Rafa Nadal draws the curtains on a perfect Indian summer
They were five unforgettable hours; five hours in the night that we can consider the end of the summer. The days are cooling down, schools are opening their gates again, the traffic in Madrid is thickening, the Champions League is returning… now it is time to reach for the jacket and contemplate how time flies until next summer is upon us. On this night of impending change, Rafa Nadal treated us to another of his wonderful performances on the tennis court, going toe-to-toe with 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev, another of the NextGen players who is aspiring to be the “Man who shot Liberty Valance,” and left the court frustrated in his attempt as so many have done before. The "Big Three" are tough types, and Rafa is the toughest of them all.
A tennis commentator told me on Monday that Rafa has won more Grand Slams after reaching the age of 30 than any other player. Watching him the other night I remembered when he first attended the AS Awards gala. Marc Márquez won the Promising Newcomer award. Paco Gento took the Lifetime Achievement trophy home. Vicente del Bosque and Iker Casillas represented the Spain national team. Jorge Lorenzo had won the MotoGP world championship. All of them were applauded enthusiastically when they ascended the podium. But the ovation for Rafa exceeded all of those who went before him; it was incomparable to the others in its intensity and duration. He looked rather uncomfortable up there, as though he was enduring an incessant downpour. His natural humility made it a bit of a chore for him.
Agassi: "Nadal is cashing cheques against his body in every game”
I also remember that at that time a lot of tennis experts predicted that Rafa wouldn’t last very long, because of his playing style, his excessive exertion. Andre Agassi - a man who knows a lot about playing through injuries - told AS during an interview: “Nadal is cashing cheques against his body in every game.” Agassi loved and admired the young Nadal, but he laid the ground for the suspicion that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy him for very long. Well, that was back in 2010 and here we are, drawing the curtains on the summer of 2019. Five hours of duelling to finally overcome the challenge of a 23-year-old. I wasn’t surprised by his outpouring of emotion after the game. To get there he had sacrificed so much… yes, there have been plenty of injuries along the way but he has overcome them with exemplary tenacity. The toughest of the tough, and still a long way from riding into the sunset.
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