This was a book I wanted to read for a long, long time. Out of the best tennis players of now, unfortunately few of them have written an autobiography. Indeed there will probably be a short burst of them after the players finally retire (whenever that may be since we're noticing an extension of the number of years players are active for!) Nadal can be a polarising figure, for some he seems arrogant in his on-court celebrations and for others there is huge admiration for his sportsmanship and achievements. For non-Spanish speakers, probably not much information that comes from the Nadal family is available due to the language barrier and is another reason why this book is such a treat. Nadal talks about his more important matches up until 2011 which are arguably his best years still and include achieving a career slam (winning all 4 grand slam titles) as well as an Olympic gold medal. Since then there has been the dominance of Novak Djokovic as well as other players who are making the game a more even playing field. Much of the book reads like a live-commentary of the important points and feelings during the match which can be interesting for some and probably a little repetitive for others. In interviews Nadal is one who complains rarely and instead makes it clear that the other player performed better and the focus should be that. In this way, it was interesting to hear how he coped with losses, the injuries that he went through that were career-threatening and how they were overcome. But also true to Nadal, when there is talk of his personal life it feels distant and reserved. Most of it is about his relationship with his uncle and his respect for his family and team. For those who were hoping for him to talk about his girlfriend more, you can pretty much forget about that! After reading it, I can understand some things that many find irritating such as his set-routine during matches. Everything seems to have an order and what it has been established, he sticks to it no matter what. There is also this feeling that he is incredibly humble and down-to-earth. His description of Manacor and how special it is for him makes you want to go see it for yourself. It is home to so much comfort that straight after one of his matches, he got the only flight possible (Easyjet) just to arrive quickly. It made me think more about the life of somebody constantly in the public eye. For instance he mentioned about being unhappy when people see him and shove things in front of him to sign without asking or saying anything beforehand. The book is written with a journalist, John Carlin, and although you can see Carlin's own thoughts in each chapter it is not clear how much involvement he had with the telling of Nadal's life. Even so, it is still a really good read but for those wanting never before revealed stories, please don't expect too much. It is not a book full of anecdotes that happened with other players, or him revealing more intimate and unpredictable details about his life. Instead you see all the more the discipline and hunger for the game that he has and that, just like for anyone else, success wasn't always so easy. I would recommend Agassi's autobiography for a more intimate picture.
The only sport I've ever really enjoyed watching and following regularly is tennis which I follow throughout the year. My interest in the sport has increased even more recently as my favourite player Andy Murray has done so well. Although I do have my favourite player it's hard not to simply support whichever player is playing better tennis and when players win trophy after trophy you have to respect them for the champions they are. Raphael Nadal is one of these historic and iconic champions and it's always wonderful to see him play. One of the best players in the current era (and arguably the best ever player), Nadal released this biography in 2011, with John Carlin a contributing force to the writing.
The composition of the book is interesting. Throughout the whole book Nadal talks us through his epic 2008 Wimbledon final with Roger Federer. Interspersed throughout this match account are chapters that slowly reveal the story of Nadal's life - from childhood to current day. Nadal's family and friends are candid with their revelations so that by the end of the book you feel like you have really gotten to know Rafa the man as well as Rafa the tennis player.
Even if you are a casual tennis fan you probably remember the epic 2008 Wimbledon final where Nadal (ranked 2) took on the master that is Roger Federer (ranked 1) and won. It was a long, dramatic match which some people and tennis experts now call the best match in tennis history. Nadal's memory or retelling of the match is pretty intricate and he refers to the game in technical terms as much as how he was dealing with it emotionally. I would have thought that unless you are an avid tennis fan you might sometimes feel overwhelmed by the detailed references to almost every important tennis shot played during the match. It is pumped with excitement and tension though, since Nadal is able to slow down and heighten the drama of each shot with his words and memories.
Learning about Nadal's upbringing and how he got involved with tennis was something I found very touching. I really didn't know much about Nadal's history until I read this book and once I did I felt I could more appreciate everything he brings to the court with him. The explanations of Nadal's relationship with his Uncle Toni is interesting and revealing, as are the cultural ideals and patterns of his Majorcan family. I recently read Andre Agassi's biography and felt there was a lot of similarities to how both men were molded into future champions at an early age. It is sometimes quite difficult to read about some of the painful lessons Nadal had to learn as a child to be where he is today. When you find out what Nadal experienced as a youth you can understand why, despite winning countless grand slams, each win is as equally important to him.
There are also some curious details about Nadal's unusual obsessional behaviour during match play. If you've ever watched Nadal on court you can't fail to notice his touching the hair, nose and shorts 'routine' prior to every serve, for instance. Every intricate detail that is revealed about this player makes him seem more unique and fascinating.
There are also many pages of colour photographs in the book which show Nadal as a young lad to the moment he wins some historic matches. These are lovely to see as they remind you of the red hot passion and sporting intelligence of this talented player.
After reading this book I really feel more appreciative of this player whenever he steps onto court. Knowing where someone comes from and what they have done to get where they are really makes you respect and admire them even more than you did before. This is a must read for any tennis fan and even if you casually follow the sport you would no doubt find Nadal's life story compelling.