Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - IW: Rafa Sightings
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IW: Rafa Sightings 03/23/2009 - 12:43 AM

Rn The last 10 days in Indian Wells were a riot of tennis, with players, fans, press, tournament workers, and myriads of other humans crisscrossing all over the grounds. Floating above them the entire time, and landing safely with the trophy between his teeth at the end, was one man.

In my own little corner of this world, the back rows of the pressroom, Rafael Nadal was a figure of fascination. I heard reporters who don't normally cover tennis say how "charming" and "hilarious" and "nice" and "amazing" he was. As a player, yes, but even more so as a person.

They're right, of course, but they're getting in a little late, don't you think? After making easy, 6-1, 6-2, work of the No. 4 player in the world today, Nadal stands at an unprecedented career peak. He's won the first Slam and Masters event of the season and dominated a Davis Cup tie for Spain. The season, as Nadal said today, is long, and at this time last year Novak Djokovic found himself in much the same position. But for now the only way I can think of to wrap up this tournament properly is to record the best of what I saw of its central character, Rafael Nadal.

—I had lunch at 1:30 or so on Sunday. The cafeteria was mostly empty. Facing away from me, toward a wall, a few feet from a TV, was Nadal. He was at a table with a hitting partner and looked smaller in his sweatshirt and vintage blue-and-yellow Nike sneakers. He was watching golf; he and his friend were analyzing how one of the golfers should hit the ball. Nadal put his hand up and moved it toward the right, indicating that it should be a slice. When the shot landed with a thunk in the sand trap, Nadal went "Ooof." He was scheduled to play the final in an hour.

—It was match point for Nadal against Andy Roddick in the second-set tiebreaker of their semifinal. Roddick duffed a strange return that popped up diagonally and landed in an awkward position for Nadal, a few inches from the net on his backhand side. Nadal wanted to drill it but couldn't get there in time. You could see him adjust as he ran. When he got there, he pushed the ball lightly and at an extreme crosscourt angle. This forced Roddick well wide of the court on his pass. He got to it, gave it a rip, but couldn't bring it back into the court. Anyone who says modern tennis, or modern men's tennis, is the domain of thoughtless power needs to see that shot and the improvisatory poise that made it happen.

 —At his press conference after his quarterfinal win over Juan-Martin del Potro, Nadal shows up with two chocolate chip cookies and starts to eat them as he talks.

Q. I'm surprised to see you eating cookies. Are they chocolate chip cookies?


RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah.

Nadal says "Yeah," but his smile says, "So? What about it?"

Q. I was wondering if you have things like that quite a bit? I always think athletes have a very regimented diet and don't indulge. 


RAFAEL NADAL: Not me. (Laughter.) 


Long pause, Nadal flashes what you might call a s--- eating grin.

"My opinion, you can eat everything. Well, before the match maybe don't have five cookies or one steak, but my opinion, you can eat everything in the right time. If I eat right now, 20 cookies, maybe I gonna have indigestion tonight. If I eat two, three cookies, maybe it's OK.

Maybe not for the stomach, no, but for the head it's better. (Laughter.) In the end, the important thing is to be mentally okay.

Q. Better mental preparation? 


RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah.

—Nadal is down a match point and for all intents and purposes out of it in the fourth round against David Nalbandian. He hits a ball with maximum force that lands on the line for a winner.

When he pulls out the second set in a tiebreaker, I can only wonder if any other great players in history have had so many emotional, dramatic, unlikely, and memorable moments as Nadal. Already this year he's been involved in two classics—Verdasco in Melbourne and Nalbandian here—and topped them both by putting his arm around Roger Federer.

—Nadal walks into his press conference after the final with his cellphone in his hand and a distracted look on his face. He looks like he's walking toward a van that’s going to take him to the airport, not to answer questions from a room full of reporters. He sits down and says, lightly, "Hel-lo."

—It's 2-2 in the second set of the men's final. The wind has kicked up and is swirling. Nadal and Andy Murray each move inside the baseline and chip balls at each other that bend and curl in the breeze. It looks like they're playing paddleball with magnetized racquets. Nadal takes a ball from Murray and slices it back low and slow and down the middle. He follows it forward. The ball curves away from Murray, who can't get his forehand up and over the net. Nadal breaks and doesn't lose another game. Ditto my comment above about his shot on match point against Roddick—improvisatory poise at its best.

—To do this, Nadal uses a Babolat Aerodrive (or something like that), a racquet that nobody else anywhere uses. It reminds me of his cookie comment—you can eat everything, you can use anything, it doesn't matter, what matters is you.

—Late in the second set in the final, Murray runs down a lob and flicks a forehand over his head. Nadal lets it go and watches it drop two feet inside the line. When his reaction—he jumps a little, closes his eyes, raises his head, and opens his mouth to say something like, "Oh no!"—is replayed on the big screen, the audience erupts with laughter.

—Nadal practices his forehand over the first weekend of the tournament. He's working on snapping up on it with less backswing and more flick. In his next match, he seems to have it mastered, and it does look a little different and more abbreviated than I remember it. While Federer sticks with what works and maintains a deep belief in his innate ability, Nadal is about the process. He's a tinkerer who doesn't believe he was born to be the best; he concentrates on how he can improve himself enough to get there. He's there, but he's still tinkering.

—After his semifinal, Nadal is asked whether he feels like he has learned to win matches even when he's not playing his best. He says that that's something he's always had success doing. 

After the final, he's asked why he thinks he handled the wind better than Murray. Nadal says that he thinks he "accepted" the conditions better than Murray, who fought them.

These two answers, about finding ways to win and accepting the conditions around him, point to what I think is, beyond his speed and spin and power, a major reason for Nadal's success. Unlike most tennis players, even the best tennis players, he doesn't play with anger or regret or frustration, the three emotions that doom most of us.

After losing the fourth set of the Wimbledon final last year, Nadal said that he sat down on the changeover and accepted that he had played horribly when he was ahead in the tiebreaker, but that otherwise he was "doing very well." If Nadal is a control freak or a perfectionist, he doesn't allow it to get the best of him. John McEnroe couldn't emotionally deal with his errors, Djokovic lets his frustration affect his play, and even Federer gets down in the mouth if things aren't going as he expects. Nadal accepts, when he walks onto a court, that he will not always be at his best. As a guy who is constantly trying to improve, he begins with the premise that he can never be perfect, and that he should not always win. Federer and Pete Sampras, by contrast, begin every match believing that no one can beat them if they go out and do what they're supposed to do.

On the one hand, Nadal's is an intelligent approach because it allows him to take pressure off himself and put his mistakes behind him—why regret what was inevitable in the first place? On the other hand, when you try to imagine actually putting this into practice in the heat of battle, you realize that it is an almost impossibly difficult psychological stance to achieve for any length of time. How does one banish these primal reactions?

Forget the biceps and the legs and the forehands and the overheads. Nadal's most important strength is the one that's the hardest for all of us to achieve. He has the strength to be honest with himself.


 
250
Comments
 
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Posted by impossible is nothing! in fact. 03/24/2009 at 02:23 PM

apologies for the double

Posted by impossible is nothing! in fact. 03/24/2009 at 02:26 PM

apologies for the double

Posted by Bobble 03/24/2009 at 03:13 PM

Best post I've read here

Posted by Siddharth Shankar 03/24/2009 at 03:54 PM

It's true - Nadal is a great, humble guy, and he's got the skills to match.

Posted by kmoss 03/24/2009 at 04:06 PM

I agree - great article - one of the best tennis pieces I've ever read. Only one other item I would have added to contrast Federer and Nadal - Federer loves the win while Nadal loves to compete. If you love competing the wins are simply icing on the cake. Nadal pushes himself, through competition, to see what he can achieve, while Federer is resting on what he perceives he has already earned. I've always thought Federer was arrogant but if you peer into how different Nadal approaches the game, it really exposes how arrogant he really is. I love Nadal as a player and person more everytime I see him on TV. He's even improved his English in the last couple of years along with his game! What can't he do? If anyone is going to win the grand slam - it's Nadal.

Posted by amanaceo 03/24/2009 at 04:10 PM

Nadal's star is rising. It is easy to praise some one on the top. He will face the same sorry fate one day, and will be written down. it will come quicker than his fans think.

Posted by frances 03/24/2009 at 04:19 PM

amaneceo: just because you you are a federer fan doesn'tt give you a license to intentionally hurt nadal fans....let us enjoy his moment--- we know that time will come... you are experiencing it right now:P

Posted by solid35player 03/24/2009 at 06:09 PM

Congrats to Mr. Tignor. Those last few paragraphs may be the best tennis writing I've seen here or over on ESPN. Insightful, and beautiful.

Isn't the English language a wonderful thing, when handled well?

Posted by lurkingna 03/24/2009 at 08:03 PM

Delurking here to thank you for this wonderful “Rafa sightings”. I’ve enjoyed both your writing and the nice comments.

I have started to watch tennis not so long ago, and because of Rafa... something like at the beginning of 2008. And I just want to share something, sorry if it has been commented already here.

When the Principe de Asturias’ award (2008), Rafa was interviewed in a theater by a well-known journalist and then he answered questions from the people assisting, mostly kids though many grown-ups were also there.

There is this kid that is like four years old that asks him “How did you do to be #1 in Spain?" :-)
Rafa says something like “if I can, anyone can” and talks a little bit about hope and being lucky with the skills that mother nature gives you and then says: “The most important thing is to become the best you can be. If the best you can is being #100, then at least you’ll be happy for being #100 because you have reached your top. If the best you can be is #1 then you’ll be happy for reaching your top being #1. I believe the most important thing is trying to give the best of you every day that you train or compete. Then you’ll never be able to reproach anything to yourself and you’ll be happy with yourself.”

Good piece of advice that i find amazing coming from a 22 year old and make me flove him even more (i just learned the meaning of "flove" and was dying to use it, lol)

I’m not very brilliant at translating so for those that understand spanish here is the video segment, is the last question about minute 7:30

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U874GZlciBM


Posted by Slice-n-Dice 03/24/2009 at 08:32 PM

Very well conceived and written post, Steve.

And you are spot on -- for all the praise heaped on Rafa for his athleticism, strength, speed and tenacity, it is his self-knowledge with which he most relies.

Posted by daylily 03/24/2009 at 09:04 PM

svelterogue, sweetie, vindication is delightful, even if long overdue, no? took some folks half decade to dial into the reality we've known all along......but better late than never.

reg, i was deeply touched -- almost cried, in fact -- over your touching description of rafa's poor treatment at AO this year. i am so sick of roger federer stealing rafa's thunder, always making the moment about himself and his needs and his feelings blah blah blah. at wimbledon he had to play in the dark -- i guess rafa's end of the court was still daylight -- it's gone on far too long -- and i hope such a situation never happens again. rafa is far too valuable a human being and a sportsman to be mistreated and disrespected in such a cavalier manner.

gabriela, the warning isn't necessary. i couldn't understand the necessity for the GOAT convo every time it's brought up about roger, and i consequently see no reason to consider it with rafa. history will tell, and history hasn't finished being written. and who the hell cares, anyway? i know who the best man of all is in tennis -- it's the beautiful, charming, hilarious, delightful, often-boyish mallorquin who plays like an angel.

Posted by Tony H 03/24/2009 at 10:02 PM

Great piece. I've always said it's not his legs or his biceps that make him so special...Rafa has the heart of a lion.

Posted by neil in toronto 03/24/2009 at 10:45 PM

hey daylily..long time no see no? I flove this article. I don't even think i've commented, because i just keep reading it over and over savouring every last word.

Finally an article about Rafa and Rafa alone, and not in terms or contrasted with that other dude.

Posted by svelterogue 03/25/2009 at 07:27 AM

daylily and neil in toronto,

i've missed you two! and yes, time for rafalito to shine on his own. no crying man on the side, no dissing whatever's on the other.

miami, here he comes! if he doesn't take it, clay season is up next! what else is left for rafa to conquer there? at least this year he has rome to look forward to :)

will he defend his wimbledon crown? i hope he does! if he doesn't, there's hopefully next year. and the next. ( i just realised i took it for granted he'd five-peat in paris this year)

can he win the USO on his fragile knees? hail i hope he does. if not, so be it.

daylils, you nailed it, too, when you said that it doesn't matter who votes who for GOAT. the best player to thine eyes (and mine) is where he belongs, on top of the mountain. savourrrrrrr.

Posted by svelterogue 03/25/2009 at 07:28 AM

steve has always written warmly about rafael.

shout out to master ace: i have missed your swinton posts! :)

Posted by Master Ace 03/25/2009 at 08:21 AM

Svelterogue,
Still here and you have every right to celebrate Rafael's accomplishments. Now, he will be trying to add the Transcontiental Slam(winning Indian Wells and Miami in the same year - Pete talked about this last year) to go along with being the first man to hold all surface Slams at the same time(Agassi,Wilander, and Connors all won Slams on these surfaces but NOT at the same time). Also, he has an Olympic Gold medal, first person to win the Channel Slam(winning French Open and Wimbledon in the same year) since Bjorn Borg. Only thing missing from his Slam resume is the United States Open and the only thing missing from his Masters resume is Miami, Cincinnati, and Paris. The leader in Masters titles is Andre Agassi with 17 followed by Roger Federer with 14. Rafael has 13 and with an excellent chance of tying Andre before 2009. If not this year, 2010 is guaranteed for him if he stays healthy.

Will be interesting to see what Rafael best 4 years in history will be. If that the case, IMO, this is year 2. Therefore, all Rafael fans please enjoy what he is accomplishing at the moment.

Posted by Reg 03/25/2009 at 08:41 AM

Awesome. Steve. A master piece of writing - you can feel his quiet, sharp and analytical studies of Nadal from a distance in many occasions, on and off court before he put forward his conclusion. It’s not some hollow praise just because he is at the top, this writing is as down on earth as Nadal himself!

And a worthy champion, a wonderful personality indeed, just by being himself, has already touched and impressed many who has an open heart - just look - how Steve's article immediately brought in 9 pages of comments within 2 days! It’s phenomenon., so many people poured out their feelings from the bottom of their heart – including me, just because Nadal’s endearing personality and humble qualities are so consistently inspirational and sensational. No matter whether Nadal is winning or losing in tennis, he has already made history – at 22, he is a legend and a giant to all who would love to learn from him!

Thanks Steve, daylily, lurkingna and to all who share their wonderful experience and contribute their thoughts – it’s such a great read!

Posted by impossible is nothing! in fact. 03/25/2009 at 10:35 AM

i forgot to say thank you steve for this greatest article about the great rafael, great job!

Posted by sonya 03/25/2009 at 11:11 AM

svelterogue, daylily, Master Ace, all those who have shared your Rafa stories, gosh it makes me so happy to be able to enjoy an article solely about Rafa and so accurate. No savage spanish ought to destroy the saint-like beauty of anyone else, no "death of beauty" of tennis, just Rafa like he really is. Thank you.

Posted by Damián 03/25/2009 at 11:20 AM

Thank you very much Steve for this precise article of Nadal´s spirit. What amazes me the most about this man are the unbelievable adjustments he has done with his tennis since 2004 when I started watching him, and his exemplary spirit as a human being.

And thank you very much to all the TennisWorld stuff and fans here: you couldn´t believe how much you´ve been helping me with my English! Hugs from Madrid.

Posted by frances 03/25/2009 at 02:17 PM

i know this is so "old story" but i just really wanted to share my thoughts about justin gimelstob awful job as a commentator during the IW final ..

Justin Gimelstob was so confident that Murray was going to whip Nadal in the final that even when Murray was at deuce in his first service game-- he keep on talking on and on and on.....until you hear the most deafening sound of silence from the commentators as they realize that it would be the only game he would win in the first set--- I know everybody have favorites and they are entitled to-- but as a professional, you expect them to be at least diplomatic........fast forward some 30 minutes later--- when the first set ended-- Justin started reinforcing that it will again be a neutral ground blah blah blah and that murray is better than nadal on all surfaces except clay-- i mean come on.... did he know their H2H was 5-2 prior to this game and im sure he hasnt won against nadal on grass? and he even had the guts to say that murray wont take long enough to be the next no. 1...that is a big possibility considering the level of his play at the moment- no doubt he is playing his best tennis....but for the meantime let me emphasize that as the game was surely decisive to go to nadal's way...the 'other' commentator was the only one left 'commenting' with "nadal looking like he will be on top for a while" as his wrap up sentence....shame on Justin!!!

Posted by imjimmy 03/25/2009 at 03:45 PM

What an amazing article by Steve! I think he saved the best for the last. Thanks so much Steve.

There are so many reasons to admire Rafael Nadal:
- The way he has worked around most of his limitations and overcome many of them: " I may not be good enough right now, but just wait......".
-His on court attitude of never letting his head down and fighting till the last point: Who could have imagined him coming back in the fifth set in Wimbledon final, after having lost a heart breaker of a tie-break in the 4th and squandering match points.
-His humbleness and sportsmanship. When asked about his chances to win a tournament, Rafa says.."There are so many good players, it's a lot easy to loose than to win". Can you think of anyone who would call a player the 'best in history' after having beaten him 13 times? Which other player always apologizes when he gets a net cord during a point?

I started playing tennis since I was a kid and I've been watching the game ever since. Even then, after all these years, I would be hard pressed to find someone more endearing than Rafael Nadal. Rafa may not be a born genius as Sampras or Federer. But what he lacks naturally, he more than makes it up by just sheer diligence and mental fortitude. As Steve eloquently puts it, Rafa makes you believe that the only thing that matters is 'you' and that anything is possible!

How can anyone not like Rafael Nadal?

Posted by wimby moon 03/25/2009 at 03:52 PM

Steve, congratulations on a supremely wonderful and fitting article. Thanks for giving Rafael his due. I haven't taken the time to post anything on tennis for ages but I cannot let your article pass without commendation.

Even now when Rafa is rising toward the peak of his abilities and showing the amazing depth and power of his game and his mind, Peter Bodo continues to flagrantly ignore his existence and his accomplishments so he can wallow in seemingly endless despairing explorations of what ails the slumping Federer which seems to me unfortunate as well as a bit obsessed and short-sighted.

All the comments written here are truly inspiring so thanks to all you posters and again, to you, Steve, for giving attention to what matters and showing such appreciation for the incredible talent and achievements of Rafael Nadal.

We are fortunate to have someone of Rafa's caliber, character and intelligence in the game. I, for one, am exceedingly grateful for the way Rafa has lighted up tennis with his genius and his heart. Viva Rafa!!!

Posted by gabriela valentina(NADAL, Death Cheater) 03/25/2009 at 03:58 PM

I keep returning to this post ,Steve,to read the many testimonials piling up and they continue to move me.

You really struck a chord here that continues to reverberate...I can feel it humming.

Tennis fans keep coming,some,like myself, returning. They come to leave their own little stories as if they were votive offerings or bouquets of flowers at a shrine!!

I'm not up on TW history as I have only been around for a year but has any other article ever brought out this outpouring of devotion? It is hard to determine which is the most impressive, Steve's getting it just right or the amazing response from all over tennisdom?


Posted by gabriela valentina(NADAL, Death Cheater) 03/25/2009 at 03:58 PM

I keep returning to this post ,Steve,to read the many testimonials piling up and they continue to move me.

You really struck a chord here that continues to reverberate...I can feel it humming.

Tennis fans keep coming,some,like myself, returning. They come to leave their own little stories as if they were votive offerings or bouquets of flowers at a shrine!!

I'm not up on TW history as I have only been around for a year but has any other article ever brought out this outpouring of devotion? It is hard to determine which is the most impressive, Steve's getting it just right or the amazing response from all over tennisdom?


Posted by just horsen 03/25/2009 at 04:28 PM

I was just watching clips of Rafa from 2005\2006 on youtube and the guy has seriously bulked up since then. Great piece Steve.

Posted by Paula V. 03/25/2009 at 05:27 PM

Excellent article, Steve. The level of detail here is just amazing.

Posted by Andrew Miller 03/25/2009 at 08:27 PM

Gosh Mr. Tignor, that was incredible! I really enjoyed reading this post and the conclusions that you arrived at. Thank you for your perspective on this!

Posted by Andrew Miller 03/25/2009 at 08:27 PM

Gosh Mr. Tignor, that was incredible! I really enjoyed reading this post and the conclusions that you arrived at. Thank you for your perspective on this!

Posted by Shelley 03/25/2009 at 10:05 PM

Steve - Rafa's camp or webmaster or someone loved this article so much that it is on Rafa's official website (www.rafaelnadal.com)! I loved this article. Nadal is truly not just an amazing tennis player but he also an amazing person. There is so much that we can learn, as human beings, from Rafa and his uncle Toni.

Posted by lois 03/25/2009 at 11:07 PM

I find it very hard and heart breaking that Rafa has not achieved the respect of any one becoming # 1. Everyone is talking about Murray,well when he has as many Masters and Majors as Rafa's won, perhaps I will think of him as the hottest player on tour.
Until then he is just # 4,everyone says he studies all his opponets however Rafa has proved to be a taction of the game. He has learned to change his game in the middle of it to fit the opponet,so lets give Respect where it is due-Please. He is # 1, and so far has proved it. Stay Wall and Safe Everyone-Please.

Posted by Khalil, Toronto - Canada 03/25/2009 at 11:23 PM

Steve, what a great piece of writing. I agree with everything you said and those moments you picked to encapsulate much of what makes Nadal's character so special were so astute. It's not an easy task to glean as much about someone from observing what may seem to be mundane moments to less perceptive eyes/mind. I'm a big fan of Nadal and I'm becoming an even bigger fan the more I watch how he carries himself both inside and -perhaps more importantly- outside the tennis court. What you wrote about him made me feel that I know him that much more, and for that I thank you very much.

Posted by Siang 03/25/2009 at 11:24 PM

One of the most insightful articles about Rafa I've ever read. Thanks, Steve. Rafa is smarter, savvier and more matured than any tennis player on the tour. Federer fans love to dismiss him as mere muscles and speed - they're just sticking their heads in the sand because reality is too painful to deal with.

Posted by zoey 03/26/2009 at 01:34 AM

I join the chorus, Steve. This is a wonderful article. It isn't just about giving Rafa his due. It is nice to see that the sport of tennis has room for more than one compelling figure. We do ourselves a disservice as fans when we see the sport merely through the accomplishments and struggles of only one player. Federer has been and still is a giant in the game. But Nadal has earned recognition as one of the greats of the sport in his own right.

Even though I barely post, I love your writing and have been reading your blog for a long time. In fact the first time I visited this blog was through another site, linking to a post you wrote long ago, when Nadal went through that long slump in 2006-07 and you warned fans not to write him off.

I also love your posts about your experiences as an amateur tennis player. Love your descriptions.

Posted by streams 03/26/2009 at 02:09 AM

re-turning to this article again, after reading it for 2nd time on when seen on rn.com today. Great that Rafa's camp have seen it too! Hope they've also registered from all our comments how many people agree with Steve.

I don't know anything about the world of journalism, but if there's anyone out there who does, I vote this article should get a Sports Writers Award.

Posted by svelterogue 03/26/2009 at 04:37 AM

to master ace

year 2 of 4? wow, you just lit up my world with that pronouncement and you know how i LUVVV master ace's pronouncements :)

wimby moon

i've missed you, too!

gab val

i keep returning to this post, too, to see what new "votives" will be lit for rafa. i do recall a very moving article that pete bodo wrote last year after rafa lost in the final to kolya in miami. i thought rafa's loss didn't hurt then because the clay season was upon us but after reading that post, well, pete broke through my wall of denial and i was reduced to a, well, a bumbling shameless crybaby. rafa makes me cry with him even when he's not. er, did that make sense? as for the AO final, just before roger broke down in tears, i remember muttering, "oh no oh no his face is crumpling, nooooo, roger, noooooo..." and i honestly felt for him At That Moment. but the next day, it was gone from me. i don't know why i shared that but... i haven't really shared much at tennis.com in months! and as usual, it is rafa who pulls me back to the world of tennis fandom.

vamos rafael the king!

Posted by daylily 03/26/2009 at 06:15 AM

isn't it a relief to come to a blog where one can post one's feelings and observations about this wonderful young man without being vilified, ridiculed or......deleted?

Posted by Master Ace 03/26/2009 at 08:35 AM

To all Rafael fans,
I am glad that you are able to enjoy a stress free blog celebrating your man accomplishments. Well deserved

Posted by marron 03/26/2009 at 11:08 AM

daylily, a heartfelt yes.

Steve, here I am again, for the umpteenth time, reading this piece. Love it, love it so much. And all the wonderful posts from others.... well, I really don't have the words to express how wonderful it makes me feel, knowing there are others who get it about Rafa.

Thank you again, Steve. As someone posted above, you deserve some kind of award for sports writing with this article.

Posted by Carrie 03/27/2009 at 12:25 AM

Late to comment on this article but:

One of my favorite tennis writers + a well written and insightful article about my favorite tennis player = great reading for me.

Well done Steve- and I like that you look beyond the cliches.

Posted by Gabriela valentina 03/27/2009 at 07:15 AM

svelterogue, hoping that you will return to re read Steve-s wonderful article and in the process that you will see this message. I-m so glad that you have continued to keep the homefires burning for Rafa! We miss you over on the other side!! Why did you go away? Come back soon and join us in our off topic delirium,ok?


Posted by imjimmy 03/27/2009 at 12:58 PM

Don't you think it's amazing how many people, who are not a part of the regular TW tribe, have contributed in the comments? I mean there are so many posts here with wonderful insights from folks who I've never seen post before.
Just goes to show the quality of Steve's article. It inspired so many new posters to enlighten us with their excellent comments! Thanks Steve and thank you all!

Posted by rafa4ever 03/28/2009 at 02:03 AM

I, too, start following tennis since Wimbleton 2007 because of Rafael Nadal.

imjimmy @3:45
"Rafa may not be a born genius as Sampras or Federer. But what he lacks naturally, he more than makes it up by just sheer diligence and mental fortitude. As Steve eloquently puts it, Rafa makes you believe that the only thing that matters is 'you' and that anything is possible!
How can anyone not like Rafael Nadal?"

lurkingna @ 8:03
Rafa says something like “if I can, anyone can” and talks a little bit about hope and being lucky with the skills that mother nature gives you and then says: “The most important thing is to become the best you can be. If the best you can is being #100, then at least you’ll be happy for being #100 because you have reached your top. If the best you can be is #1 then you’ll be happy for reaching your top being #1. I believe the most important thing is trying to give the best of you every day that you train or compete. Then you’ll never be able to reproach anything to yourself and you’ll be happy with yourself.”


I came back to read the posts after a few days. Besides finding 10 pages of pure appreciations of Steve's article, there are some that shared my thoughts about Rafa. Two of those are imjimmy and lurkingna, thanks for your insightful postings. I cannot said it better.

Posted by pau. 03/28/2009 at 12:16 PM

Re: just horsen 03/25/2009 @ 4:28 PM
I was just watching clips of Rafa from 2005\2006 on youtube and the guy has seriously bulked up since then. Great piece Steve.

!? Really?!
He's certainly lost the 'puppy fat' he had then. He deliberately shed weight for both 2007 and 2008 to protect his foot and knees and apparently has dropped a few more kilos coming into this season to see if he can keep up his momentum right through till the US Open, according to recent reports in the Spanish press... I for one have never seen him looking so lean as he is now.

Posted by heman 03/30/2009 at 04:27 AM

Here are three examples just happened in 24 hours. One of them might has read Steve’s conclusions of Nadal success factors. The other two obviously didn’t read it:
After won the third round, “At the end of the day, it all comes down to execution (against Federer) ,” said Dent: “You've just got to get out there, play your game, execute, and on a day to day basis, things change. So you may have to adjust.”

Ana Ivanovic, on her mental letdown during a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 loss to Agnes Szvay in the third round of Miami: I couldn't really fall asleep. I started already projecting the future. Before I knew it, it was like 1:00 a.m. I didn't have a good night of sleep, and you see what happens."

Dinara Safina, on missing yet another chance to secure the No. 1 ranking: "It's very disappointing. That's what I'm playing for. I want to be there. Suddenly I go to the court, and I don't even fight for it."

Posted by atchari2 04/11/2009 at 12:01 PM

I had lost interest in tennis for many many years. I remember hearing about Spain winning the Davis Cup in 2004 (?) with a little know teenager beating Roddick and that was the first time I had heard of Rafa. After that I started to watch tennis again when he was playing bec he made it look fun and exciting again. His appearance, his style of play, his youthful energy. The contrast to Fed made it more exciting. Whether he wins or loses he always learns something from the match and he makes me less sad that he doesn't always win.

I like to read press conf transcripts and watch interviews after the matches and I have always found Rafa to be honest, humble and funny which is all part of his personal charm. He never puts another opponent down unless he believe they are not being sportsmanlike. I would also vote Rafa for the ATP sportsman of the year award bec of the way he is very respective of his fans, other players and his instrument. And I think he basically didn't win bec the other players do not like that he takes his time btw points.

His off-court and on-court personalities are a contrast (his mother supposedly said that he doesn't recognise her own son on court). It's like the bandana is his serious office-tie-and-shirt work clothes outfit, and once that's off he is like a 10yr old child who has a great smile and is the most friendly guy and so sincere with his fans. Did you see after he lost to Del Potro in Miami he stopped to sign autographs on his way off the court, or when he was playing in the 4-5 day rain-delayed Wimbledon match with Sonderling he stopped to sign autographs when he was running off court bec of another rain delay?

Big thanks Steve for a great article.

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No matter how many times I read it, it never gets old. You definitely hit the nail on the head on this one. This is something people need to know about.

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