EFEBuenos Aires

Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal spent some time Thursday morning at a tennis court near a shantytown in the Argentine capital, hitting the ball around with area children in an event also attended by Buenos Aires' mayor and local sports officials.

The event took place at the San Lorenzo sporting club, located in the Villa Soldati district of Buenos Aires' southwest side, where the 14-time Grand Slam champion said it was a pleasure to take time out for the visit with the young people because "they are the future and have something special."

The Spanish star also acknowledged dozens of people who due to lack of space had to wait outside the court, where some 100 youths from different low-income communities in the area were hoping to have a brief hit with the player or have their photo taken with him.

Nadal stressed how happy he felt to be in Buenos Aires, where he said people treat him "like just another Argentine."

At the end of the event, Nadal, holding up a jersey of local soccer club San Lorenzo, posed for a photo with Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri; the club's chairman, Matias Lammens; and Matias Lammens, a television host and one of the club's vice presidents.

Children can learn from "Rafael's example," according to Macri, who said the current world No. 4 represents the essential sporting values of "passion" and "dedication."

Nadal and Argentine doubles partner Juan Monaco are scheduled to play the Argentine team of Federico Delbonis and Andres Moleteni on Thursday evening at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires.

The 28-year-old Nadal, who had not played this Argentine clay-court event in a decade, will take on Delbonis Friday in the quarterfinal of the singles draw.