Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The 60 Minute Interview of Rafael Nadal: Simply Beautiful

As much as I love watching professional tennis—perhaps you too felt a fortnight of Wimbledon withdrawal—it is hard for me to watch Rafael Nadal play the game. "Rafa" who is just one win shy of Roger Federer's record of twenty grand slam victories, has played on the pro circuit since 2005. As reported by L. Jon Wertheim: "Nadal doesn't play tennis so much as he works it. Blistering the ball with annihilating force, lacing it with somersaulting topspin and imposing his will on the opponent." But that intense style of play isn't why I have often felt I would rather NOT watch Nadal play. Nadalito is riddled with ticks. During a match he is always tugging at his shorts and placing his hair behind his headband. He has an elaborate set of rituals, such as placing his water bottle at just the right angle. Said tendencies have taken away from my enjoyment of his game and this is unfortunate. Why? "Rafael Nadal: The 60 Minutes Interview" reveals an additional perspective on this great athlete. Though his game might not be considered beautiful, those are the best words to describe who he is and from where he comes. 
Rafa is fluent in English but answered the questions in Spanish so he could express himself as freely as possible. I learned more than I expected and found in him an example of an athlete I truly admire. Here's why.

Home
Filmed on Mallorca, the island where he was born, lives now and has vowed never to leave,  Nadal admits that he loves being home because there, he  is just "Rafael Nada." When asked how many generations of Nadals have lived on this Mediterranean island, he says "Bastantes....no pocas." In other words, "Many....quite a few." Though he could make much more money if he lived elsewhere, he admits it would compromise his happiness—something money cannot buy.

His Temper
The game of tennis has had its share of temper tantrums. When asked how many rackets he has broken in a match, I made a guess. The answer? "Cero." When asked why he hasn't broken a single one, he says "my family. They would not allow it." I see a pattern here; Rafa is connected to two things much larger than himself....
The Importance of Self-Doubt
Like many sports, tennis is physically and mentally demanding. He believes doubt and success go hand in hand. Check it out. 

Jealousy
How can something like jealousy be beautiful? Listen to the type that Rafa admits to having. 

My Coaching Philosophy
Every coach is tasked with articulating their own coaching philosophy. While it is often a one to two sentence statement, the message that Rafa offered his coach—his Uncle Tony—during a rain delay of the 2008 Wimbledon final capture the spirit of mine. In what is considered by many as the greatest match of all time, Rafa said , “Relax, I’m not going to lose this match. Maybe Fed will win, but I’m not going to lose." He went on to win and to win. 

I think my task for my team is to help my athletes get to a level of focus and preparation that would allow us to compete in this way. 

Your Motivation
When asked "Why do you continue to play. In spite of the injuries, why are you still in the game? Rafa offers a simple, authentic and beautiful response. I can't think of a better reason to play.

Joy or Winning or the Pain of Losing
Tennis players get asked all the time which side the competitive coin stays with them longer. Rafa is slow to respond. He deliberates and then commits. His answer is consistent with his motivation. He closes his remarks in stating "Creo." ...."I think." 

His Rivalry with Roger Federer
Wertheim asks Nadal is he ever gets interviewed without a question about King Fed. "Do you ever get tired of being asked about Roger?" He responds "No. Encantado." Tan Bonito Rafa.

Hermoso + Bello + Precioso
The 14 minutes of this program reminded me of why I love sports and what I have been missing.  For example, take one look at what is deemed "the 2019 the shot of the year" and something will happen to you. Adrenaline will flow through your veins. Do you remember that feeling? For me, it was heightened by the camera catching Tiger Woods' reaction to the feat. Sitting in the box with his girlfriend and son, he reacted with the same fist pump we have come to know and love with him in red and black on Sundays. 
That moment is quintessential Rafa. He admitted, "I think I'm a very intense person, with a lot of energy. I live life and sports at maximum intensity. This is how I feel it." I heard his words and thought of how magnificent humanity can be. Here is this athlete I have watched for years battle it out on the tennis court. He gives nothing more than maximum intensity; it is an extension of his own life. I let distractions get in the way of focusing in who he really is and how he feels things. This interview allowed me to see with new eyes something and someone beautiful. 

While you can't watch many live sports right now, enjoy this highlight reel and when Rafa returns to the court, for me, it will only be that much more special. 

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