Tennis is all about resolving emergencies, one emergency after another over a prolonged period of time. No point is ever the same and decisions have to be taken constantly in fractions of seconds. The player who, when he makes a mistake, is capable of not remaining anchored in the recollection of the mistake, or who, when he strikes a great shot and gets ahead in a set, is able to control the rush of optimism and is able to continue playing steadily, judging each shot independently in the moment, at speed and under brutal time pressure: that is the player who is going to stand out above the rest and be a champion not once, not twice, but over time. In this decision-making frenzy, having a cool head is vital, and having a cool head depends on your emotional well-being. This is the single most important attribute that Rafael possesses…if Nadal has triumphed, it is because his head, his body, and his emotions, indivisibly interconnected, have been in tune or, as Forcades puts it, “in perfect synergy.” And the reason for this has been the consistently favorable influence of a happy childhood and ordered adolescence, and his enduring relationship with each member of his family and his team. This is what Forcades calls the “socio-affective” factor, which means, translated, that, unusual among elite athletes, Rafa has lived all his life within the shelter of a remarkably stable, remarkably conflict-free environment. “And one in which his parents and his uncle Toni conveyed the message from very early on that talent, without humility and hard work, will never flower. Humility is the recognition of your limitations, and it is from this understanding, and this understanding alone, that the drive comes to word hard at overcoming them…Rafael’s intricate emotional safety net has freed his mind and body to allow him to get the best out of himself…Because, the point is, you cannot separate the person from the athlete. And the person comes first. Rafa has succeeded because he is a good person, with a good family behind him.”

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