What a mensch

Smiling and signing (From the official ABN AMRO tournament website)

Smiling and signing (From the official ABN AMRO tournament website)

SI’s Jon Wertheim is showing his Rafa love again – bless him.

Nadal’s gracefulness, Henin’s viewpoint and Roger’s toxins

For the record, Nadal does have a PR rep on the payroll, who does right by him. But clearly this “comes naturally” to him as well. As we discussed last week: anyone can spew a few slick talking points into a microphone. Yet when your rival unexpectedly breaks down in tears and you have the wherewithal to step up and console him, you’re revealing much more about your nature.

I think people who only tend to see Rafa’s on-court fierceness and don’t know about the sweet guy he is off the court learned a lot about him that day.

What’s the source of this authentic good-guy-ness? Nadal was clearly “raised right” by a mom and dad who don’t exactly cut the figure of stage parents. While Nadal’s island of Majorca has a reputation as a trendy Euro-destination, Nadal’s hometown of Manacors is an unassuming, close-knit place where class distinctions are fuzzy and folks go to great lengths to conceal their wealth. Nadal’s uncle, Miguel Angel, the former pro soccer player, was the proverbial “role model,” who offered an example of how a pro athlete ought to conduct himself.

Rafa is so good at keeping his private life private and not revealing too much of himself. I’ve always wondered how much of that is based on what he and his family learned by having another athlete in the family who went through the whole fame thing before Rafa.

You could write an entire chapter about Nadal’s pleasant off-court personality and how jarringly at odds it is with on-court ferocity. But give the kid his due. He not only challenges Federer’s skill but also gives him a run in the mensch department.

I’d say more than a run, but I’m biased.