Rafa: My Story

Summary: Rafael Nada is not exactly who he is made out to be. What makes Rafael Nadal “Rafa” is both the stern training he received from is Uncle Toni and the loving family behind that refuses to be impressed by his achievements.

Rafa has been groomed from an early age to be the competitor he is today. His uncle Toni is a huge part of his success—so is his family; Manacor; and the nature of everyone close to him who refuses to be impressed by his accomplishments. Notwithstanding, Rafa is an incredibly hard worker and has earned all the success he enjoys.

Environment

A lot in his environment served him well as he climbed the ATP ladder.

Notably:

  • Two of his uncles have played sports at a professional level — one with more success than the other.
  • He had an uncle (an ex-tennis player) who devoted himself to teaching him the ropes
  • His family had sufficient means to resource his training (both with an arrangement with his uncle) and the costs associated with developing a world class tennis player
  • Mallorcan culture proved beneficial for Rafa in that neither his family or the little island that he called home, would allow him to believe his own hype

Hard work

In spite of all this, Rafa is an incredibly hard worker. Perhaps the combination of the example of an entrepreneurial father and the exacting nature of unyielding Uncle for a coach created a boy and a man that finds value and meaning in hard work.

Every professional athlete trains. But not every professional athlete trains like Rafa.

The same goes for training, which has caused me problems sometimes when the players I’ve chosen for practice during tournaments say that I train too hard, too soon, that I don’t give them a chance to warm up and they are tired out in ten minutes. It’s been a common complaint all along my career. But I haven’t sold my soul to tennis. The effort I invest is great, but I don’t consider it a sacrifice. It’s true that I’ve trained every day practically since the age of six and that I make big demands of myself. And meanwhile my friends are out partying or sleeping late. But I haven’t felt this to be sacrifice or a loss because I’ve always enjoyed it.

A note on the nature of his family in refusing to be impressed by his accomplishments.

After winning the calendar grand slam—the biggest achievement of his professional life so far—and getting through the obligatory press conferences and day time TV shows the next day, Rafa promptly flew back home to Manacor. The next morning at around 9am, he was back on the practice courts with his coach hitting tennis balls. Apart from a night out on the town with his friends, there was no other celebration or ostentatious show to mark his grand accomplishment just two days earlier. He was simply back to business and all his family expected nothing less for throughout his career, they had never allowed him to get caught up in his success or believe his own hype.

It’s a challenge to be a grand slam champion. It’s a tougher challenge still to be a multi grand slam champion. One ingredient that has no doubt helped Rafa in this feat is the natural cultural tendency of his closest and dearest to play down his accomplishments. This more than anything has helped to keep Rafa grounded and disciplined in a whirlwind of travel, training, competition and fame, that would dishearten and beset the best of players.

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