Many of us associate Rafael Nadal with some superhuman from the movies. Yes, I agree that his fitness level is unbelievable and spin he adds to his shots is immense. It is really hard to copy it, especially, if you are a recreational player. But what also excites me, is his mental part of the game. And that is what we all can learn from Rafa!
Firstly, similarly to Roger Federer, he never loses motivation. After more than a decade at the top of the rankings and after dozens of serious injuries he just keeps going for more. Secondly, Rafael Nadal is amazing in playing one point at time. It is very hard to tell what is the score when he plays by just a looking at him. His facial and body languages rarely change and he treats himself very similarly in both – victory or defeat. Very rarely we can see any signs of frustration, anger or other negative emotions in Rafa’s facial expressions. Actually, we can’t see much happiness in his face neither… He is like a bull focused on that red flag waved by the matador. He is in ”the zone”.
Have you ever been in ”the zone?” Do you know what it means to be ”in the zone”? It means that you are completely ”present” during the match. You are locked in the current point. You are not looking back and you are not looking forward. Just one point at time. I can tell you, it feels amazing. And the ability to be in ”the zone” often determines the outcome of the even match.
In one of my previous lessons I wrote that it helped me to become a better player, save two set points and win the match thus securing my first ATP ranking point in my career. Luckily for me, David Ferrer backs me up. In one of his interviews, he was asked to tell the biggest reason for his success and guess what he said? He said that it is the ability to play point by point…
Next time you watch Rafael Nadal competing, pay close attention how focused he is. Try to notice how he reacts after the point, what happens between the points and how focused he is before the next point begins. And you will rarely notice any differences in his look or attitude because of the score. Sometimes, during a five set match, his headband has slipped off a little bit, but apart from that he is perfect.
”I play each point like my life depends on it!” That is famous Nadal’s quote from one of his interviews. And that is what we all should try to do. Don’t look who is your opponent or what is the score. Focus on just one point at time. Just be in ”the zone”!
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