Rafael Nadal in his autobiography, “Rafa: My story” tells that he is not a naturally gifted tennis player unlike Roger Federer. What he has achieved in his career is due to immense hard work, and discipline.
The words couldn’t be any true.
Nadal’s game doesn’t constitute effortless serves or unplayable shots. In fact he is hardly seen shooting down serves, and even if he does, it comes very rarely. All his game depends upon is unbreakable mental strength, and ‘never give up’ attitude that in return caters to his strong performance.
It is this mental strength that saw the Spaniard come back in his more than decade long career that has been haunted by injuries.
Nadal’s recent loss to Novak Djokovic in the quarter finals of Rolland Garros has dropped his ranking to world number 10 – the worst since 2005 when he won his first major in Paris.
His game lacks its old essence – courageous and attacking. Unlike other times, injury couldn’t be the issue because Nadal’s performance has dropped both in non-clay as well as clay events. He hasn’t won a single event this year, not even the low tiered ATP 500 events, and that is a definite symbol of his body tearing apart.
Considering his pattern of playing which is very physical, it can rightly guessed that the decade long pressure has finally started to take a toll on his the Spaniard’s body.
During his quarter final clash against Djokovic, Nadal was seen to be a completely different person – vulnerable and confused. He wasn’t taking chances, and played like an amateur – a sharp contrast to the Nadal of 2013 and 2014 when he beat the Serbian, both times in semi final and final, respectively.
So, what will happen now to Rafa who is tied with Pete Sampras in the second position in all time Grand Slams?
According to a report by CNN, Nadal is confident in getting back to the top. He said, “Novak had been better than me and I have to work hard to improve my level of tennis, my level of intensity on court and if that happens I’m confident I can be back and compete at the highest level.”
In 2012 when he went out of the sport for seven months, media wrote him off completely. But, Rafa’s strength which intimidates even a top ranked player in the tour saw him win 10 titles the following year, including two grand slam titles.
However, this time the threat is tougher, competition is harder, and solution is narrower to find which could potentially mean pressurizing his body.
Although his success in keeping up his mental strength could see him dominate the tennis world yet again the occurrence of is definitely difficult. Having palpable knees and aged 29 could only mean the decline is nearing.