New Delhi: Rafa My Story, the biography by John Carlin of one of the greatest players in the history of professional tennis, is a true lesson of the benefits that can be derived, if the will to dig deep and get the best out of oneself is taken to the ultimate limit.
It provides an amazing account as to how the ‘Spanish bull’, Rafael Nadal portrayed as a phenomenon on the court, has had to overcome so many personal insecurities and fears to get to the pinnacle of glory.
The author, Carlin has opted for a non-linear narrative, giving a detailed description of the epic 2008 Wimbledon final between Nadal and his fiercest rival and good friend Roger Federer, followed by Rafa’s battle with Novak Djokovic in the 2010 men’s US Open title clash.
Carlin has used Nadal’s early life and other landmark matches as flashbacks which have worked reasonably well in the beginning, but once Rafa starts moving up the ladder on the circuit at a rapid pace, things tend to get a bit messy.
There is too much shifting between the Wimbledon final and Nadal’s victories in other tournaments including grand slams, which does not do justice to some of the significant matches during his journey to the top; his straight-set win over Fedex in 2004 in Miami, which was the first ever meeting between those two is just a passing reference.
Also, the tedious analysis of the match against Djokovic did not have the same impact as the Wimbledon final against Federer and could well have been avoided, even though the win completed a career slam for Rafa.
The book opens with Nadal preparing for what turned out to be his historic Wimbledon final against Federer, and goes on to unravel facets of his life which are inspiring as well as educational.
The rituals that Rafa goes through in the locker room to banish negative thoughts before his matches make for some fascinating reading.
It is quite amazing that a winner of multiple grand slam titles can be so indecisive by nature and at times has to depend on fate and other individuals to rid him of self doubt.
What however is very apparent right from the outset is the bonding that Rafa shares with the members of his family, which he rightly acknowledges as the biggest reason for what he is today in the world of tennis.
Although uncle Toni, who has been Nadal’s coach right from his childhood years undoubtedly is the centrifugal force behind his nephew’s incredible record on the court, the role of his father - Sebastian, mother – Ana Maria Parera, sister – Maribel and his uncles can in no way be undermined of it.
It’s almost as if they have formed a cocoon around Rafa to protect him from all the evil forces, including injuries and a career threatening one in 2006, and enable him to come up with the answers over, and over again.
The humility in Nadal which is evident every inch of the way is very much a result of the values inculcated in him from a very early age, and the laid back and unassuming demeanor of the inhabitants of his hometown, Mallorca to a certain extent.
Being part of a team and the need to have people around him is brought to the fore during Nadal’s Davis Cup effort in 2004. Spain took on the United States in the final at Seville, and with the crowd firmly behind the hosts, the 18-year old sensation brushed aside Andy Roddick in four sets to give his team a 2-0 lead at the end of day one. Spain went on to win 3-1 to lift the Davis Cup.
Apart from providing a step by step account of Rafa’s progress on the tour, the book describes how the great champion sizes up his opponents and the tactics that he uses to unsettle them, which by no means suggests gamesmanship.
Also the mention of some interesting anecdotes, humorous in nature provides the reader with the light hearted moments which somewhat balances out the emotional roller coaster ride.
There is this one instance when Nadal as a growing kid during one of the coaching sessions with uncle Toni is grumbling about the fact that he is being asked to hit balls which are either keeping low or bouncing too much, to which Toni retorts that the balls might be third rate but that Rafa is fourth rate, which might sound a bit unkind, but it was witty nevertheless.
Rafa My Story is not only a complete package but it also goes into the deep crevasses of the mind of one of the greatest tennis stars ever, and needless to say is a must read proposition.