Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Here's a very enjoyable new sports memoir entitled Rafa about the tennis champion Rafael Nadal. Co-authored with John Carlin who works for El Pais, the Spanish language newspaper, this is a well written book which clearly distinguishes Nadal's voice from Carlin's as chapters alternate between the two. Nadal's opening chapter introduces us to the tennis player's state of mind, always a battleground against his own thoughts, as Nadal prepares to face off against Roger Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final. Nadal writes, "The feeling suits me; the cathedral hush of the Centre Court is good for my game. Because what I battle hardest to do in a tennis match is to quiet the voices in my head, to shut everything out of my mind but the contest itself and concentrate every atom of my being on the point I am playing. If I made a mistake on a previous point, forget it; should a thought of victory suggest itself, crush it."
The epic battle, marked by rain delay, gathering darkness and five hours of play, resulted in Nadal's Wimbledon victory at the age of 22, fulfilling this young player's earliest ambition. Of course, Nadal has since attained many more championships and Grand Slams, and he discusses some of these matches as well. The book is not merely a technical analysis of his play, but rather an interesting portrait of the determination and endurance required of any champion. As we follow Rafa's story, we learn some of the physical and personal challenges he has had to face even as he has maintained a sterling reputation in the sports' world. John Carlin's chapters fill us in on Nadal's family life and upbringing on Mallorca. His strong family bond and the Mallorcan culture have clearly formed the bedrock that has kept Nadal so stable and focused, never allowing him to be self-centered. This champion always returns home to his family and to the island of Mallorca, where his victories are never celebrated because that is not their way.