Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer the GREATS, and a few lessons

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are among the greatest tennis players of all time. A few things can be learnt from their careers.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. CREDIT – Tennis USA

While it is not easy to get consensus on who’s the best tennis player of all time, I believe it’s very reasonable to say that Rafael “Vamos” “Rafa” Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all time and that Roger “FedExpress” Federer is the greatest grass court player of all time.  The reason why there is no consensus on who the GOAT is a topic for another day.   On their best surfaces Nadal and Federer are clearly head and shoulders above everyone else. This is a time in tennis when Andy Murray, Novak Dvokovic and the young pretenders should be winning Grand Slams but no, we still have Federer and Nadal to say something about that.

UTTERLY DOMINANT
Nadal was so dominant in the French Open and Federer in Wimbledon that both players went through these tournaments without dropping a single set. That’s an incredible feat and display of skill indeed showing just how talented these players are. The best of 5 sets are grueling yet these players found a way to win in the most efficient manner possible. Nadal was much more aggressive on the clay while Federer dictated play with an excellent and very consistent serve and great return. Nadal owns the French Open and the same can be said of Federer. He owns Wimbledon.

LONGEVITY
The longevity of these two players is truly amazing. By winning his 10th Roland Garros title Nadal became the only man to win a Grand Slam 10 times. Federer broke the Wimbledon record he had shared with “Pistol” Pete Sampras at 7 Wimbledon titles. How on earth have they done it to be in the game for so long? For Federer staying injury free and being healthy has helped immensely. One very important aspect of Roger Federer’s game is that he is very careful about his events. He generally plays much less tennis than other players like Andy Murray who is now paying the price with injury. Nadal remarkably enough pushed himself a great on the clay but managed to win so much despite the very heavy workload.

BEST TENNIS
When Stan Wawrinka lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal he declared that this was the best he had seen Nadal play at the French Open. Federer was at his best throughout the 2 weeks at Wimbledon. His serving were very impressive and probably the best stats throughout the whole Tournament. So Nadal and Federer are not just winning Grand Slams at a time when most players would be expected to be slowing down and in the shows but they are winning in style.

BUT WHAT ABOUT AGE
Nadal and Federer are a constant reminder that old does not mean weaker or less able. Sometimes it feels like the going is so much tougher for older people in the workplace.  There’s little doubt that these battle hardened Champions were able to draw on their vast experience in beating their adversaries. Their age was not a weakness, it was a huge strength! Do not feel insecure about your age. You have a great deal to offer and share.

LOVE WHAT YOU DO
It makes a huge difference when you absolutely love what you do. It is easier to excel in it. Just look at Nadal before a game, you can see that he is just raring to go and he jumps about. Look at Federer in his interviews. You can see this is one guy who really enjoys tennis. Even when he loses he always seems to have a clear perspective on things, what went wrong and what the plan is going forward. Nadal and Federer have been playing the game for so long yet they are still so hungry to win every single game and point when they play.

TAKE A BREAK WHEN YOU HAVE TO
When Nadal and Federer had injury concerns and issues, they did not hesitate to take a break from the game even though that meant being away from the game from a long time. They knew that missing out on several months of play was a small sacrifice in the bigger picture. Their health and bodies came first. When they returned to action, they were energised and keen to make up for the time away from the court.

PLAY YOUR OWN GAME
Ladies and gentlemen, it is all well and good to compete with others but the best standard is not the one set by others, it is the one you set for yourself. Even after 3 years without a Grand Slam title Nadal knew he still had what it took to win his favourite Grand Slam. Federer had not won Wimbledon since 2012 and many could be forgiven for writing him off at the beginning at year. Yet here we are in 2017, Federer and Nadal have won 2 of the Grand Slams this year. Play your own game at your own pace.

DO NOT PLAY TO THE GALLERY, PLAY TO WIN
When Federer and Nadal start a game they are so intensely focussed on the game. There is no time for crowd-pleasing antics and wasting time. They are already in the zone. There has been a little bit of criticism sometimes that Nadal takes too long in between points when serving but I am certain this is not a tactic on his part, it’s just how he plays his game. Federer on the other hand bounces the ball two or three times. I believe that on average Federer is one of the fastest players in going through games. That is very impressive for someone who is not a very big or fast server.

ONCE A WINNER, ALWAYS A POTENTIAL WINNER
If you have won before you can never forget the feeling of winning. Not only that but you know what it takes to win again. When you watch Federer and Nadal playing their matches you can feel them raise their game around 2-2 or 3-3. They know it’s time to break serve and move ahead.

WHAT ABOUT THE CRITICS
Here’s some advice on dealing with critics when dealing with your life goals and dreams. Do yourself a big favour and ignore them completely. If Nadal and Federer had stopped along the way they would have long since quit the game or retired. Critics will always have something to write whether you win or lose. They will always be ready to offer tips and advice and how things could have been done better but they will never be the ones in the driving seat.

FINALLY, NEXT PLAY
Despite all your achievements, remember to focus on the goals. Do not dwell on your achievements but look ahead. Roger Federer in his acceptance speech on getting his trophy spoke about how he would love to defend his title. Here is a man who has just won his favourite tournament and yet is already thinking ahead to the next tournament. Ladies and gentlemen, next play! What is the next thing on your agenda.

Author: Bruce Mubayiwa

My key interests and passions are Chess, Technology and Writing. I am the founder and editor of Africa Chess Net. My goal is to get more people playing chess in Africa.