Rafa is Spanish Athlete of the year


Rafa chosen as Spanish Athlete of the year

12 28 2010, Mallorca, Spain

Rafa Nadal wins 3 Grand Slams after suffering a knee injury – ‘Dedication, sportsmanship, hard work, will, humility, sacrifice, and discipline”, those are his values.

“I see a universal Spaniard”, said Julio Iglesias before triggering a huge round of applause. This beautiful phrase was spoken last Wednesday evening during a gala in Madrid at the ‘Palacio de Cibeles’, and it was referring to an incredible man, Rafa Nadal.

The Spanish tennis player won Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010. He re-claimed the No.1 ranking and at 24, he became the youngest tennis player ever to win all Grand Slams. When we asked fellow sportsmen who they thought was the ‘Spaniard of the year’, they all chose Rafa Nadal.

During the last couple of weeks alone he has been honored by the BBC, and the ATP. But the interesting thing is, all of that success and accolades, all those celebrations and praise only cover a small percentage of his persona, the athlete. What truly makes Rafa and amazing man is what he does when he’s not winning, when his life has turned ugly.

During Julio Iglesias’ speech, at the gala organized by the Rafa Nadal foundation, a beautiful video of the world No.1 was showcased in huge screens for the evening’s special guests. From politicians, to fashion icons, sport stars and celebrities, they all stared intensely at the screen as the footage rarely showed Rafa’s victories, but instead, it focused on the challenges he has had to endure during his career. Multiple injuries, his quarterfinal loss against Robin Soderling at Roland Garros, his quarterfinal withdrawal at the 2010 Australian Open when he was playing against Andy Murray, the times when everything around him was full of doubts and no one believed he could win again.

Then it all turned into silence as the following words appeared; ‘Dedication, sportsmanship, hard work, will, humility, sacrifice, and discipline”. - True success doesn’t come from winning.
That was the message Rafa wanted to send.

Success comes from your values. They have helped him overcome his most difficult adversities and have played a key role in building a legendary career. Success, the world No.1 explained, doesn’t come in the shape of trophies; it comes from taking chances.

Behind each and every one of his biggest victories there has been a philosophical approach. The day he won his first Grand Slam (Roland Garros), instead of letting his new found fame and tennis status get to his head, he followed his coach (and uncle) Toni Nadal’s advice to practice first thing in the morning to go over everything he had done wrong and needed to improve.

From an early age, Rafa has been taught the art of appreciation, hard work, and humility. His coach and family have always reminded him that being good at playing tennis doesn’t make him a hero. “No, that is a term reserved for those who risk their lives in order to save others,” Uncle Toni once said. “Just because he can hit a yellow fluffy ball over a net well doesn’t make him any better than anyone else,” and he knows that.

It is perhaps that kind of upbringing that has allowed him to value the unique opportunity he has to help change other people’s lives. In 2009, Luzzi, an Italian player died of leukemia. “I spoke to Rafa”, said Paula, his mother. “about how we could help sick people like my son get looked after from home instead of the hospital.” “He kindly used his image to support the Foundation, donated one of his racquets for auction, and made a monetary contribution”. That’s where he started, and not long ago he opened up a school in Anantapur (India).

He has a huge challenge ahead of him in a few weeks, if he wins the Australian Open, he will become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slams in a row. But when talking to him, it’s clear the ‘Rafa Slam’ is not where his mind is. Right now, his goal is to continue his mission to teach others the values that have helped him become who he is today.

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