If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Winners take it easy

All great sportspersons perform well when the stage is big. If it be true, Rafael Nadal (born 3 June 1986) ought to be amongst the greatest tennis players of all times. He has won 82% of the 11 Grand Slam finals he’s played. An astonishing statistic!

Nadal lived in an apartment in his hometown Manacor, Mallorca with his sister and parents until his parents separated in 2009. The trophies that have been in his home include nine Grand Slam titles, three Davis Cups, and an Olympic gold medal. A little away from his home, a Main Belt asteroid discovered in 2003 was named after him: 128036 Rafaelnadal.

Rafael Nadal won the last three Grand Slams he played: the Wimbledon, the French Open, and the US open in 2010. If he wins the Australian open that began yesterday, he will become only the third man in history to win four Grand Slams in a row, after Don Budge and Rod Lever. In an article in The Independent on 16th January, Paul Newman writes:

… but Nadal himself insists that he feels under no more pressure than normal. “This may be the only opportunity in my career to do this, but that’s not the reason I will feel any pressure here,” he said yesterday. “The pressure is just the same at every Grand Slam event. You want to play well in the important tournaments. Whether I win a fourth Grand Slam in a row is not something that’s on my mind. What’s on my mind is trying to play well ….

So here is a young man – not even 25 – at the threshold of making history. And he seems unconcerned about its significance. While reading this amazing statement, I felt that a true champion takes it easy. If you want to win, you have to shed the fear of losing.

Newman goes on to write that Nadal considers the task of winning four Grand Slams in a row to be “almost impossible”. Asked how special it would be, he replied: “I think it’s better if we continue with another question. Seriously, I can’t answer this because I haven’t thought about it.”

What areas of his game would he hope to work on this year? “Everything,” he said. “My serve can still improve a lot. I think I am serving better, but it's never going to be enough. You can play more aggressively. You can play more inside the court. You can go more times to the net. You can return a little bit more aggressively. You can play longer. You can play closer to the lines. … In tennis you can improve all your career. …”

That Nadal, one of the greatest sportsmen of all times, thinks that nothing about his game is good enough is food for thought for ordinary mortals like us. When we set targets for ourselves to excel in any field, how much do we aspire? 

Also, in every field, you have champions – from V S Naipaul to John McEnroe – who are bursting with conceit and arrogance. But people like Rafael Nadal, whose humility matches their enormous talent, have a special place in our heart.

Nadal played at Chennai Open in 2008. He was upset after experiencing abject poverty first hand. Since then, he has supported charitable causes from Balearic Islands in Spain to Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. He has an academy there. His foundation has also worked in Anantapur Educational Centre project. Nadal and his friend and closest rival, Roger Federer have joined hands to support charities the world over. I wish our champion cricketers, who roll in money but can think of nothing better than opening expensive restaurants, thought the same way.

Nadal suffered from a viral infection during his first tournament this year at Qatar. According to Newman, he has been feeling better since arriving in Australia but could not be sure how he would feel once he started playing matches. “After what I had in Doha, I’ve felt a little bit more tired than usual when I’ve been practising and I’ve been sweating more than ever,” he said. “I’m feeling better, but I don’t think I’m perfect.”

I join his countless admirers in wishing him all the best for the tournament and beyond.

Postscript: In February 2010 Rafael Nadal was featured in the music video of Gypsy, with the Columbian Singer Shakira, a household name after her Waka Waka song in the last Football World Cup. The still from the video is courtesy Wikipedia. You can see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCE-QdWd1qQ

1 comment:

  1. Very inspirational and profound! Thanks for sharing this.


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