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October 5, 2017 03:15 PM

Toby Smith talks to 10-year-old Francesco Padilla (and some to his parents).

waiting_to_playLast summer, Francesco Padilla, who is ranked 26th in12-and-under singles in the Southwest, attended the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, a tennis camp located in Manacor on the island of Mallorca, which is Nadal’s hometown. Francesco, who is a fourth grader at Aspen Elementary School in Los Alamos, went there with his parents, Vanessa and Patrick Padilla, and his sister, Milana. Vanessa is a nurse and Patrick is an environmental professional at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Neither is a tennis player. 

How did you come to hear about Nadal’s academy?  

My coach in Santa Fe (Klaus Dlabik, at the Shellaberger Tennis Center), knew somebody who was close to the academy.  He told my parents about it.

Vanessa Padilla:  We rented a house in Mallorca, from July 6 to August 7.  It was very hot and humid.  Ninety-five degrees and 80 percent humidity. But when I went in the ocean there I never wanted to go back. [laughs].

What does Movistar mean?  

Patrick Padilla:  It’s a telecommunications company that partially sponsors the academy.

Did you meet Rafa?  

Francesco:  He was there training for the U.S. Open. 

That turned out pretty well for him, didn’t it?


Did you shake Rafa’s hand?

Yes.  Mostly Toni was around.  

Ah, the famous Uncle Toni.

Vanessa:  Toni was aware of Francesco before we arrived.

Patrick: Carlos Moya was also there assisting. 

Academy_groupSo how many kids attended the academy?

Vanessa:  119 the first week, 100 the second, 95 the third. The ratio of coaches to students was 1-4.  So a lot of individual and group coaching. 

What was the best part of being there?

Francesco:  Meeting other kids. I won a tournament and got second in another.  I got heavy glass trophies.  

What part of your tennis did you work on?

I learned about mental strength.  If you miss a shot, you don’t bang-bang with your racket.  You just get ready for the next shot.  I used to have a real bad temper. I won a sportsmanship award there.  

When did you start playing tennis? 

I was 7 and we lived in Las Cruces.  My sister was playing. (she played three years at Mayfield High School).  I wanted to play too.  My mom wanted to put me into tennis because I was good at ping-pong.  

Who was your coach in Las Cruces?

Patrick: Matej Stakne, who played tennis at NMSU and was teaching at Picacho Hills Country Club. Later, it was Strahinja Trecakov, also a former NMSU competitor. 

Tell me about your game?  

My forehand is my favorite shot.  I hit it inside-out. My back and is good.  I depend on my serve if I get behind.   

How tall are you?

Four feet, four inches.

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