I still remember the first tennis match I ever saw. It is the one that is considered to be the greatest ever match of tennis by many. Filled with intensity, wrath, talent, and amazement among other aspects. The match where two moguls of tennis met to elevate the level of the game to a never-known-before high. The match where someone was brave enough to have halted Roger Federer from creating history, and wrote it himself. It was the finale of the Wimbledon Championship 2008. That person’s agility, determination, hard-work, and passion reached to one and all. That was the moment I knew the player I was going to be supporting with all my heart and soul.
Rafael Nadal, words inscribed in gold as he continues to write and rewrite the history of the game. For others, it might just be a name. But for us, Rafans, it’s a feeling. It’s that one thing that fills us with multiple emotions. Just the mention of your name has us all awakened. You’re the epitome of an ideal idol and we are truly just lucky to have been witnessing you in and off action. You are that one person who never gave up. The way you bounce back better than ever each time that you are down is something that we all look up to. Down but Never Out could be the one phrase to describe the wonder that you have always been.
You have innumerable qualities but there is one that tops it all — the ability to smile through the downs. Your loss to Federer in the final of the Australian Open this year was extremely heart wrenching for us. We can only begin to imagine what you went through then. But even in those moments, there was a smile on your face and true happiness in your eyes. That was an act of great class, something that is not seen often in competitive sport. Your humility and compassion towards your fellow players is something that stands out.
My journey with you has been of 9 years so far and it was a roller coaster ride that I would never trade for absolutely anything in the world, not even the downs of it. Many a times, I feel linked to you. Your wins becomes mine. Your losses too. Your emotions are my emotions. Your fights are my fights. I cried with you, I laughed with you. But most of all, I learnt from you. You taught me to never count anyone out. To never look down on anyone. To always be grateful for how things turn out to be. To find happiness in sorrows and in pain. To believe in yourself and work for it. But most of all, to respect one and all. And I will forever be grateful to you for all of that and so much more.
The way I connect with you is just so strong that when you lost that grueling final against Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open 2012, it sent pangs of pain through me. So was the case when you accomplished feats that people had not even thought of up until the moment you made them seem within reach for you and at the same time, so difficult for everyone else. When you lifted the 9th Roland Garros trophy, I felt I was out there holding it. When you won the La Decima at Monte Carlo this year, and repeated the feat at the Barcelona just a week later, it was if I’d won it.
Your domination on the circuit is so strong that some players fear playing you. While a few others wish to emulate the player in you. The next generation of tennis grew up watching you play. They saw what you went through; the way you fought all odds, rose to the top, and earned the status of a legend.
Just like any other fan, even I would want certain things from you. I would want you to continue playing with the same passion for as long as you can. Competing on the tour with the same determination that got you here. I would want you to always give your best. To never have you face any injuries; you have already had more than your share of it. But that is not possible because the game is as physical as it can get. And add to it your insane physical input , an injury free career henceforth would only be a thought and never a reality. So, I’d want for you to always be in good spirit, to always be on the top.
I want you to play more. I want those fist pumps for as long as possible. Those very particular bottle placements. Those determinant eyes. The amazing banana shots. The lasso forehand. The roar of Vamos. The Jump. Your winning celebration. You falling down on your knees as soon as you win the championship point and then walking towards the net with your arms up high, looking above. Your imperfect and shy English with a smile for as long as possible. I want more of this and more of you.
What would I give you? I would give you my relentless support, no matter what the results are. Even more so when the results are negative and you need us by you. My unconditional admiration. Those crazy shouts of Vamos with some fist pumps from my sofa as if you are here watching me, gaining strength from it. My schedule adjustments to see you play. To be as humble as you are, to be as good as you. So that in any manner, if we ever come across, I could make you feel proud of what you taught me as a human being and what you inspired me to be. I would do it all for you to be even half as proud of us as we are of being your fans.
I assure you my unconditional support throughout. No matter what you go through, you will always have me. Be it your happy moment or a sad one, you will always have this Rafan by your side.
I wish the sun never sets for you.