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Rafa Nadal Academy
The promise of Dani Rincón and Ariana Geerlings
Perseverance, hard work, camaraderie. Hope. More hard work. Going the extra mile. And the ability to make the most of the opportunities granted by a school that draws directly from the mentality of the champion from Manacor. We spend the day with two of the young tennis players who live, study, train, and grow there as players, Dani Rincón —winner of the Junior US Open— and Ariana Geerlings.
With every step and every stroke, this academy instils the values that have made Rafa Nadal the champion that he is and pass them on to new generations. A stone’s throw away from Manacor, Mallorca, the school is a hive of kids of all ages, an environment where they take turns laughing, studying, and working hard from an early age. Dani Rincón (Ávila, 2003) and Ariana Geerlings (Granada, 2005) are two of the rising stars in Spanish tennis who train continuously at Rafa Nadal Academy.
Neither of them hesitates. “The best advice I’ve been given here is to make the most of this opportunity —explains Dani Rincón—. And something I heard that’s stayed with me: give it your all so that, at the end of the day, when you stop playing, you can rest assured that you’ve done everything you can, and you can’t hold anything against yourself.” “Enjoy every moment here, because many kids would want to be in your place, and you’re the one who’s here. So, make the most of everything,” Ariana Geerlings adds.
But how have both tennis players become part of this small group that lives and trains day in and day out at Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar? Dani Rincón started playing tennis at summer camp, along with basketball, until the age of 16, when he had to choose. “I was given the chance to try the Weekly Plan for a couple of weeks the year before, and I really loved it, so when I was offered the opportunity to come here for the entire year, I immediately said yes.” From that moment onward, he studies and follows a training plan that has already yielded results: In September 2021, Rincón became the second Spaniard since 1986 to win the Junior US Open.
“Dani is a fighter on the court, he always fights for every point. And off the court, I think he’s a very humble person, because not everyone who wins the Junior US Open, like him, carries on as if it were nothing,” explains Ariana Geerlings. Originally from Granada, but settled in Murcia, tennis runs in her family: “My grandfather played tennis and my mother was also part of a tennis club from an early age. I started playing with my father when I was three or four, and I have an older brother who competed. I wanted to be like him.”
“Rafa Nadal has been my idol since I started playing tennis, and to have him so close by is something I’d never have dreamed of”
Ariana Geerlings has been training at Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar for the last three years following a comprehensive schedule which, for the last few months, has focused on physiotherapy due to an injury she’s already recovered from. “It’s a pleasure to watch her play, she hits the ball really well. But, above all, I’d say she’s a really nice person,” Dani Rincón assures us. “The truth is she’s a good laugh, and especially over the last year, struggling with her injury, she’s carried on working hard every day, always with a smile on her face. And, of course, that makes you think: “how could I not do the same?”.
Competitiveness, camaraderie, and support
The work the professionals at Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar do goes far beyond sport, physical, or nutritional training, they place immense value on the emotional aspect. “You create a bond with people who help you on bad days or when you’re not doing so well, they encourage you to push forward every day, because in the end, it’s not easy being far away from your parents when you’re so young,” Ariana assures us. “The good thing about the academy is that there’s a close family atmosphere, both with coaches and teammates,” Dani Rincón confirms. “Sometimes it’s hard being far away from home and your family, from the people you love. Here you have people who support you daily, including friends, coaches, teachers...”
“If you manage to overcome certain difficulties on the court when you’re on your own, it’s really satisfying”
In an individual sport like tennis, that emotional aspect is, for Rincón, the main challenge, but also one of the most positive things: “The difficulty of competing alone is extremely different to team sports... If you manage to overcome certain difficulties on the court when you’re on your own, it’s really satisfying. Tennis also instils values off the court like being friends with your rivals, which is really different to other sports.”
Friendships like the one between Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, who went to the opening of the academy they train at. “Rafa Nadal has been a role model since I was little. He’s unique in everything he does, everything he conveys both on and off the court. And having the opportunity to be here at his academy... I never thought I’d be here and be able to have this experience,” Geerlings assures us. “Rafa Nadal is my idol since I started playing tennis, so being lucky enough to have him so close by is something I’d never have dreamed of —confirms Dani Rincón—. I also love watching Federer or Djokovic. I think the three of them have had an enormous impact on the world of tennis and everything you can learn from them is the best that you can learn.”