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Rafael Nadal played poker against fans

As part of his sponsorship deal with PokerStars, 2008 Olympic gold medallist and eleven-time Grand Slam tennis champion Rafael Nadal challenged 100 fans to a game of mobile online poker over the weekend.

The Majorca-born tennis star will celebrate his 27th birthday on Monday and took part in the special PokerStars-sponsored competition during a break from his preparations to defend his French Open men’s singles title.

“It's no secret that I love the competition and that's what I like about the game of poker,” said Nadal, who has won the world-famous Roland Garros tournament in each of the last three years.

“It's a game of skill that requires mental strength and the ability to out-think your opponents and in that way it is very similar to tennis. As I'm in Paris for the Roland Garros tournament, I wanted to be able to have some fun with my fans and a poker tournament seemed like a great way to do that.”

The Spaniard holds the record for most French Open men’s singles wins in the modern era and has been learning and playing poker on PokerStars since signing a sponsorship deal last June. He revealed that he finds it a good way to keep mentally alert and remain in the competitive mindset between tennis tournaments with help from poker coach Alfonso Cardalda.

“Rafa's competitive nature means that he needs new challenges and wants to learn new skills all the time,” said Cardalda.

“Taking on his fans in a friendly poker tournament such as this allows him to put into practice the key lessons I have been giving him based on mathematics, discipline and psychology.”