Rafael Nadal and the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup were the talk of Seoul when they arrived as part of a promotional visit for Kia, major sponsor of the Australian Open.
The event also marked the first stop on the Australian Open International Trophy Tour, a three-week, three-nation tour that will see the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup and Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy criss-cross Asia.
A huge contingent of Korean media were on hand to cover the reigning French and US Open champion’s visit to the Korean capital, an event staged at Seoul’s W Hotel.
Nadal seemed in awe at the prospect of being reunited with “Norm” – the Australian Open men’s singles trophy that he hoisted in 2009 – but while spent a lot of time admiring the magnificent silver cup, he politely declined to hold it, even when offered a pair of gloves.
A superstitious soul, perhaps Nadal was wary of hoisting the trophy prematurely; not until he possibly wins the very last point of the men’s final at Australian Open 2014 would the trophy be his for keeps.
Yet the Spaniard, currently ranked No.2 and poised to take over the top ranking from Novak Djokovic any day now, threw himself into all other aspects of the event.
He hit with Korea’s top junior Duck Hee Lee (ranked 26th among world juniors) and held a tennis clinic for 10 Kia customers lucky enough to be selected for the experience. His many fans in Seoul were thrilled when he staged an autograph-signing session and posed for photos, including with the Australian Open squad of Korean ball kids.
And after a day beginning with a Kia-hosted morning tea and ending with a 30-minute press conference with the Korean media, Nadal was off, headed for Beijing for this week’s China Open where he will look to continue a stunning season that has already reaped 10 titles.
Nadal is expected to return to Melbourne Park in 2014 after missing Australian Open 2013 due to a knee injury.
In addition to his title in 2009, he reached the final in 2012, and semifinals in 2008.
Meanwhile, the Australian Open trophies have travelled to Singapore, where they will remain before heading to Beijing on Friday 4 October.