A Sporting Life – taking on the challenge to put together sports and style (not exactly natural bedfellows), and making a plea for outdoor sports
Is is clay-court season! My favourite surface of my favourite sport. And Rafael Nadal has just won the Barcelona Open (after having secured the Monte Carlo trophy the week before), equaling Guillermo Vilas’ record of 49 clay-court titles. I have debated with myself whether I should include active athletes in this series. I ofen feel that, earlier on, like at least a couple of decades ago, the values, sport, people were different (for the better), but the fact is history is still in the making. And I am happy to have witnessed the Nadal and Federer era. Two of the greatest champions tennis has ever had. And although I believe Roger Federer is probably the most natural tennis player of all time (tennis is simply a second nature for him), I have always had a soft spot for Rafael Nadal – ever since that memorable 2005 Roland Garros semifinal against Federer, which led to Nadal’s first French Open title, becoming the second player in history, after Mats Wilander, to win the clay tournament at his first attempt.
Nadal is also the second player in history, after Rod Laver, who has won at least two Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces – hard court, grass, and clay. And by winning the 2014 French Open, the Spaniard became the only male player to win a single Grand Slam tournament nine times. There is no doubt he is the best all time clay tennis player, and one of the best the sport has seen. Nadal has had his ups and down in the last two years, but that only makes him human. He remains a champion.
My admiration for Rafa Nadal, however, goes beyond his incredible achievements on the tennis court. I admire his hard-work and determination, his resilience and mental strength, his fair play, his modesty, kindness, courtesy and shyness, his down-to-earthness (while many sports stars choose to move to glamorous locations like Monaco, Nadal still resides in his native Mallorca), the respect he has for his family and for his uncle Toni (his coach), for his roots, and for his fans. That’s the kind of style I wanted to talk about today.
Related content: A Sporting Life: Björn Borg / A Sporting Life: Nacho Figueras / A Sporting Life: Jean-Claude Killy
photos: 1-Reuters (Rafa winning his 9th Roland Garros title, 2014) / 2-RafaelNadalIFC