'I want it to be clear, it's only for fun, because I'm a member of this club and Stefano works here'
Former AC Milan legend, Paolo Maldini made his pro tennis debut at the Aspria Tennis Cup in Milan, which unfortunately ended in defeat.
Having received a wildcard for the ATP Tour Challenger event in Milan, the 49-year-old former footballer paired up with his coach Stefano Landonio in the doubles event and lost 6-1, 6-1 to 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 a 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. It could have ended 6-0, 6-3, we lost 6-1, 6-1 and that's fine."
Maldini and Landonio, who once held a world ranking of 975, were totally outplayed by 35-year-old Bednarek, a former top 50 player in doubles, and the 25-year-old Pel, who is currently 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.
"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. This is something I know very well."
Could Maldini be tempted to play again, if not at full professional level, perhaps on the ITF’s over-50 circuit?
"I would say no, especially because I don't train like anex-professional," he said.
"I play once a week, I come from another sport, I have physical problems with my knees and a series of limitations due to the inevitable wear-and-tear caused by football. Also, I don't have much time available."
Maldini and Landonio earned their place in the draw after winning a "rodeo" tournament at the host venue, the club where the Italian plays once a week with his coach, Landonio, usually on the faster, indoor courts.
"(That's) where I can show my best qualities," he said. "On carpet there's no time to think, it's my favourite surface.
"I like to play aggressive. Red clay forces me to play longrallies...but in tennis, honestly, I have little patience."
Maldini, an ace left-back and Italy captain, who donned the national team colours 126 times, made his AC Milan debut in 1985, and played his final Serie A match in May 2009.
Maldini won seven Serie A titles with Milan, and took home the Champions League/European Cup titles five times.