The king of clay has conquered it again, Capt Seshadri takes at look at the Spanish Armada.
I’m the king of the spin, the tennis VIP
I’ve reached the top and I just can’t stop
But that’s not bothering me
Rafael Nadal Parera, king of topspin; emperor of clay; ruler of the baseline. Simply ‘Rafa’ to the world and to a zillion fans, a Spanish Armada all on his own. Current World # 1, acclaimed as the greatest clay court player and one among the greatest tennis players of all time!
Rafa has several unique firsts to his credit. At age 31, when most players on the ATP circuit have retired or announcing it to the media, he is still number one. Never one to accept defeat lying down, he has bounced back from holding, losing and regaining spot numero uno in the same year, thrice in his career so far. No one else has even done it twice. Tenacity is second nature to him; dropping the top spot seemed so temporary, as he regained it four times in non-consecutive years.
His record speaks of his insatiable hunger to be the best there is. Member of the Spanish team that has so far won the Davis Cup four times… in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2011. 32 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and 20 ATP World Tour 500 championship wins. Olympic singles gold medallist in 2008. Career Grand Slam at age 24 in 2010. Seventeen Grand Slam singles titles comprising three US Open wins, two titles on the lawns of Wimbledon, one Australian Open and of course, the seemingly unbreakable record of 11 championships at the French Open, at his happy hunting ground of Roland Garros.
Known as much for his wins as for his injuries and remarkable recoveries, Rafa has a history of pushing himself to his limits and beyond. His resilience to overcome them and the mental strength, as much as the physical, is a story by itself, an example worthy of emulation. His swagger onto court with his bulging biceps and his ‘long’ shorts barely hiding his superb quads and hams would probably be more reminiscent of a gladiator than a tennis player. So, what is the secret behind his spectacular physique and his recovery from constant injury?
To keep in form and on top of the game, Rafa plays four hours of tennis a day. Sprint training being essential to a game like tennis, where footwork is of prime importance, he uses the running machine to develop his lower body and to improve agility. He is a great believer in the ‘vibrating platform’ which works wonders on his flexibility and his strength as well. This machine contracts the muscles 30 to 50 times a second! Combined with a massive amount of stretching and periods of rest, this appears to be the secret to his quick pain relief and recovery from injury. Resistance bands, rather than weights, front bends, push ups and pull ups and parallel bar dips, are the routine that help him build and maintain muscle strength through all the hard work on court. And, like every master sportsperson, Rafa turns to the swimming pool to get the best out of water resistance to both strengthen and relax muscles and to improve stamina.
For a world champion, Nadal, astonishingly, has no fixed diet plan. An advocate of fresh green vegetables, grilled chicken and fish, he confesses to a weakness for pasta and sushi; but his patriotism towards all things Spanish reflects in his food too. Indulgences towards sweets, chocolates and savouries once in a while are balanced out by intensive training and cardio workouts.
Rafa, during his brief periods at home, lives in a five storeyed apartment in Mallorca. As a boy, he was a great fan of Goku, of the popular Japanese animated series, prompting an article on him as the Dragon Ball of tennis. When not pounding furry yellow balls on the courts, Rafa loves playing golf and poker.
To millions of Indian fans and especially to the residents of Chennai, Rafael Nadal will always be remembered as the handsome hero at the ATP Chennai Open, with his flowing locks, trademark headband and colourful attire, a tennis Adonis who won their hearts as much with his looks as his devastating brand of tennis.