Atch2 sent in this 2005 article from The Independent. Excerpts:
Last Sunday, 24 hours before the Godo tournament got under way on the manicured acres of the Real Tenis Club de Barcelona, the magazine Tenis A Fondo put on display a thousand posters of Nadal at their sales kiosk to give away as inducements to buy the publication. They were gone inside an hour.
Hey, his fans were just following his thieving ways…posters, towels…what’s the difference?
Nadal’s first emergence from the clubhouse en route to a doubles match was a revelation. He was followed by a gaggle of adoring, beautifully dressed people of an age to have known better, and greeted outside, almost reverently, by kids whose only wish was to touch him as he passed.
Know better? Sounds like they knew the right thing to do.
Nadal’s arrival in the city could not have offered clearer indication of the young man’s attitude and commitment. After Sunday’s victory ceremony in Monte Carlo, the family Nadal – Rafael and his uncles, his coach, Toni, and Miguel Angel, his fitness trainer – made the journey back to Spain by car, arriving in Barcelona at 4am on Monday. By 8am, Nadal was breakfasting with Pedro Muñoz, president of the Spanish Tennis Federation, who calls him “a model of comportment”, and, at noon, he was taking part in a sponsor’s clinic for children at the Real Tenis Club. When approached by tournament officials with the suggestion that, after Monte Carlo, he might like to withdraw from the doubles, he simply said: “Are you crazy?”
I think he was asking the wrong person…
Nadal, who has now won 34 of his 40 matches this year, did not drop a set in reaching this afternoon’s Barcelona final where he will meet the man who preceded him as Spain’s tennis pin-up, Juan Carlos Ferrero.
2005 was a very, very good year for Rafa.
Clay is the natural playing surface for a youngster brought up in the town of Manacor, on the island of Mallorca, but Nadal insists his main Grand Slam target is Wimbledon, which has only once been won by a Spaniard, Manuel Santana in 1966, not only because it is the world’s No 1 event but also because of the challenge it presents. “I want to do well on grass because it is a very special surface, so different to all the others,” he said. “Not many players from Spain have done well there, so that is an extra motivation for me.”
I’ve never understood why journalists seem surprised that Wimbledon was a huge goal for him. It’s always been seen as the tennis tournament, no?
Rafa came close to following Miguel Angel into football. “He was undecided for a long time whether to play tennis or football,” said the uncle, “but, when he started to win all these junior tournaments, it convinced him he had a bigger guarantee of success in tennis. Rafa also has another problem. In tennis, you are your own boss, you make your own decisions. In football, it’s the coach who does that. Rafa didn’t like that very much.”
Heh. I get the feeling Rafa doesn’t like being told how to do anything.
To describe Nadal as exciting would be a serious understatement. Pedro Hernandez, the editor of Tenis A Fondo, has followed his career since the earliest days and says: “He has the spirit, the talent, the fight, the brains. He has everything, and he will be better than most Spaniards because he can play on all surfaces. He is not big-headed but he is very confident and he wants to compete at everything. He will even challenge you to a sandwich-eating contest.”
I challenge him to a chocolate chip cookie eating contest. Actually, I’m sure I could take him in a sweating contest. No problem.
“My only thought every day is to become better. My intention is to give 100 per cent every time I play. Sometimes I will win, sometimes lose, but I can always go to sleep knowing I have done my best. I always play with the same humility.”
And with colm and a positive acktitude.