French Open legend Rafael Nadal honored with steel statue

Paris, May 27 (EFE).- Rafael Nadal has been a veritable Superman at the French Open and now has a steel statue on the grounds of that tournament to commemorate his exploits.

The winner of a record 13 Roland Garros men’s singles titles is pictured in that piece of art suspended from cables while leaping in the air and executing a left-handed forehand, his signature shot.

“I love it,” the 34-year-old Spanish great, who has a mind-boggling 100-2 record on the clay courts in Paris, said Thursday of the statue that was created by countryman Jordi Diez Fernandez and stands three meters (9.8 feet) tall, roughly five meters wide and two meters deep.

“For me, there’s no place in the world more special for this sculpture than Roland Garros. It means a lot to me; it’s a great honor.”

Nadal now will have an immortal presence on the grounds of that Grand Slam event along with The Four Musketeers, a group of French players who were stars of the sport in the late 1920s and early 1930s; and the aviator (Roland Garros, honored with his own statue there in April) for whom the tournament is named.

“The idea behind suspending (the statue) was to show how quickly the ball is moving,” the sculptor told Efe, adding that the former president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli, had initially expressed the idea of making a statue of the Spanish great.

Diez said he sent several designs a few days later and the federation selected its favorite.

The statue was unveiled on the same day as the draw ceremony for this year’s French Open, where starting next week Nadal will attempt to win his 14th Roland Garros and capture a record 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title.

Diez used 800 kilos (1,760 pounds) of stainless steel in making the statue, a work he said aims to provide a visual representation of the values Nadal embodies.

“Rafa represents a lot of aspects, but it all comes down to strength, not only physical, but also inner (strength), which is the most important. That was the driving force behind the work,” he explained.

Obsessed with faithfully rendering his conception of the tennis champion, he traveled to Nadal’s home base on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca to take measurements of the player’s entire body and make a casting of his hands.

Diez then spent weeks in his workshop in Barcelona trying to capture the essence of the superstar athlete.

One day, “Rafa was there,” he said, adding that tears welled up in his eyes when he felt the player was represented in his work.

The sculptor said the idea that works of art should only commemorate the past is outdated, adding that the statue pays tribute to the fact that “Rafa is making history.”

“I’m concentrating the emotion that a lot of people (are feeling) at this time. Paying tribute to a historical figure is to try (to keep) their memory alive. But here the goal is to amplify his figure, his magnitude. It’s another continent that I think is more powerful,” Diez said.

He also sees particular significance in his sculpture – the first he has created of a living person – being located in Roland Garros, “the place in the world where tennis is most prominent, where it radiates with the most strength to the rest of the planet.” EFE


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