SPANISH tennis legend Rafa Nadal has come under fire after he announced he will be the new ambassador for the sport for Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, the 37-year-old broke the news that he would be working for the Saudi Tennis Federation (STF), with the aim of ‘growing the sport around the world’.

“Growth and progress that’s important to see and the STF is working on that,” he wrote via social media on Monday. “The kids are looking to the future and I saw they are passionate about sports… I want to encourage them to pick up a racket and enjoy the benefits of a healthy living.” 

But the Mallorcan 22-time Grand Slam men’s singles title champion faced an immediate backlash online, given the appalling human rights record of the Middle Eastern country.

“Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in a single day and sentenced a woman to 34 years for protesting,” wrote journalist Albert Ortega on X (formerly Twitter). “Women are discriminated against in marriage, inheritance and child custody. Atheism and homosexuality are crimes. Nadal selling out to Saudi Arabia is disgusting.”

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Rafael Nadal. Cordon Press image

“Honestly, I am extremely disappointed with Rafael Nadal,” wrote user Jose Luis del Villar on X. I find him morally reprehensible. Sometimes the less we know about our idols, the better. What example is he trying to convey to children?”

The announcement comes after a series of sports stars moved to Saudi Arabia to play, including Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr. 

Nadal recently returned to the tennis circuit in Brisbane, Australia after missing nearly a year of competition due to a hip injury. However, he has had to miss the ongoing Australian Open after a new problem was detected to a muscle.

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