Rafael Nadal has admitted becoming more open as he's gotten older. He's always been that charming, grounded, sensitive guy who never revealed much at all about his personal life. His memoir with John Carlin has allowed us to gain - rather surprisingly - much insight into the contradictory nature of this humble champion.
Here are10 things 'Rafa' reveals about Rafa:
1. His insecurities.
We always knew Rafa had that humble, unassuming air, but we didn't quite realise the depths of his insecurities. He doesn't seem to believe in his abilities as much as others (including friend and mentor, Carlos Moya,) do and often feels like his top competitors are more talented than he. Rafa admits that Toni with his harsh coaching methods is partly to blame.
2. It's more “Rafa's foot” than “Rafa's knees”.
Rafa's knees had been somewhat infamous around 2008/9 as his Achilles' heel (they even have their own Twitter account). Especially as they were the reason (physically speaking) he lost his first ever match at Roland Garros in 2009 and couldn't defend his Wimbledon title that same year. However the injury - the one that threatened Rafa's career - actually came about due to very rare foot disease where the 'tarsal scaphoid' - a bone located in the bridge of the foot failed to form as a child and thus became slightly deformed as a result of repetitive stress on the area, making it liable to splinter and causing intense pain. The injury knocked him out for four months, with the only form of treatment found in special trainers that had to be made for him. And Rafa claims it's still a work in progress. It definitely explains his reaction when he sustained a foot injury during his match against Del Potro at Wimbledon this year. The knees however have received a special treatment and are no longer a problem.
3. His pre-match rituals are not superstitions but a means for transformation.
The borderline OCD rituals (the jumping up and down before a match, the drinking from the two bottles etc.) are all a part of the transformation into Rafa's on court alter ego - the warrior - and enable him to get into the frame of mind to compete. Some have relentlessly dubbed them as superstitions despite Rafa's countless contestations. But Rafa is adamant that everything down to the tightness of his bandana is necessary to prepare his mind.
4. The extent of the love-hate relationship with Tio Toni.
We've always known Uncle Toni to be a stern coach, but the extent to which the tension between them permeates everyday situations is revealed. You can even feel Rafa’s attitude towards Toni as he writes. Many times throughout the book, Rafa will relay just how difficult it is to cope with Toni's antics - almost bitch about him (for lack of a better term) - but then will retort with praise and understanding, knowing that he owes his successes not in part to Toni.
He likes to be in control of every situation; so much so that his family's wellbeing is a constant fear since he lacks the ability to be able to control life itself. It has therefore made him very overprotective with his family - his sister Maribel wouldn't dare allude to a routine trip to the doctor for fear of her older brother's overreactions. It's also why he's afraid of the dark, bikes, thunderstorms and the sea. Consequently Rafa tries to focus all his energy on what part of life he can, for the most part, control - and that is how he conducts himself on a tennis court.
6. Just how much he detests losing.
For someone so gracious in defeat (just check out his 2011 Wimbledon post match interview), Rafa describes himself as having "no sense of humour about losing". Not even during a game of darts.
7. He doesn't like making decisions.
Like any tennis player, Rafa has the ability to make split-second decisions many times over when balls from his opponent fly towards him with every variation of angle, speed and spin, but he describes himself as someone who needs all the facts from all sides before he decides on a course of action. Most of us know that he had the difficult choice of deciding whether to play professional football or tennis as a boy. But the decision was basically made for him when a new coach wanted commitment at the expense of tennis - something he couldn't afford to give up at the time.
8. He's not naturally coordinated.
For someone who has such impeccable footwork on the court - which he explains does not come naturally - Rafa reveals that he's a rather clumsy fellow. Something he claims he inherited from his mother.
9. He'd already had on eye on Novak Djokovic.
He's always been aware of the major threat posed by Djokovic who had been chasing after him his entire career. Now that Djokovic has surpassed Rafa in the rankings having dominated him (and everyone else) this year, his suspicions have been confirmed, perhaps explaining why the Serb is so firmly planted in his head at the moment.
10. He's afraid of dogs.
Animals aren’t his thing. He “doubts their intentions". Whenever he visits with Carlos Moya, the family dog must be locked up in his bedroom before Rafa’s at ease. Thunderstorms, the sea, the dark, bikes, crashing and dying we can understand. But dogs...?