My tough times in life still continue, but I recently have found a new role model for getting through this rough period. He's perhaps the toughest guy on the ATP tour, and perhaps the toughest tennis player that ever lived -- Rafael "Rafa" Nadal.
There are athletes who are nice and humble but lack competitive fire. Then there are athletes who are feisty intimidating competitors but are extremely hyper-competitive jerks even after the game is over due to their inability to harness their fiery intensity properly. Then, there's the third kind, a rare breed of competitor who can be either of the two types at will without being an asshole.
Rafael Nadal is that third type of competitor. He's the ultimate warrior on the court, a cold, ruthless baseliner with an unshakable conviction. His mental and physical capabilities allow him to play each point with all-out intensity. For him, the fight to succeed in every battle is more important than the result itself. It's what drives him, a motivation evident in every point of the five-set triumph over Roger Federer that made him the first Spaniard to win the 2009 Australian Open. But it is that same quality that may also explain Nadal's uneasiness about the torture he is inflicting on Federer, a man he respects more than any other for his own remarkable achievements. It is often said that a boxer enjoys more the bout than the aftermath if he has knocked his opponent unconscious to the floor. As Federer wept from the painful loss, Nadal hugged his disconsolate rival as they trudged from the net and again at the post-match ceremony because he felt uncomfortable reducing a tennis legend like Federer to tears.
It is probably this astounding quality that I admire most about Rafa.... and also the one quality that stupefies me the most about him. On the one hand, he is the most ruthless competitor; on the other hand, he's so full of compassion for the loser that he feels the need to embrace him to make him feel better. How can one guy be both extremes?!?!
Ironic thing is that Nadal won fair and square; he has nothing to feel bad about! What amazes me about Rafa is that he's mentally and physically the toughest tennis beast that ever lived... and still one of the nicest, most humble guys around! The amount of rigorous physical training he goes through (5 hours a day, YIKES!!!) and the amount of mental toughness and resolve he has is almost unimaginable! Most people twice his age don't have either his toughness or maturity. But perhaps Nadal's most admirable quality is his uncanny ability to harness his competitive fire -- he can be your best friend off the court and instantly morph into your worst enemy on the court. Extremely generous one minute, totally ruthless the next!
I truly believe that the key to getting over my tough times is to train myself to be as tough mentally and physically as possible. Of course, it's hard to savor such a crappy life (as opposed to a tennis match), but at this point, I'm not worried about that now. I'll just fight my hardest to succeed in this battle of never-ending stress and not really worry about the end result. It will be hard… really hard, but I think I'll be a lot better off for it in the long run. Perhaps one day, like Rafa, I will also love the battle more than the actual victory.