10:40 PM GMT November 08, 2018
The Next Gen ATP Finals showcases the best 21-and-under tennis players in the world, giving Milan contenders an opportunity to perform on one of the most prestigious stages in the sport.
And with that chance inevitably comes more fans. Perhaps Munar’s biggest fans are back home in Spain, at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, where the #NextGenATP star trains. Students and staff at the academy have been gathering each day to watch Munar play.
“It's emotional. I mean, people who are watching you do something, they’re trying to learn and to be that person who they watch. It's special. I mean, the kids you are seeing in the pictures, I'm meeting them every day there in the academy when I practice. So it's really special,” Munar said. “I don't know. I'm just trying to be someone that they can look [up to]. I'm just trying to do the things well to be an example.
“But the most [motivating] example there in the academy is Rafa. So I'm looking higher, and I'm looking to Rafa, and they will also do this.”
One of Munar’s mentors has been Rafael Nadal, an athlete whom countless people have looked up to for years. And now Munar is using the lessons he’s learned from the Spaniard to carve his own path. Nadal recently underwent season-ending ankle surgery after going 45-4 in 2018.
“I've been chatting with him. I don't know. Difficult moments for him for sure. But I know he can just come back stronger as he did a lot of times already,” Munar said. “And Rafa is a fighter. So I am pretty sure that he will be able to come back to the highest in the world.”
Munar is representing the academy plenty well himself at the moment, advancing to the semi-finals in Milan. The pressure was on this year’s Kitzbuhel semi-finalist, as he needed to win to have any chance of continuing his pursuit of the trophy. And he did so emphatically, dismissing this year’s Delray Beach Open champion Frances Tiafoe in straight sets to earn himself a clash against second seed Alex de Minaur on Friday evening.
And while time will tell how high Munar will climb on the ATP World Tour, the Spaniard has proven this week that he has plenty of potential to thrill fans for years to come. And just as he has looked up to Nadal, people are beginning to idolise Munar, too.