Yup. We’ve been suspecting it all along and finally, validation comes from the highest source itself. Roger Federer’s greatest rival and good friend Rafael Nadal has confirmed what we have known all along – that Roger is no mere mortal. I received my copy of ‘Rafa: My Story’ a few days back and much as I was engrossed in the third book of the Millenium Trilogy, I just had to put it down to start leafing through a tennis autobiography. I mean c’mon, first of all it is my favourite kind of book anyway – a sports autobiography (I’ve read them all, from Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike to Steve Waugh’s Out Of My Comfort Zone, My Side by David Beckham to Andre Agassi’s much-lauded Open. Heck, I’ve even read Michael Atherton’s Opening Up, so you can imagine what a sucker I am for sports autobiographies!) So yeah, I put aside the nail-biting Hornet’s Nest and sank my teeth into Rafa’s story. And was rewarded with a few gems right at the start. Sample this:
“All elite sports people do (play through pain much of the time). All except Federer. I’ve had to push and mould my body… but he just seems to have been born to play the game. His physique – his DNA – seems perfectly adapted to tennis, rendering him immune to the injuries the rest of us are deemed to put up with… You get these blessed freaks of nature in other sports too.”
Now you may call that sour grapes, but I call it the highest form of compliment. Basically, Rafa is likening Roger to a superhero who simply happens to be the best by virtue of being genetically superior. It is a fact that cannot be contested. You and I cannot fight Spiderman, can we? It’s a bit like that and I think it’s wonderful to have it come straight from the horse’s mouth, n’est-ce pas?
The early pages of the book so far also shed light on an unlikely friendship and mutual respect between the two on-court foes. It is heart-warming reading. It may not be scandalous or shocking like Agassi’s Open, but it is captivating alright because it delves deeply into the process of producing a world class champion athlete. Brilliant reading if you’re into that kind of endorphin-and-adrenaline-pumping stuff. This poor little good boy is no enfant terrible, so naturally, I wasn’t expecting a sex-drugs-n-rock-n-roll account in the first place, like I did with Agassi and Boris Becker. (Both of those books by the way, Open and The Player, are astoundingly revelatory and will leave you slack jawed with shock. Must read, if you haven’t already).
Although I’m far from finished, the book seems to be much like Rafa himself: straight, uncomplicated and endearingly nerdy.
PS: I also realised today that I am in serious danger of slipping behind the times. While playing Snakes N Ladders with my sons, I happened to comment “wow, you’re zooming ahead like Michael Schumacher!” to my elder one, who is all of four and a half years old. He looked at me quizzically and said, “Not Schumacher! Sebastian Vettel!”