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Exclusive interview with Miami Open 'First Serve' honoree Rafael Padilha

Exclusive interview with Miami Open 'First Serve' honoree Rafael Padilha

What is it like to be a promising junior Brazilian tennis player given the honor of the inaugural First Serve at the Miami Open by Itau? To answer that question, Florida Tennis had the pleasure of speaking with First Serve Honoree Rafael Padilha.

The interview was conducted by telephone with the help of former professional Brazilian tennis player, Miriam D’Agostini, the Marketing Director for Rede Tênis Brasil (Tennis Brazil Network). She was kind enough to serve (no pun intended) as a Portuguese interpreter as she waited with Rafael to board a plane back to Brazil on Friday evening.

Florida Tennis (FT): What is the First Serve at the Miami Open presented by Itau and how were you chosen as the inaugural First Serve Honoree?

Rafael Padilha (RP): The First Serve is like the first kick of football [soccer] that they have, so they created this at the Miami Open. I was the first guy ever to do the ceremonial first serve. That's why I’m so happy. I was chosen for the First Serve honor through the organization, Tennis Brazil Network. They have helped me since I was 9 years old. They help a lot of kids. Most kids in Brazil can’t afford to play tennis and if it wasn’t for this organization we wouldn’t have played. Tennis was presented to me in school. The organization goes to public schools. I started competing and also got good grades. Itau makes this all possible. They are a big sponsor since the beginning of the project. I’m not here without them. The project is called Tennis Brazil Network. It is inside the public schools. During the first ten years of the project about 80,000 underprivileged kids were helped.

Above: Rafael Padilha. Photo: Miami Open presented by Itaú. Photo credit: Gabo Bucheli.

FT: How did it feel to be chosen to serve the inaugural First Serve?

RP: I was really happy and glad and honored to be chosen to do the First Serve ever on the center court and especially to play on the center court because big players and my idols usually play there. And today I got to hit with Ronaldo, the Brazilian former professional football [soccer] player. I was really happy to hit with him. He is one of my idols. It was nice and he plays good.

RP: I was nervous before the First Serve but they gave me two chances. I missed the first chance and made the second one. I was nervous that I’d miss the second one also, but I made it!

FT: Did you have any other great moments at the Miami Open?

RP: I also got to meet Carlos Alcaraz again this year. I met him last year too. I was able to take a picture and shake hands with him. I am always happy to meet my idols.

FT: What are your future plans?

RP: My focus for the future is learning English so I can go to college. I don’t have any colleges in mind. I am being helped in that path now and will prepare the next steps in Brazil and in a couple of months I will have a better idea. I hope to get a scholarship in the United States. And then, after that, maybe try some professional tennis.

FT: Is there anything else that you would like to say about your amazing experience?

RP: I want to add that I’m very glad that I got this [opportunity] and I’m thankful and enjoying this so much. I hope more kids get this opportunity.

FT: Thank you for your time and congratulations on your amazing honor and good luck in the future.

RP: You’re welcome and thank you and I hope to meet you in the future in person.

Editor's Note: For more information on the First Serve and Rafael Padilha, check out our article earlier this week.


Adam Ross is a contributing writer for Florida Tennis. He is a volunteer for the USTA Florida and the Vice-President of the Tennis Collectors of America/TCA. He welcomes your questions and comments at  Top Photo: Miami Open presented by Itaú. Photo credit: Gabo Bucheli.

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