The Man From Earth: A tribute to Rafael Nadal

Would the earth ever reach the stars in the sky?
Could the land possibly touch the bed of the ocean?
Would the king fight for the smallest morsel?
Could the toiler rule over the lords?

It is easy to assign extremes of adjectives to heroic achievements:  a bit more so when it comes to sporting ones. But how often do you see a mere mortal unite opposite ends of the spectrum enroute to creating history?  We are talking about an earthling who is redefining manly limits, a man who has become one with the dirt-land but has reservoirs of spirit as deep as the ocean. We are witnessing a ruler who grinds it out for every single point. And indeed, we are bearing witness to this fighter laying down the hammer on his enemies. The baton is far from being passed. Rafael Nadal is the manifestation of Clay. Rafael Nadal is here to stay.

With the prodigious start to the career that he had and his unique style of play, everybody touted him as a potential all-time Clay great. As he wins a tenth title today on the red clay of Barcelona in a stadium that has just and justly been named after him, nobody will deny that he has surpassed all expectations. In a sport where having ten good years in itself is considered a laudable feat, he has gone on and emerged champion at a single event ten years over. Of course, the scary part is that he has just collected his tenth title at another event last week. The scarier part is that he will be gunning for his tenth title at a single grand slam event soon.  But the scariest part doesn’t lie in these numbers. It lies in his manner of deliverance. There’s an aura of inevitability when you face Nadal on Clay. Winning a solitary point often takes away a chunk of your strength. Winning a game comes as good as stealing. Taking a set off him on Clay is a rare phenomenon. Taking away three is considered the toughest task in the sport of Tennis.

As quoted by all great achievers in any form of discipline, the secret to success lies in hard work. Labour oozes out of his sweat when he takes to the court. And a coat of humility enshrouds him off the court. No wonder he is an inspiration for millions of people around the world. It’s fascinating to wonder how aptly the colour Red symbolizes Rafael Nadal: the intensity and brutality that he brings to the fore on his part and the love that people shower on him because of it. Would you see the same Nadal if the majority of the clay in the season was of a different colour? Would it be as embedded into his system as it is today? But he has transcended from his entity on this surface. Nadal is to Clay what Clay is to Nadal. So in a way, one might rather ask, has Clay inherited its red genes only for it to find a match in Nadal’s personality? Was Nadal a destiny for Clay instead of Clay being a destiny for Nadal? It is often considered a demeaning demeanour to speak of an individual being above the sport. But wouldn’t you say that Rafael Nadal has taken the status of the surface up a few notches in the quest for his own greatness?

But deep inside the godly superlatives, lies a gentle soul: a soul that has embraced the earth like no other.  And one that still bites gold like chocolate.

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