Rafael Nadal was not the favourite. But once again he triumphed. Despite foot pain, eaten away by necrosis of the scaphoid bone, despite his truncated preparation, despite the late schedule for this quarter-final. Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic on Tuesday and gave another show of his mental toughness.
“It’s the victory of self-sacrifice, resilience and conviction, analyzes coach Emmanuel Planque, who rubbed shoulders with the Spaniard a lot when he was coaching Lucas Pouille. Rafael was at rock bottom a few weeks ago, but he’s a great warrior, the greatest fighter in tennis history! He has this combativeness, this will, this ability to surpass himself which means that he is always able to bounce back. »
“The more at stake, the stronger it is”
The loss of the second set on Tuesday, or the two fifth set balls obtained by “Djoko” therefore did not disturb him. “No one handles moments of pressure so well,” said former tennis player David Ferrer. “His mind is his main asset and replaces a sometimes failing physique”, poses Charles-Antoine Brézac.
“He has an exceptional ability to adapt and react,” continues former professional Pier Gauthier, now a mental trainer. The fact that it was cold and the match was played in the evening could have been a problem. But at no time did he say that to himself: he is in the acceptance of the context and is looking for the best way to get out of it.
What is his secret? “He worked on that, of course, continues the mental trainer who notably coached Sébastien Grosjean or Gaël Monfils. But he also had a favorable environment, with his uncle Toni and his other uncle Miguel Angel, former FC Barcelona. He has developed efficient ways of thinking. He handles stress and pressure perfectly. The more at stake, the stronger it is”.
Yoga, meditation and “positive attitude”
Asked about the subject, Rafael Nadal confirmed the importance of the training provided by his uncle Toni: “He never authorized me to break a racket, to say bad words or to abandon a match! “So the Spaniard, 13 times winner at Roland-Garros and 21 times Grand Slam title, found methods to channel his emotion. On the course, he has many rituals: lining up the bottles, avoiding stepping on the lines, adjusting his shorts or wiping his face between points. Outside of matches, he does “yoga and meditation to control [ses] emotions in decisive moments”. Nadal also practices positive thinking: “Not complaining when you have problems, pain, not being negative despite the worries, that’s mental work!” »
Even if he sometimes doubts, the Spaniard manages to stay focused and play each point without worrying about the previous one. “He is always in the present, in the action and not in the emotion”, assures Emmanuel Planque. This is how he signed his most famous “comebacks”, such as his victory in the Australian Open final against Medvedev in January, despite being two sets behind. “I do not have absolute belief in my ability to come back to score, assures the world number 5. But even if I face the impossible, I don’t want to give up, I want to make things difficult for my opponent”. Alexander Zverev, whom he will meet on Friday in the semi-finals, has been warned: he will face a colossus with feet of clay but a mind of steel.
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Roland Garros. The mind always wins Rafael Nadal
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