I remember watching 2008 Wimbledon final as a twelve year old back in the days of cable tv where high definition picture quality wasn’t much of a thing. Yet, I vividly recall watching in the two mavericks of the game coming out on the plush green lawns of Central court of Wimbledon championships. The defending champion Roger Federer with 12 Grand slams under his belt (including last two Wimbledon) walked in his gold cardigan with nonchalance of an aristocrat welcoming the crowd to his home. Then I saw this spaniard walking out in white tank shirt with a racket in his hand, clenched fists, bulging muscles and look of a fighter on his face. It was the 22 year old Rafael(Rafa) Nadal, an upstart by the standards of his supreme reigning opponent and yet the upstart had proven worthy of his salt by defeating Roger on clayey turf of French open earlier. Now, he stood uptight in front of the Goliath, taking on him in his own backyard and making every point count like it was his last ever.
After 5 sets and arguably the greatest game ever played in history of sport the upstart stood up victor with the coveted gold cup in his embrace and a boyish smile, looking at the world, announcing a period of new ascendency in the game of Tennis.
Fast forward to 12 years, in 2020 Rafael Nadal is still going strong and just won his 20th Grand slam title (joint most in history) and here I am still watching him in awe as I did 12 years ago. Over the years this man has become something of more than a mere excellent sportsman, so many times I’ve seen this guy defy odds from the most deplorable and undermining situations and yet come out on top like a champion. Playing the game relentlessly with effort that he puts in every single point like his life depends on it, winning the French open year in and out each year with same hunger in his eyes as the very first time. This is the stuff champions are made of, this is what it means to be “excelling” in your field; heck, this man has become symbol of human will and endeavour of excellence to me.
So in a year that had turned out to be pretty much annus horibilis where I felt like I’ve hit lowest of low, the very rock bottom in my career pursuit, I was fishing around for some form of motivation to start again. At this point I turned back to my icon and picked up this book “Rafa: My story” which is somewhat of a memoir cum sports biography written by Rafa and John Carlin. The book is succinctly written, even though a decade old now it feels fresh because of the nature of write up and the way it entraps the essence of Rafa’s personality.
Clark Kents beneath Supermans
An amazing aspect of Rafa’s life ,as depicted in the book, was how sensitive of a person he is in his personal life. Looking at him in court we imagine a rock solid steel spined individual and yet we encounter a Clark Kent beneath the superman. I believe it’s an important lesson for us that we learn being emotional does not equals to being weak in fact the strongest of men are most mindful of their emotions as the book tells about the man. A very important lesson I took away from this book that being mindful of one’s emotions actually strengthens us, something that we tend to undermine in our life yet it plays a major role.
The Crash and the flight
The chapter where Rafa too hits his rock bottom was particularly touching as well as motivating. With an injury that could have ended his career altogether, and a personal tragedy to make matter worse. We see the man of steel at his vulnerable most. Yet, once again he does what he always did and works again with single minded attitude to not only return to court within 10 months but also producing the best year of his career with winning his career grand slam with US open of 2010. I’ve always wondered what goes in behind the scenes in making of a champion and that is what exactly I got to know. Quick and short answer: relentless and tireless hard work every single day, period. The story exhibited that there is simply no short cut for excellence and that level of success it is plain and simple hard work and an undying work ethic that simply doesn’t know how to compromise. The constant hunger and flared determination that this man has shown is what separated him from the rest of crop in his career through and through.
While picking this book I was looking for motivation and ended it with realisation that the answers to our troubles actually often lie within us. Just the will to find them and act on them is often the challenging part. To me this book is special and I owe it a lot in recalibrating my perceptions about life. I’d recommend you to read it too for its gripping narrative, lucid language and inspiring content.