That’s it. I am through with these Rafa haters. Rafa loses a tournament? You are all up, armed, and ready to fire. Rafa wins a tournament? You still don’t stop, do you?
Firstly, I will state a few facts, and push them out of my way.
1. Djokovic is World #1. Yes, at the moment he’s the world’s best tennis player. He has got a far more balanced game play when it comes to verstality over the different surfaces than Rafa. And clearly he has bested Rafa more often than not in the recent times.
2. Federer is and always will be that guy who took tennis to another level. As far as I am concerned even Pete Sampras can’t claim that. Right now, he might not be on the top of his game. But there is no denying that he is like a Phoenix, and it not be too long before he rises out of the ashes.
3. I have tried to be correct with the facts I have written. Unfortunately I am no tennis expert, and therefore pardon me if I have gone wrong.
Now, coming back to the point in discussion. Rafa. Since the day he ousted Fedex on his maiden run @ the French Open, he has been my favourite. Incidentally, his maiden French Open which happens to be his Maiden French Open title as well. How many people can beat that, huh? That’s right. Nobody.
“No man since Bjorn Borg has won the French Open, crossed the English Channel and conquered the All Englad Club as well”, for four years I heard the guys in the commentary box lament. At the end of three slams, I was crying. At the end of the fourth, I was jubilant. After 3 unsuccessful attempts Rafa had finally conquered the All England Club, and tasted victory (literally). Rafa had done, what no man in recent times had. He achieved what experts called a “Channel Slam”. It should have put an end to the argument of Rafa being one dimensional. Sadly, it didn’t.
Rafa has always reigned supreme at the French Open, apart from the unfortunate loss to Robin Soderling three years back. Many predicted that Rafa will be dethroned this Summer by Djokovic. And that just did not happen. He is, and will always be the undisputed King of Clay.
Over the years, he won the Australian Open, the US Open, and a number of Masters as well. If not anything else, that proves how good a player Rafa was, and still is. And he won the Olympic Gold. How much more better can he get, huh?
What was once a weak serve has improved formidably, and isn’t a liability any more. True, his serve is still no where near to the best serves in the circuit. But I am sure, even Djokovic’s serve does’t measure up to the huge serving Isner. So does that mean Djokovic is no good? The answer is simple. No it doesn’t. So I find it utterly ridiculous to undermine the talent of a player as good as Rafa, citing a few areas as general weakness. Why don’t you just talk about his precise returns?
Rafa is special. What is so special, you ask? Many a time, we find people to idolize as soon as we set sights on them. We secretly wish and pray that they would rise to the occasion, and live up to most of all your expectation. And 99 out of a hundred times, they fail. I have a long list of crushed hopes starting from Felipe Massa to Suresh Raina.
For many days, I dreamt of Rafa becoming World #1, winning Slams other than just the French Open. But sadly, I believed Rafa will never become World #1, and never win a slam other than the French Open. But he did not let that happen. As a matter of fact, Rafa saved my dream. He learnt well, and quickly he reached the top. I could not have been more happier. Today, I dream of Rafa holding all the four slams at the same time. Not only that, I also believe he will make my dream come true.
I see in Rafa what many people fail to see. This is why the Rafa fans adore him. The absolute modesty. The eagerness to learn. The will to improve. The eyes for precision. The strength to persevere. The power to excel. But most of all the heart to accept. I have never seen a player more gracious at defeat, and I love him for that. He gives credit where credit is due, and at times even where it isn’t.
I don’t just love Rafa as a tennis player, I love him as a person.