London, july 8 : Few woukld know that Spaniard Rafael Nadal was a gifted young footballer and that he once dreamed of scoring goals for his most loved football club Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Soccer's loss has been world tennis's gain, and a statement to that effect was made this Sunday, when Nadal won his first ever Wimbledon title and the age of 22.
The Wimbledon win is the latest in an impressive haul of tennis tournament wins, and experts rate his gruelling five-hour marathon against Swiss and previous Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, as one of the greatest finals that they ever seen.
"Rafa" was 14 years old when he had to take an agonising decision to give up football, his favourite sport, to chase his tennis dreams.
According to The Sun, it was his uncle, Toni, who persuaded him that his future lay with a tennis racket in his hand rather than a football at his feet.
Toni, who has always been Nadal's coach, had to spend a considerable amount of time convincing his nephew to turn his back on football, and be wholeheartedly involved with tennis, if he wanted to be a world champion.
Nadal's love for football comes from his uncle Miguel Angel Nadal, a former Barcelona and Spain player. He was an inspiration to Rafa, who was a top striker for his local team.
Miguel Angel played alongside Rafa's boyhood hero Ronaldo - who would later play for Real - and arranged for the starstruck lad to meet the Brazilian striker.
But with tennis taking up more and more of Rafa's time, Toni knew there was no space for two sports in his life. The heart-broken teenager chose tennis.
With his bulging biceps, rocket forehand shots and pirate-style clothing, the tennis world has seen nothing like Rafa. But when matches finish, the swaggering powerhouse of a player is replaced - by a humble, quiet lad who still lives at home with his parents.
Just like Federer, Rafa is one of sport's genuine nice guys, happy to pose for photos with adoring fans. And despite winning 29 tournaments and making more than 10-million pounds in prize money, he still sleeps in his childhood bed and likes to unwind by going fishing in his dad's boat.
He lives with mum Ana Maria, dad Sebastian and younger sister Maria Isabel in the town of Manacor in Majorca.
"Why would I want to have a place of my own? Then I would have things to worry about, like doing the laundry and having food in the fridge."
With his Mediterranean good looks and muscular frame, he is a huge hit with the ladies. Throw in his bulging bank balance and he could take his pick of models.
But there is no superstar girlfriend hogging the headlines. His partner, 20-year-old Francisca Perello, declines the chance to travel the world to support her fella, instead staying in Manacor to complete a business and administration degree.
The pair only started dating last year but met as kids and are old friends.
Rafa says: "I don't expect her to follow me around. She is perfect for me because she is very relaxed and easy-going and I've known her for a long, long time. Our families have been friends for many years.