Great champions have an innate ability to rise above fear, pain, self-doubt and helplessness, and to keep marching ahead. Rafael Nadal showed that once again as he fought like a gladiator to record his 13th French Open title and 20th Major overall at the recently concluded Roland Garros tournament.
There were many doubts around how Nadal would fare at this year’s French Open, especially after his shocking loss at Rome Masters to Diego Schwartzman. But the Spaniard erased all those doubts in the grandest way possible as he won the title without dropping a set - the fourth time he has done that at a Slam, which is an Open Era record.
As we marvel at how unreal an achievement it is to win 13 Roland Garros titles, let us take a look at five things we can learn from Rafael Nadal and his latest superhuman feat.
#1 Never give up
As we gaze over Rafael Nadal’s illustrious career, one word that keeps coming to our mind is ‘resilience’. The Spaniard has had to play through pain and injuries, has had his share of disappointments and has gone through disastrous situations, but he simply never gives up.
A prime example of this attitude is his match against Daniil Medvedev at the Nitto ATP Finals in 2019. The Spaniard was down a match point at 6-7, 6-3, 1-5(30-40) against the in-form Russian, but he turned the match on its head from that point.
Rafael Nadal won the next four games to level the third set at 5-5. He then completed the sensational comeback by winning the third set tie-break, leaving Medvedev - and everyone in the arena - shell-shocked.
Nadal's ability to fight until the last point, coupled with the incredibly high intensity that he maintains throughout the time he is on the court, is something that we can all learn from.
The 34-year-old's career is a testament to the fact that there is no substitute to hard work and that there are no short cuts to success.
#2 Treating wins and losses the same way
Rafael Nadal never gets ahead of himself after achieving huge success, nor does he feel too dejected or distraught after a painful loss. Throughout his career, Nadal has always responded to wins and losses in the same way - with a balanced state of mind.
How often have we come across personalities who either become overconfident after tasting success or crawl into a hole after going through a loss? Rafael Nadal is nothing like that; he always maintains his composure through both the highs and the lows.
The Spaniard's ability to treat accomplishments and adversities equally has been instrumental in his longevity and has made him a better player with each passing season. Like a sincere student of the game, Nadal takes positives from his successes and learns from his losses in order to always keep improving and become the best version of himself.
That's something we can all look to implement in our lives, even in our mundane tasks and routines, so that we constantly evolve and never stagnate.
#3 Always live in the present
In his US Open 2018 quarterfinal against Dominic Thiem, Rafael Nadal was served a ‘bagel’ in the first set. The 24-minute massacre inflicted by the Austrian would have been a huge body blow for any player, but not for Nadal.
Aware of the enormity of the task before him, the Spaniard reacted to the situation as if nothing had happened. Living fully in the present, Nadal hit the reset button, started afresh and maintained his focus to take the second set 6-4 and level the match.
Rafael Nadal ended up winning the contest in five sets, but that was only possible because he didn't lose heart after his 0-6 drubbing in the first set. He put that shock behind him and played the next point like it was a new day, which is why he was able to survive Thiem's relentless onslaught and eventually emerge victorious.
The 20-time Major champion constantly teaches us not to let our past affect our present or ruin our future. Rafael Nadal's ability to always stay in the moment is relevant across all walks of life.
#4 Never make excuses
Rafael Nadal was fortunate to have a tough coach like his uncle Toni, who not only shaped his ward into a great player but also into a great person. Right from a young age, Nadal was made to assume his responsibilities on his own; making any kind of excuse was never an option.
Uncle Toni’s strict regime has paid huge dividends over the years, and that was also evident at this year’s French Open. Rafael Nadal had to combat several uncharacteristic and unusual conditions in Paris over the whole fortnight - conditions that would've made an ordinary player lose hope.
The cold weather, the slower nature of the courts, the use of heavier Wilson balls and the closing of the roof at Phillipe Chatrier during the final - these were certainly not the conditions Nadal would have been hoping for. Literally every single one of these oddities had the potential to blunt his natural claycourt strengths - and enhance those of his opponents, especially Novak Djokovic.
However, Rafael Nadal never let any of these factors come in his way. On the contrary, he used the adverse conditions as fuel. The determination to prove his doubters wrong brought the best out of Nadal as he won the title without dropping a set.
In our lives, we might not always be in control of the situation around us. But making excuses should never be an option; instead, like Rafael Nadal, we should try and find alternative ways to succeed.
Many believe this is by far Rafael Nadal’s greatest attribute on and off the court. Humility is what separates legends from just champions, and Nadal has that in spades.
The Spaniard’s demeanor on the court is simply incredible. He always respects his opponents, and always treats them with dignity - no matter how much lower than him they may be in stature.
It is easy to lose your sense of perspective when you are as great a champion as Rafael Nadal. But the Spaniard never loses sight of his roots, and never thinks of himself as greater than anybody else.
Nadal now has 20 Grand Slam titles, the highest tally ever in men's tennis, but he didn't use that as an excuse to call himself the greatest. Instead, he paid tribute to Roger Federer with the kindest words possible, and stressed that records are not the only thing that matter.
Rafael Nadal's heroic performances coupled with his humility make him a perfect role model for budding sportspersons as well as youngsters in general.Published 16 Oct 2020, 15:45 IST