It’s the first week of August, and the professional tennis tour has returned to the hallowed grounds of the All England Club for the second time in a month. A month ago, Roger Federer once again reigned supreme taking his 7th Wimbledon title, and now the battle for Olympic gold has begun. Many of the top players had their eyes on the Olympics for a while, like Roger Federer seeking his first Olympic gold in singles or Andy Murray playing in his home nation of Great Britain. The Grand Slams are always important, but the Olympics only come around every four years and present a unique opportunity to represent your country and be remembered forever as a national hero.
Another player looking forward to the Olympics was Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who up until just a few days before the event was not only Spain’s best chance at a tennis gold medal, but was slated to have the honor of being Spain’s flag-bearer in the Opening Ceremony. An incredible honor, and one that Rafa did not take lightly.
But the great Spanish warrior was not there. He was at home on the island of Mallorca with family and friends, watching his fellow competitors on television. He’s sitting, watching, and wondering what his future in the game of tennis will be. Following a shocking loss to a feisty and virtually unknown Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon, he decided to rest an aching knee in order to be ready for London.
Rafa was under the impression that with a few weeks of rest he’d be ready to go for the Olympics and a successful run in the hard court season that followed. However, just days before the Olympics began, Rafa had learned that his knee was in fact not healing as he had hoped. It was going to take much longer than the few weeks he had initially anticipated.
You have to think that Rafa was left contemplating the mortality of his tennis career, whether or not he’d ever be able to get himself to the point physically to where he could compete week after week at the top of the game again. Hope dwindles and you know there’s a hole in the heart of the great champion where the game normally fits.
Fast forward to a little over eight months later, and the great champion from Mallorca is once again at the top of the game. After a physically and mentally grueling recovery, he’s supplanted the world’s best and has claimed the title at the BNP Paribas Open. This marks his 22nd career ATP Masters 1000 title, which is the most in history. After skipping the month of January and the Australian Open, he’s started the year with a 17-1 record, the best start to a calendar year that he has ever had in his career.
You could see what it meant to Rafa when he won. He dropped to the ground just like he does when he wins a major, falling on his back with his hands in the air. All of that hard work to get back had paid off. All the months of doubt had been supplanted with the feeling of being a champion again. He jumped for joy, running to hug his player’s box and the tournament director who has become a dear friend, Larry Ellison.
It’s so good for the game of tennis to have one of its greatest champions back at the top. Rafa, we’ve missed you, and it’s good to have you back!
Thanks for reading,