It’s a little while since that amazing victory by Nadal in the Australian Open to win his 21st Grand Slam reverberated across the world to make him the G.O.A.T (The Greatest of All Time). I have spent some time researching the internet to find out a little more about this man and his amazing mental resilience.
There are many images that stand out with Rafael Nadal. The lasso-like forehand that has wreaked havoc throughout his career; the pirate shorts and sleeveless shirts of his youth; the tics of his pre-serve routine; the forensic placement of his water bottles; the joyous fist-pumps and yells of “Si!” after another sensational winner.
But one thing sticks in the mind above all: his attitude. There has never been a moment when you could say Nadal has not given everything he had to try to win. Even Roger Federer has the odd day when his heart doesn’t quite seem in it. Nadal has rarely had a single point.
Carlos Moya, the former world No 1, a long-time friend and now his coach, first met him when Nadal was 12. “I could see, by the sheer intensity with which he trained, that he was super-ambitious and desperate to improve,” Moya said in Nadal’s book, Rafa. “He hit every shot as if his life depended on it. I’ve never seen anything like it, not even close.”
The intensity. The concentration. The focus. The belief. From the moment he broke through in 2003, Nadal’s laser-like focus and ability to dig deeper than most was obvious, as big a weapon as his forehand, which itself is one of the most devastating shots in tennis history, a shot Andre Agassi described as “just brutal”.
Devastating talent both physical and mental
Paul Annacone, who coached Federer from 2010 to 2013, saw Nadal close up and at his devastating best, on several occasions. For Annacone, too, it was the attitude, not just the tennis, that made him so great.
“It is the relentless ability to play every point like nothing else matters except that point,” he told the Tennis Channel. Nadal, speaking after winning his second Wimbledon title in 2010, said his ethos is simple. “I expect to play my best on every point and fight for every point like it is the last one. I don’t think if the match is going to be difficult. I just go on court and fight point by point.”
He intimidated the opponents both mentally and physically
The effect his attitude has had on his rivals is just as important. Federer had to change his game. Novak Djokovic, said: “His intensity, especially when you see him jumping around before you walk on to the court, it already intimidates you. It creates the challenge in your mind that I’m going in with a gladiator … a mental giant and also a physical giant. I think he was the most injured of any of us. I think he had something every second season for several months and managed to come back and build his game. The resilience he has on the court was astonishing.”
Former World No. 3 David Ferrer believes that Nadal’s ability to keep calm and to constantly look for solutions is what sets him apart from his peers.
“You know that he will make you play until the final point. Rafa is mentally the best there has ever been. I can’t speak of other players I didn’t play with, but of the ones I’ve seen, there is no equal.
I’ve never seen him lose his head; I’ve never seen a match in which you don’t have to beat Rafa right up to the last point. That says a lot about him, because he is the best in history in terms of preparation, mentality and never giving up. He always looks for a solution,” Ferrer said.
What makes him stand out?
- Nadal has a routine which he follows which gets him mentally prepared for his matches. If you watch him carefully he will do the same things in terms of setting up his racquets and drinks next to his chair; he will also charge back to the baseline after the coin toss much like a fighter going back to his corner of the ring to begin his duel. Rafa does not touch any of the lines when he changes sides. These things may seem small, but it keeps him focused and mentally strong during the entire match. His mind does not waver.
- Nadal never gives up; he fights for every point as if it is a set point or a match point. Even when he is down 0-40, he does not give away any points. You should strive to do the same. This will send the message to your opponent that he will have to fight for every single point.
- Positive attitude! Rafa always has a positive attitude and expects to win the next point. Even when he loses a long tough point he does not dwell on the negative or on the last point too long. You may see he was definitely displeased with the point he played but he quickly moves on. Learn from this; a positive attitude will help you create and expectation of success.
21st Grand Slam
There has never been a better example of that outstanding mental strength than when he played in the Australian final against Daniil Medvedev who was ranked number 2 in the world whilst Nadal was ranked number 6 in the world.
Nadal had been injured for most of the 2021 season and only came back a few weeks before the Australian Masters. Both men got to the final and Nadal found himself 2 sets down and 3-2 down with Medvedev serving at 40-0 to go 4-2 up.
Incredible mental strength
If Nadal had lost that game the odds are he would have lost the final 3-0. But he didn’t somehow with inhumane strength and belief he won that game and went on to win that set and the next two to win his 21st grand slam 3-2 in one of the most remarkable turnarounds in tennis history.
I have researched the injuries Nadal has had since he started tennis and I was going to list them here, but the list is so long it would have made the blog into a book! Suffice to say that he is the most injured top player in history and yet he has won more grand slams than any other player in history with 21.
He has moved ahead of Federer with 20 and Djokovic with 20. So as things stand he is the G.O.A.T (The Greatest of All Time). To put things in perspective and to understand how competitive tennis is; Sampras the next best player in history only won 14 grand slams in his career.
What makes this a great story is that he is a very nice man who is humble and makes me think of the phrase ‘Nice Guys Do Win’.
Thoughts for the week:
- When you are up against the ropes how do you respond?
- Do you fight or do you give up?
- What can you take out of today’s story about Nadal?
- Are there any characteristics he has that you could work on in your life?
- This week ponder on these and see if you can improve your resilience.
Well that’s it for this week have a wonderful weekend and keep believing.