It’s February. The season of love. And, today, we want to celebrate a professional tennis player who we love-love and tell you one reason why.
Who has caught our eye? A certain Spaniard. A fellow who just made history in securing his 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title, surpassing all other male players in tennis history. A man whose play using tennis strings always pulls at our competitive heart strings.
If you’ve read any global sports news headlines online lately, then you may be guessing that we’re talking about Rafael “Rafa” Nadal, and, you would be right. Hailing from the Balearic island of Mallorca, belonging to Spain, the land of the matadors and historic conquistadors, the left-handed Nadal is best known for his powerful and aggressive tennis play, and an unflinching will to fight and “suffer” to win, as he once told U.S. former TV journalist Charlie Rose.
There are many reasons to admire Nadal’s tennis performances, but one aspect of his game is a differentiator that we love-love and want to highlight. This aspect of his game was on full display during the final set of his final match against Daniil Medvedev at the 2022 Australian Open.
Specifically, it occurred after almost five hours of play, after Nadal had been two sets down, and after Medvedev broke Nadal to tie the fifth set at 5-5. What are we talking about? We’re talking about how Nadal was then able to break straight back, bringing the score to 6-5, before going on to serve out and win the match, 7-5. Nadal’s ability to break-back at that point in the match was crucial, match-deciding and ultimately impactful to modern men’s tennis history. Besides this recent example, Nadal’s break-back percentage is one of the highest in the game today and has helped catapult him over the years to the top of the sport.
So, what does it take to break-back? Mental toughness, without a doubt. Nadal, in fact, has attributed his mental strength in matches to the fact that his former coach and uncle, “Tio Tony,” pushed him hard as a youth to play under intense conditions during daily practices.
So, what about you? How often do you break-back after losing serve during matches, and what do you think it takes to strengthen your mental ability to positively respond under pressure during matches?
According to Nadal, besides practicing under pressure, the answer to overcoming challenges during play is to have passion, to the point of suffering some. In a 2013 interview, he told Rose:
“…the most important thing is the passion for the sport and the passion for the game. You need to enjoy suffering and you need to enjoy the tough moments. You need to feel the game. That’s what brings you to the next level.”
So, our February advice for you is to consider the passionate example of Rafael Nadal and how you can improve your mental stamina during matches to help you win.
At Love-Love Tennis, we’re also taking Rafa’s advice. When it comes to tennis, we’ve got all the feels and a total love-love for the game.