USO: Required reading
I’m back home and I know I owe you guys ooodles of lint, but I also need some sleep. (And tomorrow, after work, I have my second doomed kayak lesson.) I also need quite awhile to just come to grips with how emotional I got on Monday night. So, until I can get my act back together, chew on this article:
U.S. Open victory the pinnacle of Nadal’s unbelievable comeback year by S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated.
And then came a sight that you could spend years on the pro tour and never see. Nadal’s footwork is legendary, a key to his remarkable career, yet now his right foot snagged on the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium and he went down slow and fast, body parts flailing, bit by awkward bit. He looked like a man shoved hard onto a patch of ice.
“I never,” Nadal said later, “thought I would fall down like this.”
Still, there were two unusual things about his reaction: Instead of cushioning his fall, Nadal kept his eye on the ball and kept trying to swing. Over in Djokovic’s box, his new coaching consultant, Wojtek Fibak, couldn’t believe it.
“I was admiring him,” said Fibak, the one-time mentor of Ivan Lendl. “Because he was falling in six or seven stages, and each stage he tried to hit the ball. He tried then … and tried then … and tried then … and he still tried.”
It’s true. “Because until the last moment,” Nadal said, “I thought that I will hit the ball.”
His eyes don’t leave the ball until it bounces and he’s flat on his back.
And that, my dear friends is part of what makes Rafa, Rafa. You pile that amount of stubborn optimism on top of great tennis talent and you get a mighty fierce and successful competitor.
It also reminds me of a story I read a long time ago and I hope I’m remembering correctly. (I can’t seem to find it right now.) The article included some words from his uncle Miguel Ángel. He said that even as a youngster Rafa was a stubborn competitor. He talked about playing “keep away” with him – a circle of adults kicking a soccer ball while Rafa was in the middle trying to take the ball away. Most kids would give up after a short time realizing it was pretty impossible. Not Rafa. He’d keep trying and trying and trying…