Maldini to end tennis career with one defeat

AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini making his professional tennis debut alongside Stefano Landonio at the Aspria Tennis Cup. They lost 6-1, 6-1, possibly ending the retired footballer's foray into pro tennis.
AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini making his professional tennis debut alongside Stefano Landonio at the Aspria Tennis Cup. They lost 6-1, 6-1, possibly ending the retired footballer's foray into pro tennis.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Former Italy and AC Milan captain Paolo Maldini's professional tennis career is likely to stop at one match after a debut he described as "like writing a poem after studying years of maths".

The 49-year-old, who took up tennis only six years ago, acquitted himself well in the first round of the Aspria Tennis Cup in Milan on Monday.

But he and his partner, Stefano Landonio, were well beaten 6-1, 6-1 by Poland's Tomasz Bednarek and Dutchman David Pel .

"It was like writing a poem after studying years of maths," said Maldini, whose appearance secured more attention than is customary for an ATP Challenger Tour event.

"We tried to enjoy the moment, also because I didn't expect I'd be able to experience something like this at the age of 49. Ironically, on the very first point of the match I pulled a muscle.

"It was a unique and unrepeatable experience, I have lived it as a game and there will be no other experience like this. We could have played better on a few points, but no problem."

Maldini and Landonio, who was once No. 975 in the world, were totally outplayed by 35-year-old Bednarek, a former top 50 player in doubles, and the 25-year-old Pel, who is ranked just outside the top 200.

"I want it to be clear, it's only for fun, because I'm a member of this club and Stefano works here," explained Maldini, one of Italy's greatest footballers whose tennis dream is to "play against Roger Federer".

"I had to take it easy, especially at my age. You can be a little bit nervous, because you are doing something that is not yours.

"But since you've been a good player in another sport, you know what to expect. (But) those who know professional sport know very well that it's impossible to invent yourself as a professional from one day to the next."

He won 26 trophies with Milan, playing a record 647 matches in Serie A. He is now technical director at Miami FC, who play in the North American Soccer League, a tier below the Major League Soccer.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline 'Maldini to end tennis career with one defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe