July 3, 2022

Rafael Nadal is hands down the best competitor, he doesn’t lose focus for more than a point, says Somdev Devvarman | Tennis News – Times of India

History will remember Rafael Nadal as one of the best to have ever held a tennis racquet. No amount of praise perhaps is enough to sum up the mental tenacity that this man possesses.
On Friday Nadal beat Italian Matteo Berrettini in four sets in the first Men’s semi-final to enter his sixth Australian Open final. This was one summit clash which very few people thought Rafa could reach. Incredibly out of the 20 Slam titles Rafa has won so far, only one has been won at Melbourne Park, in 2009 – when he beat Roger Federer in the final in 5 sets. Now he has his sights trained on title number two at the Rod Laver arena.

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(AFP photo)

Hard courts have never been too friendly and welcoming for Nadal. There’s no doubt that clay courts feel like home to Rafa. The Spanish tennis culture which breeds their players on the red clay courts of course makes that his favourite surface. But over the years the number of people who feel that he isn’t comfortable on hard courts has dwindled, thanks to the extreme dedication and sheer determination that Rafa has showcased via his extremely physical brand of tennis on the hard courts.

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He might just have one Australian Open title under his belt compared to nine for Novak Djokovic and six for Roger Federer and he might have won just 4 of his 20 Grand Slam titles so far on the hard courts of the US Open, but when it comes to giving a 100% and more on a tennis court, regardless of the obstacles and adversities very few, if any, would rank higher than Nadal.
And that is a sentiment that was echoed by former India number one Somdev Devvarman recently when he was a guest on Times of India’s sports podcast Sportscast. For Som, who also dons the hat of a coach these days, along with being a TV commentator expert, the thing to really admire about Rafa and make budding tennis players learn is his almost unwavering focus.

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” In my opinion he (Rafael Nadal) is hands down the best competitor. I now do a bit of coaching so one of my favourite examples is always Rafa. One of the biggest things I see in him and I try to instill that in my kids (whom he coaches) when they are watching the matches, this is one of the things I always tell them to watch. Watch when any player – whenever they are unhappy or misbehaving or throwing a racquet or fighting with the line judge or the umpire or the crowd, when they are unhappy about the wind or the sun or they are tired – see how long they lose focus for, so basically how long do they check out for. And you will see that in a lot of players that time frame is generally 3 minutes, 5 minutes, it could be one game, it could be three games, with some it’s a set, where they lose focus, concentration and they lose sight of what’s important to win the match. With Rafa that never happens for more than one point at max and I think that’s the biggest difference between Rafa and the current guys that are the next-gen. ” Somdev said on TOI Sportscast.

The way Nadal won his quarter-final match this time at the Australian Open against Denis Shapovalov was another reminder of just why they say that you just can’t count Rafael Nadal out, ever. After winning the first two sets rather comfortably and while looking like he might sail to a straight sets win, Rafa was hit by a stomach issue. He was hardly able to move on the court, wasn’t able to serve properly or return serve. Shapovalov sensed he could push Rafa and turn the match around completely. He did turn things around by winning the third and fourth sets, but Rafa refused to give in. He changed his strategy, focussed on holding his serve, no matter what, and refused to quit. While the commentators said on air that a lot of players would be happy to forfeit the match in a situation like this, the 6th seed played on and won the match in 5 sets.
Coupled with the grace and humility he brings to the court and his almost inhuman ability to not lose his temper or focus, Nadal will always be remembered as an all time great, regardless of how many more Grand Slam titles he wins.

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“With Rafa you look at his career and he’s probably had 10 bad minutes and that’s absolutely incredible. It’s something that we might overlook because we are so used to it, but go back in the history of tennis and remember all your great champions – remember Andre Agassi. He used to sometimes get upset and lose matches. Anybody, any single player who has ever played the game – they just don’t have the same kind of tenacity and that constant continuous focus that Rafa has. It’s almost a part of who he is. Does not throw his racquet, does not argue and for me that’s top class stuff. And if you are coaching that’s what you want your kids to emulate rather than the (other) fancy stuff that they see.” Somdev Devvarman further said on TOI Sportscast.
Nadal is now one win away from becoming the first man in the history of the sport to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles. He will face tournament favourite and second seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in 4 sets in the other semi-final, in the summit clash on Sunday.

You can catch the full episode of Sportscast with Somdev Devarman here

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