents asked the Spaniard for his shirt as a memento. Pedro Cachin pushed the five-time Madrid Open champion in a tight three-setter on Monday and made the request at the net during the handshake. But Nadal’s conqueror Jiri Lehecka thought it was “weird” and “the last thing he would like to do”.

Nadal survived a scare against Cachin earlier in the tournament, overcoming a second-set wobble to come through 6-1 6-7(5) 6-3 in what turned out to be his final match win at the Madrid Open, as he crashed out in the next round. After the match, the world No. 91 took the opportunity to ask Nadal for a souvenir.

“You made my dreams come true. I don’t know if you can but can I have a shirt or something of yours?” Cachin asked. The 22-time Grand Slam champion was happy to oblige and approached his opponent’s bench, handing him one of his match shirts. While some thought the moment was heartwarming, it caused a storm between other players and tennis fans.

Some criticised Cachin for asking at the net, while others pointed out that the Argentine still gave it his all in the match and pushed Nadal to the edge. Nadal’s latest opponent has now weighed in after beating him on Tuesday night in what was the Spaniard’s last match in Madrid, claiming it was “weird” to be thinking about that while playing a match.

Pedro Cachin asked Rafael Nadal for his shirt after losing to him in three sets (Image: Tennis TV)

Lehecka downed Nadal 7-5 6-4 in a close two-setter and was later asked about Cachin’s decision and whether he too was tempted to ask for something to remind him of playing a part in Nadal’s Madrid farewell. “I don’t know. Maybe, I don’t know, it’s tough for me to say, because I went on the court to win, you know,” the world No. 31 said.

“When you go on the court and you go there for the win, then it’s tough for me to run after him and to ask him for some things, you know, if he can give me something. Because I don’t really know, I don’t want to sound disrespectful something, that’s the last thing I would like to, but if you are playing a match and you are thinking about asking the guy to give you something, then, I mean, why you are there?

“It’s kind of weird, in my opinion. I mean, everyone can have his own opinion on this thing. I totally respect what Pedro did. It’s absolutely fine for me. I have zero problem with it. But for me I would not do such a thing.”

Jiri Lehecka defeated Rafael Nadal in what was the Spaniard’s last match in Madrid (Image: Getty)

However, Lehecka didn’t rule out the idea of asking Nadal for something later down the line, having requested a photo with the former world No. 1 when they practised together ahead of the tournament. He continued: “I would do this maybe after the whole tournament, after, I don’t know, when I see him somewhere, just asking for a photo like I did after our practice.

“This is what I did, because of course I didn’t know if I would have a chance to play with him again or if we would play a match together. That’s why I asked Rafa to take a picture with me after our practice earlier this week. But if we are speaking about him giving me a T-shirt, I mean, I don’t know, I just don’t go into a match with these kind of intentions, and I just have different approach in this thing.”

Madison Keys – who came back from a set down to beat Ons Jabeur on Tuesday – also revealed that she had never felt compelled to ask her rivals for something to keep. “I don’t know if I have ever wanted to take a souvenir, but there have been moments where in the moment I was, like, Wow, I wish I could bottle this moment so I could revisit it,” she explained.

“I think that one moment for me that really stands out is when I played Serena on Labor Day Weekend on Ashe, and it was packed, and it was the year she was going for all four. So everyone was there. It was honestly the coolest experience to be able to walk out. Obviously I lost, which kind of sucked, but I mean, just that moment is something that I think will always forever be one of my favourite tennis memories.”

Meanwhile, world No. 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek happily admitted that she would have done the same as Cachin if she ever got to face Nadal. “Hmm. Not really,” she said when asked if she ever wished she kept anything from a match. “But if I would play against Rafa, for sure I would ask for a T-shirt. But that’s not possible.”

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