For Nadal, age is just a number

June 5, 2005. The tennis fraternity witnessed the birth of a young star who won the French Open at the first time of asking.

Published: 07th June 2022 06:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th June 2022 06:50 AM   |  A+A-

Spain's Rafael Nadal lifts the trophy after winning the final match against Norway's Casper Ruud at the French Open Sunday, June 5, 2022.(Photo | AP)

June 5, 2005. The tennis fraternity witnessed the birth of a young star who won the French Open at the first time of asking. Long-haired and sleeveless, Rafael Nadal was ready to shake up the establishment. Seventeen years later, the now 36-year-old balding Spaniard is still serving and returning better than those teenagers trying to threaten his hegemony. That perfectly encapsulates his longevity. On Sunday, after two weeks of willing his mind to rebel against his often failing body, he sailed over the line to win a record-extending 22nd Major. 

What Nadal has been doing on tennis courts across surfaces and continents for the best part of two decades beggars belief. His no-holds-barred playing style was supposed to have made him irrelevant years ago. The injuries and surgeries were supposed to have decommissioned him. Most of his body is running on borrowed time—he has such a rare degenerative condition on his left foot that he had to take a couple of pain-killing injections before each of his seven matches in Paris over the last two weeks. But he has once again shown that there is no substitute for an unflinching work ethic and an attitude of always giving yourself 100% to the cause.

That will ultimately be his legacy. Let’s try and forget the numbers and his very strong credentials to win the GOAT debate. What he has re-emphasised in the world of sport is for all the talent, you are nothing if you don’t marry it with chunks of hard work, discipline and a never-say-die attitude. It’s also important for Nadal to keep playing and winning at a time when men’s tennis is searching for a true leader. With Novak Djokovic’s off-the-court actions not winning him too many friends and Roger Federer in indefinite exile, the Spaniard is a worthy on and off-court leader. Nobody can predict the future but one can say with some certainty that Nadal will be fighting to extend his stay as long as possible. For that’s the one thing he knows best. To fight.


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