Monday, July 10, 2017

The Gospel of Nadal

I want to take a break from my usual blog that focusses on theological topics, to write about a person who embodies so many of the great attributes of strong character.  He is a person who is easily one of the most exciting professional athletes in the history of athletics.  I want to write about Rafael Nadal, or "Rafa" as he is called, tennis player extraordinaire!

Just moments ago, Rafael Nadal was in the "Final 16" of Wimbledon (the famed grass, tennis -tournament set in Great Britain, the birthplace of sport).  The game that Nadal and Muller played against one another lasted for over 4 hours, and it went five sets.  The match went on so long that the next match that was scheduled to follow it (Djokovic), had to be cancelled.  The final set, being played as the evening sun cast an orange glow on the beleaguered green court, and even more beleaguered players, was won by Gilles Muller, a 36 year old left hander from Luxembourg.

Not to belabor the point (no pun intended), but the overall set score for the match was:

Nadal 3, 4, 6, 6, 13
Muller 6, 6, 3, 4, 15

If you don't play tennis, you may not know that the usual match lasts just 4 sets.  Rarely does a match go to the 5th set, and if it does, it almost never goes 28 extra games!  As you can see from the score, Nadal was behind by two whole sets to begin the match.  But, one of the keys to Nadal's success has been the simple fact that he:

Never Gives Up
If Nadal is behind, he seems to be able to dig down deep and find some source of inner strength which tells him that even though he is behind, he can still win the match.  It's not over till its over!

One of Nadal's mantras is: "Playing well or playing bad, I have to play aggressive.  I must play aggressive."

Plays With Passion
Nadal is one of the most passionate players in the history of tennis.  His tennis stroke is famous for its wild swing, and his loudly audible grunts as he hits the ball.  When Rafa wins, he pumps his fist, when he loses, his face has a grimace upon it.

Of his own passion, Nadal has said, "I play each point like my life depends upon it."

Plays With Courage
There were so many times in this match, and many others that he has played before, where Nadal was about to lose the match if he made one bad tennis stroke.  This game, like many others that Nadal has played, went to 5 match points (that means that 5 times during the match, Muller was about to beat him),  But Nadal would come through with a huge, strong courageous shot, nonetheless.

With regard to his personal courage during tennis matches, Nadal has said; "Losing is not my enemy...fear of losing is my enemy."

Coolness Under Pressure
When large matches are played, the game is, of course, not the same as if it were two people batting  a ball around on a neighborhood court together.  There his huge pressure.  And this pressure increases all the more when there is a big point.  Again and again, Nadal would run to the ball, and hit it with total poise, when he was under pressure.

Again, Nadal has said of his coolness; "The only way of finding a solution is to fight back, to move, to run and to control that under pressure."

Of course, in the end, Nadal lost the match.  And he wasn't around afterward to comment on his play, which is already being dissected by the back bench tennis literati as I write this post.  But the truth must be faced - Nadal lost!  And that is just the point.  He will be back.  He never gives up.  In Nadal's own words; "When one player is better than you, at this moment, the only thing you can do is work, try to find solutions, and try to wait a little bit for your time.  I'm going to wait and I'm going to try a sixth time.  And if the sixth doesn't happen, a seventh.  It's going to be like this.  That's the spirit of the sport."

And that's the Gospel of Nadal!

All For Now,


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