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Rafael Nadal: A Great Tennis Player and a Very Good Sport

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I don’t know about you, but I am sick of poor sportsmanship. I am really tired of all the players in different sports who don’t adhere to the motto, “It’s not if you win or lose but how you play the game.” Sadly, in today’s climate of sports becoming more and more like a business instead of it being purely a well-played game, the unsportsman-like conduct of players is overlooked in favor of the big bucks they generate.

When I look at sports players today, I see some good guys like Derek Jeter and David Wright, but then we get a story like the one about how some of the NY Jets players harassed a female reporter, and it seems like the good guys are an exception to the rule. There are more guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Plaxico Burress in the news than not. How sad for sports and all the kids who are watching.

That is why the story of Rafael Nadal is such a great one. While there are already people talking about him being the greatest player of all time, or being the biggest money-making brand in sports, the thing about Nadal is that he is the ultimate good sportsman. He is a genuinely nice fellow, just 24 years old, but he has a wisdom way beyond his years. He also carries himself like a gentleman, and that is a thing sorely lacking in sports for the most part.

Make no mistake, on the court he is a cunning and powerful opponent. No matter how much he likes Roger Federer, he knows how to take him apart and win a match. Nadal takes no prisoners, and that is as commendable as is his off the court behavior. Still, when the playing part is done, Nadal talks the talk of a good sport.

After winning the U.S. Open, Nadal was asked if he was now the greatest player in the game. It was one of those qualifying moments, those eerie silent seconds when the water dripping in the bathroom sounds like a geyser, but Nadal was ready with the perfect answer. He said that he had a long way to go for that, a long way to be as good as Roger Federer. There was applause, and his friend Federer smiled graciously on the sidelines. It was an ultimate sports moment handled with aplomb by Nadal. This is indeed what good sportsmanship is all about.

Long ago I had a baseball coach who said, “It easy to be a good sport, a good loser; the hardest thing to be is a good winner.” Although I have forgotten that coach’s name I have never forgotten those words. Never.

It is a shame that tennis is not a more kid-friendly sport. I wish more kids watched it because they would see in Rafael Nadal someone who is a good role model. He is a really great player, perhaps the greatest ever in his sport, but what makes him stand out is his ability to be a good winner.

These days to be gracious and humble in defeat is always a good thing, but to be so in victory elevates one to a higher level, a nobility that is truly fitting in the concept of good sportsmanship. After the U.S. Open Rafael Nadal proved that, even though he is the King of Tennis, he has the common touch. It would be a good idea for people involved in all other sports to take a page from his book.

 

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Jean Anderson

    Thank you so, so much for finding the true value of Rafael Nadal. I sing his praises all the time to anyone who will listen (and some who won’t) but you have the forum to be heard by millions and you really “get” him! Very well done and thank you!

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thank you, Jean. It’s well deserved and I was happy to write about him.

  • Spanish man

    Thank you for the article. Nadal is one of the best tennis player in history, that’s true, but how humble he is instead of being a genius of tennis, makes him a real gentleman.

  • Plan

    Nadal is a class act and I’ve really enjoyed watching him play the past couple of years.

    Not only did he achieve the Grand Slam at a shockingly young age, he has battled through injuries and never seemed to lose confidence in himself.

    Another great example of great sportsmanship is Fedor Emelianenko, the long-time Russian MMA heavyweight king.

    Fedor was the image of humility and always gave his opponents and the fans the utmost respect as he won every match he ever fought for 10 years.

    This year, after a decade of utter dominance over his sport, he finally lost a match.

    Yet he remained the same humble, upbeat and respectful athlete and he looked no different than he’d ever looked after a win.

    When they asked him what it felt like to lose for the first time, he said: “The one who doesn’t fall, doesn’t stand up.”

    I salute both of these great athletes.

  • theabroma

    To take nothing away from Nadal, an immense talent and profoundly decent man, but wouldn’t it be great if each of us could have an Uncle Toni in our lives?

  • http://notreallyworking.wordpress.com/ Susannah Straughan

    Yes, well put, Victor. It is also unusual, if not unprecedented, for the world’s number one tennis player to elicit such genuine admiration and affection from his peers.

    British tennis writers tend to be a little patronising about Nadal’s command of English. (I wonder how good their Spanish is!) But he’s smart enough not to get drawn into idle speculation in his press conferences or to make the kind of “jokes” that get lost in translation.

    His reticence is to be applauded: he lets his million dollar smile and consummate tennis skills do the talking. Vamos Rafa!