The glory is being happy. The glory is not winning here or winning there. The glory is enjoying practicing, enjoy every day, enjoying to work hard, trying to be a better player than before. -- Rafael Nadal
It takes time to get used to the genius of Rafael Nadal. It is not something outlandishly beautiful on the first sight but as you watch him more you realise the sublime absurdity of it all. His genius lies in improving. He is the greatest clay court artist the world has ever seen and perhaps ever will but it was something obvious from the time he won his first French Open title aged 19. What was not obvious was his supernatural mental toughness to mark the areas of improvement and work towards eliminating them with a sage-like single mindedness. Besides winning all the Grand Slams at least once (10 French Open titles, 2 Wimbledon crowns, 2 US Open titles, and 1 Australian Open title), the man also has an Olympics gold medal. These are great statistics to ponder over, second only to Roger Federer in terms of Grand Slams titles but they do not tell us about the struggles of Rafael Nadal and how he has emerged a better player and person in his pursuit to overcome the inner demons and the circumstantial devils.
Seeing Nadal on a tennis court at the beginning of a match can be misleading. He wears his snarling expression as if it was a weapon and performs short sprints more akin to a track athlete than to a professional tennis player. It is easy to know that he can do certain things on the court, what is overwhelming is how he has trained his mind to believe that every single ball is retrievable, every single pass is possible, overcoming geometry of the tennis court is an adventure and losing is impossible. If you do not stick around till the last point, regardless of the result, you would not know that the intimidator is perhaps the most sensitive man on the men’s tour. He is almost apologetic in victory (Well first of all, sorry for today," he said to Federer. "I really know how you feel right now. It’s really tough. Remember, you’re a great champion. You’re one of the best of history." – Australian Open Final 2009), conservative in his celebration and almost always empathetic towards the vanquished. He also manages an awkward smile on occasions he finishes second.
What started as a 19-year-old phenomenon in 2005 is now a 31-year-old institution and young sportspersons around the world would do well to attend his lectures wherever they are – in his red backyard at Ronald Garros or hallowed lawns of Wimbledon or at US and Australian Open offering punishing brutality of hard courts. More than his ability to generate 5000 rpm from his forehand over an average of 3000 rpm for other players, what could be more fascinating is his ability to know his limitations and cross them, not once but always. Rafael Nadal you have given hope to millions by just being around, made tennis a better sport, and taught the value of perseverance – as a fan I request you to be around for some more time and bite the trophies and records bite the