Rafa Nadal – king of the Terre BattueTim Strawn
Did anyone doubt that Nadal would win a record 14th title in Paris? He marches through the draw taking down anyone in his path, including Djokovic, and then in the final, he faces Casper Ruud, a promising young star who actually trained at Nadal’s academy. Ruud came into Paris with an impressive 2022 record and is considered to be one of the best dirt ballers in the world. However, being one of the best is quite different than being THE best, which is who he faced in the French Open final. The moment was too overwhelming for Ruud and he fell in straight sets to the master, including a bagel in the third set. Impressive? Certainly but at the same time, not unexpected.
There is so much to say about Nadal when it comes to his accomplishments on the court but more than that, if you pull back the cover and look at the man himself, you see a clear picture of a wonderful human being. For some real insight, I advise those who are Amazon Prime subscribers to go to https://www.amazon.com/Rafa-Nadal-Academy-Season-1/dp/B09GD4YNBC and check out the new series on his academy. You gain some great insight into just what young players go through in their quest to become professional tennis players. But there’s much more in this documentary-style presentation that reveals the temperament and humility of the man himself as well as the staff they have selected to be the backbone of their academy. You see a unique perspective of attitude as it’s conveyed to the young aspiring players and the importance of why they must accept it if they want to reach their goals. It’s not just a focus on stroke production and tournament preparation. Every single aspect required, including psychology, nutrition, and fitness is covered at the Nadal academy. There is literally no stone left unturned and if there’s an academy elsewhere that is more complete, better organized, and with a more dedicated staff, I do not know of it.
Humility is an important quality in a human being and I’ve seen it up close from Nadal. Something as simple as taking your own racquets to the stringing room as opposed to having one of your entourage deliver it says something about you. While I was working on the stringing team in Miami several years ago, I saw yet another example of Nadal, the person. The stringing area was under the stadium and as I was walking out to one of the courts a side door opened and Nadal rushed out and nearly knocked me down. If he hadn’t caught me I most likely would have gone down very hard. He was not just apologetic and then off to wherever he was going. No, he stayed, made sure I was ok, and apologized profusely before he went on his way. While it may seem small and insignificant, these are the types of things that show the true character of a person.
Most of my acquaintances know I’m a Roger Federer fan, I’ve made no secret of that. Was I disappointed when Djokovic and Nadal tied Roger for the most slam titles? Naturally, I was, However, if there is one person I can accept to lead the race for the most major titles besides Federer, it’s Rafa. He has won my respect and admiration by his example, both on and off the court!
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