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Rafael Nadal: The Preeminent Champion of Adversities
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Reads: 7,720, Comments: 4
All of this was widely visible a couple of weeks ago when Nadal captured a record breaking 22nd Masters title at Indian Wells and with it he put to bed the conjecture that the fans will never be able to watch the real Rafa on a rectangular arena. The most remarkable facet of the 11 times Grand Slam holder’s run in the Californian desert was that when he was written-off by the pundits, with some of them even claiming that his career was prematurely over, the man showcased that if there’s will there’s a way.
The southpaw stopped the winning streak of Latvian Prince Ernests Gulbis at number 13 by knocking him off in the round of 16 and then offered a drubbing to his great rival Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. In the semi-finals the 5th seed overpowered the towering and the in-form Czech Tomas Berdych and in the final, he came back from the dead to overwhelm the Tower of Tandil Juan Martin Del Potro. Not only was it the manner in which he notched up those victories that was awe-inspiring, to a certain extent what was astonishingly noticeable was his body language that had the hallmark of a champion written all over him.
He once more exhibited that he wasn’t going into the sunset as he is not an ordinary person. In the face of privation, the typical inclination of a person is to move back in a gloomy state and renounce the optimism of trying again. However, champions like Nadal in contrast shine in testing conditions and ensure that they take full advantage of such barriers to get back better and stronger than before and that’s what he has done by returning to the ATP tour with an imposing 18-1 win-loss record, by far his best start to a season since he debuted in 2001.
The truth is that the superstar has underwent and embraced multiple forms of pain – from being incapacitated by niggling knee tendinitis, that has inundated his entire life, the former world no.1 had been escorted by Hoffa’s Syndrome and had to devour the depressing news of being heavily punctured in his movement due to a partly tattered patella tendon. And if physical pain wasn’t enough he had to endure emotional and psychological trauma as well as he bore to tears when his parents announced their separation in 2009.
TennisEarth presents the timeline of Nadal’s miseries and consequently puts forward the many reasons that make him the ‘Preeminent champion of Adversities’. Here’s a unique sneak-peek into how the genius has braved numerous form of aches and has deposed the harsh situations to reappear with a fresh vigour.
1. The First Brush with Calamity: The world no.5’s first brush with calamity came in the year 2007, when a foot injury he sustained during his five set loss to Federer during the Wimbledon final, kept on bothering him throughout the next six months of the year. He just bagged a single shield afterwards and that too was on the clay of Stuttgart where he tamed Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets. Other than that, his results for the season were quite apathetic.
As the dawn of 2008 fell upon him, he erased all the doubts pertaining to his fitness as he breezed into the semi-finals of the Aussie Open and then followed that act with his usual dominant run at Monte Carlo, Rome, Barcelona, Hamburg and Roland Garrros. However, for the first time, he did something that no one else had achieved, that is, he toppled the 'Ruler of Centre Court’ Roger in the greatest match ever at the All England Club to become the first man since Bjorn Borg to complete the French-Wimbledon double.
2. The Ever Running Wheels got Punctured
His never tiring knees – the finest wheels on a tennis court appeared to have multiple punctures in 2009 before the news confirmed that a new set of tyres will be required for him to drive his body as his knee problems surfaced during his bitter defeat to the Super Scot Andy Murray at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
He soon made a comeback and tore through the dirt captivating two Masters events en-route to his sojourn in the French capital, where he was upset in the fourth round – still, his only ever loss at the second Major of the year. Later on, it was revealed that he was nursing tendinitis in both his knees and that was the reason behind his sudden exit from the event that he had owned completely.
He pulled out of ‘The Championships’ in London denying him his right of opening play on the hallowed lawns of SW19 as he was not able to make the trip to London for the defence of his Wimbledon crown. And though he returned to the tour after a two and half month hiatus, he could not evoke the overriding form of old.
3. The Heartbreak
As if the ache in his knees wasn’t enough, Nadal was forced to undergo immense emotional and mental trauma as his parents announced their separation that would ultimately lead to a divorce. Rafa was too close to his parents to not have a letdown once he received the information that the two persons that have meant everything to him will now be living in disconnect.
He claimed in his autobiography ‘Rafa: My Story’: "My knees were the immediate reason, but I knew that the root cause was my state of mind. My competitive zeal had waned, the adrenalin had dried up. If your head is in permanent stress, you sleep little and your mind is distracted – exactly the symptoms I was showing at that time – the impact on your body is devastating."
He stated that he was left stunned and heartbroken when his father disclosed that he and his mother were facing problems in their marital union: "My parents were the pillar of my life and that pillar had crumbled. The continuity I so valued in my life had been cut in half, and the emotional order I depend on had been dealt a shocking blow. On the surface I remained a tennis-playing automaton, but the man inside had lost all love of life."
4. The Return of the Ruthless Monarch
His listless acts continued at the beginning of 2010 as he was forced to retire midway from his last 8 duel with the current US Open champion Murray in Melbourne Park and bowed out in the semi-finals at Indian Wells and in Miami. At this point, the experts had started disregarding him and the calls of his inevitable end began to get louder and louder. The pundits argued that he was a spent force and he would never be able to revisit his glory days again. But, he answered his detractors in incredible fashion as he became only the seventh man in the game’s history to complete the career Slam by collecting three successive Majors - the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
5. A Mirror Image Archenemy
His extraordinary exploits in 2010 were followed by an ordinary 2011 as ultimately he had met someone who was an exact carbon copy of what Nadal was. The man in discussion over here is the reigning Aussie Open conqueror Novak Djokovic who with the same brand of aggressive defensive tennis became the stumbling block for Rafa. Not only, he gave the left hander the taste of his own medicine, the Belgrade native also entered the unbreakable galleries of his mind as he lost six straight finals to the Serb – all in that one season.
Nonetheless, he changed things around in 2012 by switching to a new racquet that would increase the top spin revolutions to 3300 per minute from the earlier number of 2800. The advice that was given to him by his uncle Tony paid off as unlike in 2011, he was successful in breaking the Djokovic defence on the red brickish surface and rewrote history as he went past Bjorg as the most decorated French Open champ with his 7th Coupe des Mousquetaires.
6. The Real Nemesis
After taking home an 11th Grand Slam crown by overwhelming Djokovic in a four set thriller, Nadal headed to the grass-courts of the preeminent tennis tournament of the world, and who would have imagined that an unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol will present him with a battering in the second round. Rafa was shown the door by Rosol – a bitter pill for Nadal to swallow as it was his worst Slam loss since 2005.
Conversely, the secret was out in the open almost immediately that the Mallorcan was battling a partially torn pattela tanden that was hurting so much so that he was seen frowning with pain. It became much clearer that rather than a challenger, it was his body that was Nadal’s principle nemesis. The injury sidelined him for seven months which forced him to miss the Olympics where he was the flag bearer for Spain, the US Open, the World Tour Finals and the Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific.
7. The Reappearance of the Intangible Fighter
After remaining in doldrums almost for three quarters Nadal at the end of the day reappeared at Vina del Mar and his first trip to Chile ended in a jolt as the Argentine Horacio Zeballos trounced him in a three set entertainer. His failure to beat a guy like Zeballos raised a few eyebrows with tennis fraternity holding its hands in prayers that wished that his knees should hold up for a couple more years. Their pleas were responded almost immediately as Rafa went on a winning spree of 15 straight matches including three consecutive titles in Sao Paulo, Acapulco and in Indian Wells.
His act especially in the final of Acapulco where he murdered David Ferrer was the first instance that made the analysts believe that his comeback trail has reached its dizzying heights as his compatriot was made to look like the world no.140 rather than the man ranked four in the world. But that wasn’t the case as there was more to come at the picturesque Indian Wells Tennis Center. Rafa hit the bull’s eye as he captured his 53rd career trophy by dispatching the former world no.4 Del Potro after weathering the early storm from the towering man’s racquet.
Seeing how Nadal celebrated after that win, it can be said that it meant a lot to him. He opined: “When you have one comeback like I’m having, you remember all the low things, lower moments that you had during this seven months, doubts and all these things. So beating three Top 10 players and winning a title like this is just something unbelievable for me. Very, very happy, and very emotional.”
In the end it can be affirmed that greatness is manufactured by distinctive indescribables and once acquired, it refuses to lie quiescent. And that is what Nadal is all about as his competitive psyche has always given him the belief that he can stand firm after a big fall. He is an unflappable chap and a pragmatist with an extensive line of self-doubt, and suspects’ uncomplicated success as he thrives when he experiences oppression.
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