A Life Lesson from Rafael Nadal

July 24th, 2009

Rafael NadalImagine dedicating your life to the pursuit of a single goal, and after many years of hard work, having your success slip away as a result of your health. How would that make you feel?

In 2005, Rafael Nadal became the world’s second highest ranked tennis player, but was a far way behind the number one player, Roger Federer. Despite Nadal’s incredible dedication and work ethic, few people believed that he’d ever catch Federer who many consider to be the greatest player of all time and was completely dominating tennis at the time. However, with a lot of grit, determination, and hard work, Nadal consistently continued to improve his game, and in August of 2008, gained the number one ranking. It was a dream come true and was an amazing accomplishment considering the odds that were stacked against him.

Rafael Nadal’s Change of Fortune

Nadal’s claim to fame is his dominance on clay which is a slower court surface that suits his persistent, steady, and tireless style of play extremely well. In fact, he won the French Open, one of the 4 most important tournaments on the tennis calendar, 4 years in a row. By winning the 2009 French Open, he would surpass Bjorn Borg and be the only player to ever win the French Open for 5 consecutive years. As one of the most highly accomplished players of all time on clay, it almost seemed gauranteed that he’d do it, but he didn’t. In fact, he didn’t even make the quarterfinals.

Nadal trains harder and longer than just about any of his peers, and because of his style of play, he also runs a lot more during his matches. All professional tennis players put a tremendous amount of wear and tear on their bodies, but with Nadal’s practice habits and style of play, he incurs even more. The fact that he can work so hard without completely exhausting himself is a testament to his incredible capacity. However, his knees have proven to not be quite as resilient.

A Minor Setback with a Significant Cost

Prior to his French Open loss, Rafael Nadal’s knees had already been causing him problems for several years. Although there may be many contributing factors, his intense work ethic and physical style of play are undoubtedly two of them. During the French Open, his knee pain worsened and was likely a significant factor in his early loss. More importantly, it forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon and give up his chance to defend the title.

The grass surface of the Wimbledon courts are often the most challenging for a player like Nadal, but last year, he shocked the world by not only improving his game to play well on it, but also by beating Roger Federer for the title. This win is especially noteworthy because grass is Federer’s best surface and he dominates on it just like Nadal dominates on clay. It was also a major part of what eventually enabled Nadal to surpass Federer in the rankings, and by missing Wimbledon, he lost the number one ranking that he worked so hard for.

Why Your Health is Important to Your Goals in Life

Although we can only speculate that Rafael Nadal’s extremely intense work ethic and physical style of play were a major factor in missing Wimbledon and losing the number one ranking, we can still learn from his misfortune. Ideally, we should all have a strong vision of what we’d like to accomplish in life, and for most of us, making this vision a reality requires years of dedication. By pushing ourselves too hard or not supporting our mental and physical health, we’ll have less chance of achieving our goals and enjoying the fulfillment that it can provide.

If you have any ambition for living a fulfilling and rewarding life, you owe it to yourself to maximize the effectiveness and the resulting reward of your efforts by living a healthy lifestyle. Imagine how Rafael Nadal must have felt watching Wimbledon from home as his number one ranking slipped away. Now put yourself in that situation and imagine how you’d feel if any one of today’s many common health conditions get in your way of experiencing a fulfilling and rewarding life. You have the power to minimize the chance of this happening. Take advantage of it!

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