Tribute to Rafael Nadal — An Epitome of Physical & Mental Strength
“Federer on a tennis court is like a ballet dancer, he moves so effortlessly — it’s like an art form,” said my dad in complete admiration to a player who was his new favorite, after the Pete Sampras era had passed.
Sure, Federer was all that and more, but to the 17-year-old me, back in 2005, that effortless godliness didn’t feel the same. Instead, the only “favorite” I had at the time was Justine Henin — the rather unassuming demure girl who had a dynamite backhand and managed to stun much stronger, and more intimidating women on the tour, slam after slam.
Justine Henin had that quality about herself that convinced you that excellence wasn’t about having all-natural gifts and innate talent to succeed, but about hard work and willpower.
This was about when a teenager burst onto the scene of men’s tennis and changed it forever. He would go on to redefine how we saw the men’s game and start a whole new era. An era where anyone could dream to reach the top echelons of sport without being endowed with “god’s gifted” talent.
19-year-old Rafael Nadal wins French Open on his first attempt
It was 2005 when Roger Federer was starting to establish an unparalleled dominance on the field of men’s tennis. After his maiden grand slam win in 2003 with Wimbledon, he had won three of the four grand slams in 2004. The one that eluded him was the French Open — often considered to be a slam for the “clay-court specialists.”
The red of Roland Garros was such an outlier that the man with the most grand slam wins in the open era at the time — Pete Sampras — had never managed to win a single French Open title among his 14 grand slam wins.
2005, however, would go on to be a special year in the history of tennis. A teenager from Mallorca, Spain, would make a splashy entry into the history books of tennis.