Like the rest of the tennis world, I, too am completely stunned by Nadal’s loss to Lukas Rosol. It’s arguably one of the biggest upsets in the entire history of tennis, not just men’s tennis.
I was watching Tennis Channel cover today’s highlights, and Martina Navratilova pointed out what pretty much everybody else is thinking; namely, that Rafa has got to be frustrated knowing that he lost to a player who was “in the zone”, and will most likely never play a match at that level, ever again. Lightning in a bottle. A one hit wonder. Martina said, “Rafa’s probably thinking, ‘Why Me?'”
Rafa, allow me to introduce you to Pete Sampras. Pete’s going to explain “Why me?” to you:
“The truth is that when you’re anywhere but at number one, you can hide. You can get to the second week of majors regularly, win one now and then, earn a lot of respect and money, and lead a great, stress-free life.
It wasn’t going to be good enough for me to just be in the mix; it would nag and wear at me. I realized that the game was not about getting somewhere, but staying somewhere. Some of us, we get there and we don’t want to let it go. We don’t want to see some other guy take it. And that’s ultimately what makes you a warrior – a fully formed, mature competitor.
You can’t really teach someone determination, although you can nurture it. It’s something that’s either in you or not, and you have to figure it out as an individual. And if you decide you need to be number one, you have to realize you can’t hide. You have to get fitted for the bulls-eye on your back, and get used to living with it.” Pete Sampras, “A Champions Mind“, pages 88-89
Which only serves to place a giant exclamation point behind what Sampras (and Federer) achieved by climbing to the top – and then staying there – for so, so long.
Get used to it, Rafa. Whether you like it or not, you have a big, fat bull’s eye on your back, and every journeyman tennis player with a swing and a prayer now believes that they, too, might have a chance.