Rafael Nadal capped off on average year – by his standard – on a high by playing a pivotal role in Spain’s fifth Davis Cup triumph on Sunday. The country event takes a backseat in players’ and fans’ priority list but that should in no way undermine the achievement. In fact considering the turnaround the 2010 Davis Cup win brought about in Novak Djokovic’s fortunes, you can’t fault Nadal’s fans for already sitting with their fingers crossed and praying for a similar success story for the Spaniard the next season.
We all have our own individual favourites that we root for tournament after tournament. However, despite the biases there are certain stand-out qualities that even the harshest of critics are forced to appreciate in certain players. It could be Federer’s grace or the way he makes every shot look so effortless or Roddick’s serve or Djokovic’s all-court game or in Nadal’s case, his tenacity. The determination to get to every shot, to wear down his opponents, to make them go the extra mile for that winner and the never give-up attitude are all the traits that have for long defined Nadal’s on-court persona and endeared him to one and all.
There is hardly a player more driven than Nadal, who needs no outside motivation to get fired up. The World No.2 has evidently never been the most naturally talented or skilled player but his mental toughness gave him the quality that matters the most for winning. Yes, above talent and skill. And, to take that away from Nadal seemed almost impossible, that is until this season. Among Djokovic’s many accomplishments in 2011 the one that got lost in all the statistics and numbers is the psychological damage the Serbian managed to cause to one of the mentally strongest sportsmen ever.