Tennis Prose



The Pressure On Nadal Is Enormous

Rafael Nadal has thrived on pressure… throughout his career he has overcome every obstacle imaginable – Mariano Puerta, Lleyton Hewitt, hard courts, grass courts, Wimbledon, Robin Soderling, Olympics, knee issues, clay court sustained dominance, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic.

Now at age 34 and about to turn 35 on June 3, Nadal will face perhaps the greatest challenge of his career – he is on the verge of winning his 14th French Open title and 21st Grand Slam major title overall, a historic mark which would surpass Roger Federer and extend himself to a three major cushion ahead of Djokovic (18).

Nadal was near perfect at last year’s Roland Garros edition in October, skipping all hard court preparation to focus on clay fine tuning in Majorca. Nadal swept through the draw without losing a set and he totally annihilated Djokovic in the final by a blowout score. But this year Nadal is playing his usual clay court tournaments and will expend more of his energy and all time greatness before Roland Garros commences later in May.

Of course Nadal is expected to win Roland Garros again. Anthing short of triumph could be disaster for Nadal because a defeat would damage his “aura of invincibility” and because he has been ineffective on grass and hard court majors in recent years, if he were to lose on Chatrier, the loss could conceivably cap his career major total at 20, which would surely help Djokovic’s chances to get to 20 and beyond considerably.

There is so much at stake now for Nadal, much more than just winning Roland Garros again. And his clock is ticking. His body (or machine) is not getting younger or better.

As with all the great champions of tennis, there will come a time when the old lion will be thrashed by a new alpha male. It happened to Borg, McEnroe, Agassi, Federer, Sampras, and it will happen to Nadal at some point. Nadal is long overdue for another crushing beatdown like the one Robin Soderling performed way back in 2009.

Nadal is hoping that he can stave off Father Time at least one more year and he can thrive again at his red clay kingdom with at least one more historic triumph. The stakes have never been higher for Nadal. He may hunger for this Roland Garros title more than any of his previous ones.

For this and other reasons and motivations, 2021 Roland Garros may very well be the most difficult, challenging, stressful two-week odyssey in Nadal’s two-decade long ATP career (he turned pro in 2001).

Nadal will be up for the task though, as he always is, You can be a hundred percent certain of that.

You can read Scoop’s book Facing Nadal for $9.99 at amazon books

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  • Douglas Day · April 28, 2021 at 6:20 am

    Rafa’s is not a false humility. Few champions have dwelt on their weaknesses so morosely in their quest for improvement at the top.For this reason he will not be shocked by a Safin-like character. I would love to know how he thinks his fall will come. Most would say injury.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2021 at 7:53 am

    Doug, I think Rafa is a Jekyll/Hyde type champion, concealed arrogance and viciousness on court, balanced by extreme sportsmanship and generated humility. You can’t be that great in tennis without some cockiness and arrogance and self belief that you are the best in the world. But Rafa is brilliant at tempering himself and balancing his character. Wonderful champion, quite possibly the finest most ultimate champion we ever saw, in any sport.



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