Thursday, 27 October 2011

Rafael Nadal - Stop Being So Humble

Rafael Nadal, I have some unsolicited advice for you. Stop being such a nice guy. Stop being such a humble soul. Stop taking beatings from the likes of Novak Djokovic or -- it feels almost absurd to write the words -- Florian Mayer, and then go all lugubrious on us, bowing your head like a whipped dog to say you just have to go back to the drawing board and work harder.

Rafael Nadal needs to stop being so humble.
This is how you put it after you lost to Mayer a few days ago in Shanghai: "Today is a tough loss, that's the truth. [It] was not my day. I am out of the tournament. I am going to work hard for the next tournament."

The way I see it, Rafa, hard work may not be the thing you need. You've worked your famous butt off for, oh, about 20 years now. What you need is to get the spring back in your step, rekindle the gleam that once was in your eye, and start licking your chops every time they put a new opponent in front of you -- regardless of the guy's name or ranking. That's how it used to be, remember?

I'm not at all sure I like this new "Guantanamera" Rafa, although your humility always was refreshing. But it was also a lot more palatable coming from a guy who was capable of meeting and vanquishing the most successful Grand Slam champ of all time (Roger Federer, remember him and those good old days?) than the one who's been manhandled by Novak Djokovic six consecutive times this year. These days, humble seems to translate to "incredibly bummed out."

Look, you don't have to throw a chair across the press interview room, shake the umpire's high chair, or bloody your forehead with those polyester strings, a la Mikhail Youzhny. But don't be so transparent about how disappointed you are, or about how much you bicker with your coach and uncle, Toni (why did you write a book so early in your career anyway?), and stop believing that if you just work harder you'll find some kind of magic bullet that will enable you to dominate all comers like you did in 2010.

Did it ever occur to you that you're in a rut? That you're fleeing to your "work" (you wouldn't be the only one, and I'm not just talking about tennis pros) and medicating yourself with it?

Maybe what you really need is to take a month off to follow your bliss. Go deep sea fishing. Find a Margaritaville of your own and play foosball to your heart's content, or take your honey Xisca to some quiet beach and go swimming naked at night, or howl at the moon. Maybe do all of the above and -- who knows? -- maybe you'll come back and welcome the opportunity to settle some scores.

Maybe you don't need to find a more penetrating slice backhand, an additional 6 MPH on your second serve, or a higher conversion rate on net approaches. The things you may need to find are your enthusiasm and confidence. It's hard to tell from where I sit, but that seems to be the greatest thing Djokovic has taken away from you this year.

Uncle Toni got a lot of grief for truth-telling not long ago, when he admitted to the press that you were too "nervous" when you had to play Djokovic. You're not going to get un-nervous, or confident, by hitting the gym and practice court. Maybe you need to work less and swagger more. You can be humble again when you're back on top.

Courtesy: ESPN

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