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TennisBalls In Atlanta • Rafa Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov Play For Friendly Fundraiser

By Ricky Dimon

It may not be exhibition season in tennis, but Rafael Nadal is still finding for those efforts.

In February, Nadal teamed up with Roger Federer to raise money for Federer’s foundation at an exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa. It broke the all-time record for highest attendance at a single tennis match, drawing 51,954 fans. One month later, Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov put on an exhibition in Atlanta, Ga. to raise money for Nadal’s foundation.

The Rafa Nadal foundation “aims to help with the sport to disadvantaged children who are in risk of being excluded from society.” Among its projects are the opening of 24 centers and schools throughout Spain and India.

“The initiative right now to play in front of you guys for such a great cause, that shows how good of a heart (he has) and how kind he is,” Dimitrov said of Nadal. “It goes way beyond tennis.”

As for Monday’s on-court exploits, Nadal beat Dimitrov 7-5, 6-3 in a competitive but also light-hearted contest. They played most points at or close to 100 percent while at other times mixing in extended slice rallies or attempting low-percentage trick shots.

Early in the second set, Duke men’s tennis head coach Ramsey Smith played a point for Dimitrov and surprised Nadal with an underarm serve. The second-ranked Spaniard managed to retrieve it, after which Smith struck an inside-out forehand winner to hold serve for the Bulgarian.

But the Bulgarian needed more help than that–both in Atlanta and in the Acapuclo semifinals three days earlier. Nadal prevailed 6-3, 6-2 en route to the Acapulco title, improving to 13-1 lifetime in their head-to-head series.

“I don’t see any negatives playing agains him,” Dimitrov said following his second loss to Nadal in 72 hours, albeit this time in an exhibition. “Every loss against him has always been a positive one. I mean he’s a great guy. On the court with him you can learn so much.”

“He is one of the more talented tennis players in the world without a doubt,” Nadal said of Dimitrov. “It’s a pleasure and special to play against him but at the same time to watch him on TV. He’s one of the players you want to watch. He’s a star.

“We have been together in Mallorca, practicing, going out with the boat, catching some fishes too; having some good times together. I think the relationship (is more important) than tennis; that’s the most important thing. Tennis is not forever but the friendship is.”

“Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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