What would it take for Rafael Nadal to brag a little about his accomplishments or act entitled in any way? He’s leading the top ranking by almost 5,000 points, he’s won nearly everything he’s entered this year, including the Australian Open and his fifth consecutive titles in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and he’s probably the biggest favorite Roland Garros has ever known, yet he still refuses to let his success go to his head. (He’s making me feel seriously guilty for bragging about my Scrabble skills. . .I am quite good, if I do say so myself!)
Nadal described his modest-bordering-on-Zen-Master approach to reporters in Rome on Monday:
“The most dangerous competitor every day is the opponent. That’s the thing, and I know how tough it is to win every match. When I go on court, I have a lot of respect for every player. Before the match I always think I can lose and I can win. I have to accept both things, so I go on court and try my best every day and respect the opponent.”
On his “unusual” expectations:
“I’m very happy to have three titles here (in Rome). Not disappointed to not have the title last year. The normal thing is not always to win, the normal thing is to lose. It is unusual to win five Monte Carlos in a row and five Barcelonas in a row. For me, that’s more than a dream, that’s totally unbelievable – I never expect something like this. It’s more usual to lose in the first round in Rome than win three Romes in a row.“
On being No. 1:
“Sure, when I came to be No. 1 last year it was important – it gave me satisfaction because I worked very hard all my life to be there. But in the end, I have the same goals right now as when I was No. 2. I’ve said that to myself a hundred times this year. My goal is to continue improving my tennis and continue having good results, and try to improve. Always.”
Sometimes I wonder if a teeny tiny bit of Nadal’s humbleness comes from superstition and habit, just like his water bottle arranging and wedgie picking. Don’t get mad at me, Rafanatics, I don’t mean this in a nasty way. I find his OCD tendencies quite endearing. But really, even Rafa must admit that it isn’t “more usual” for him to lose in the first round than it is for him to win a clay court tournament three or five times in a row. Anything less than utter domination on the dirt would be quite UNusual!
Darn, now I’ve jinxed him – quick everybody, pick your imaginary wedgie!
Rafa plays the winner of Andreas Seppi vs. Sam Querrey on Wednesday in Rome.