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It's exhibition SZN in Kazakhstan, with Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic
Not everyone is happy with the low-stakes, high-profile match.
Published Oct 24, 2019
The Big Three are all in action this week: Roger Federer is in Basel, which he's attempting to win for a 10th time, while Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are in—wait for it—Kazakhstan.
The exhibition season began earlier than usual this year for Rafa and Nole—as well as Federer, who recently revealed some of his 2020 playing schedule during a low-stakes charity match with John Isner in Tokyo.
The Nadal and Djokovic exo, held at the 11,578-seat Barys Arena in Nur-Sultan, was touted as "a unique opportunity for young Kazakhstani tennis players and the younger generation to learn from the experience of legendary players, and for residents of Nur-Sultan and the whole country to enjoy a unique spectacle."
Unquestionably, the match and experience did just that, and likely lined the pockets of the two marquee players. But not everyone benefits. Edwin Weindorfer, tournament director of this week's ATP 500-level tournament in Vienna, decried exhibitions during the tour season in a recent interview. Surely, he'd love to have the tennis titans hitting in his arena.
“Players are ATP members," he said, according to express.co.uk. "There is an offseason after the ATP Finals and anybody can play during that time."
Former French Open champion Thomas Muster, another Austrian, seemed to throw some shade towards Rafa and Nole when he said, according to tennis365.com, they are "only playing when they want."
But the show must go on, and it did on Thursday. As is the custom, there was the hit:
...and the giggle:
...and, before this particular exo, a call placed by Nadal to the former King of Spain, who then spoke with the First President of Kazakhstan:
As for the match itself, it followed another exhibition tradition: it came down to the wire. 6-3, 3-6, 11-9, to Nadal: