Is Rafael Nadal the greatest? Yes and a no.
Now, ask me again. I would say yes. Yes because of his mental strength and his ability to pull the game from anywhere else.
If they are all in a band, Rafa would be that musician who would play all the wrong notes, different from his band. He would go elsewhere to all places and yet would produce a classic for the audience. His music would do better than what his band would have thought. He is the master when it comes to discovering delightful notes from even from his ugliest composition.
Tennis is just a game for most of us but with Rafa, he would make you think otherwise. The adrenaline rush you get with every single point he plays indescribably worst. They probably should include a disclaimer before his match.
If Rafa was a dictionary, he wouldn’t have the sentence “giving up” on him. He hates them. Be it a single point, single game or single set, he would go in with the same spirit and would try to change everything. He hates losing. His never say die attitude is undeniable and his ability to adjust himself to the adversity and the way he gets out of the trouble is a poetry written by the best ever.
He starts with a short forehand which has enough topspin and the next shot will be those looping cross-courts and inside-out down the lines but in the meantime, he runs so hard, returns every single shot his opponent plays, whatever it may be. He absorbs their energy, faces any amount of returns. He literally drains his opponents.
Nobody comes in with a plan for Rafa because he is going to be there no matter where and what you do against him. You probably will end up thinking after each point, ‘I hit this guy with everything I had, and it didn’t do me any good. He just ran everything down and kept coming back at me. What’s the use?’
After all this time, Nadal is still learning and is experimenting with new things. How can you not love him?
Deep down the set, if you watch any top players they would either simply give away the game and store the energy for the next set but with Rafa, he doesn’t do that. He is greedy in that way.
Normally, a player would lose his concentration as he goes deep into the set and would disengage from prior levels of focus. This never happens with Rafa. He battles with the utmost concentration be it a four hour or a five-hour match, be it a grand slam or an exhibition match, he would stay present and absorb all the energy. He is the closest human we have as a definition of impossible. He cannot take up losing even a single point. That being said, he is also gracious in his defeat, and also on and off the court.
Tell him he is the Greatest of All Time, he would blush and would say that Federer is. Nadal is humble such that he hates comparing himself with Federer. Of Course, Federer would do the same too. Maybe, that is why they are legends. What’s more impressive with them (including Novak and Andy) is the way they donate, take care of the people around them with through their foundation. They do help out each other through exhibition matches which makes the game healthy.
He has the confidence and the mindset that would make the men before him look like an amateur before him. Nobody enters the court with equal to Rafa. He is superstitious yet nothing can affect the man who is as energetic and explosive as him. Even his DNA would spell out the victory and is true for a man who is certainly superior to normal humans. He sweats blood and pain.
His sleeveless shirt and pirate pants lied to us at the beginning because nobody had an outfit like him before. It wasn’t convincing when he began but he made us accept him even love him. Now, we do find the clothing as a regular. Who would have thought that a boy wearing pirate pants would go on to win so many grand slam titles?
Of course, there are times Rafa made mistakes too. There are times he gave away the match. There are times his opponent made a mockery of him but he handled everything with brilliance and had comebacks and turnaround that were incredible to witness.
This decade has witnessed longevity and consistent dominance in sports than at any other time. We had champions repeating their feat and making it a regular. Rafa, though, has outshined them all with his love for the French Open Trophies. I don’t know what they add to the trophy that Nadal keeps coming back, smashing many innocent souls in the way to take a bite of it. Now, this love can be a script for new rom-com, makers, please take note before it’s too late.
He is an epitome of the combination of uniqueness, hard work, determination and belief. It is a complete fusion. His extreme attribute has to be the way he raises his energy and skills during the toughest moment of the game. He is the beast of the best someone we can never get tired of watching.
At 33, Nadal is looking fitter perhaps can go for another decade. Still, he can get his way through to win more trophies with ease. Maybe, he will hang his boots when he finally passes the baton to someone at least to take over his legacy, at least, at the French Open. Something, thankfully, I don’t think is coming in the near future.
Being around for years now, Rafa is more like a household name and to watch him play all through the year is something we all used to. We never know what’s the future holds for everyone. No matter what, I’m sure that he has left a permanent stamp on each one of us and will continue to do so. Until then let’s watch and enjoy the pure mastery of the man from Mallorca.