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Beyond the Baseline

Rafael Nadal hails David Beckham

David Beckham watches Rafael Nadal during a 2006 ATP match in Madrid [Bernat Armangue/AP] David Beckham watches Rafael Nadal during a 2006 ATP match in Madrid. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

ROME -- Rafael Nadal was battling it out with Ernests Gulbis on Thursday when news broke that David Beckham is retiring from soccer. Beckham played for Nadal's favorite team, Real Madrid, from 2003-07. Nadal looked surprised when told of Beckman's announcement and wished the 38-year-old international star all the best.

"The only thing I can say about him is he's amazing," Nadal said after beating Gulbis 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the third round of the Italian Open. "His attitude, every time when I saw him play it was impossible to be better. Always fighting for everything even if he is the big star. Even if he's the biggest star outside of the football stadium, he's a big inspiration, no?"

Nadal admired the way Beckham was able to handle his fame while remaining approachable -- "to always have a smile for everybody and always be very respectful and very nice for everybody," the Spaniard said.

"So I just congratulate him for his fantastic career," Nadal said. "Apart of all of this, he was a fantastic football player. So it's a big [loss] for the sport in general. He deserves to do whatever he wants to do and he did a lot for the sport."

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