Tennis Identity

Sunday with “RAFA”

RAFA_cover art I hung with RAFA Sunday thanks to Irene. The storm hit with winds not unlike his game, fierce and unrelenting. No power, no Open, just this guy (left). Not all bad.

Yes, it’s here: Nadal’s rituals, insecurities, off-court personality, Mallorcan home life, girlfriend Mary, long-time team, injuries, challenges and on-the-road life.

What I loved most though was the opportunity to get inside Nadal’s head (it’s a very heady game), to see how a passionate young soccer fan grew to be a veritable tennis gladiator and how he now thinks about playing both philosophically and tactically.

Joan Forcades, Rafa’s physical trainer, refers to Nadal’s success as the result of a holistic approach that results in the “perfect synergy” of head, body and emotions. Any player can take a page.

Rafa also uses the book to set the record straight on a number of stories that have permeated his coverage for years. No, for example, Uncle Toni did not force him to hit left handed. It was Rafa’s choice. No, he is not superstitious, he simply needs a well ordered on-court plan to stay focused. His locker room regime is even more intense.

Toni comes off as somewhat of a tyrant although Nadal never says so much. Until very recently he accepted all that his uncle/coach has dished out as a means to a successful end. Honestly, not many kids (or tennis parents) would put up with what he has. A vision of Agassi hitting balls with his Dad came back to me here, the difference being that Nadal always had a choice. He is a self-imposed grinder at practice as much as in competition.

Writer John Carlin has done a nice job of weaving Rafa and his parade of personalities and tournaments into a great read that is interjected with bursts of blow by blow match play. You will watch Nadal with new eyes.

FIND IT: RAFA by Rafael Nadal and John Carlin

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