Bárbara reads ‘Rafa’ so you don’t have to
August 30th, 2011 • John Carlin
This week I’ve read Rafa – the Rafael Nadal biography written by himself and British journalist John Carlin. Anyone that knows me or accompanies this blog is aware that I’m a huge Rafa fan. I’ve followed him since 2004 and cheered him on since he won Costa do Sauípe here in Brazil. Obviously I’m an easier to please reader than most. And, honestly, I can say I didn’t enjoy the book all that much. So since I am a very nice blogger, I’m going to tell you all the important bits and why you should/shouldn’t read Rafa.
- The plot: The book is about Rafa’s life, but it doesn’t tell much about it. What you’re going to read over and over: he’s a great person, he’s been taught to be very modest and he loves his family. Like, his family is everything. His family is the best ever. He wouldn’t be anywhere without his family. His dad is boss. His mom is sweet. His sister is awesome. His uncle is tough but great. Rinse and repeat. At least 40% of the book is praising the Nadals. Also: the Wimbledon final in 2008 was dope.
- His family: They’re a bit creepy. They all live together (or used to, before Rafa’s parents got divorced) in the same building in Manacor, in Mallorca – Rafa‘s hometown. Everyone is so close – grandparents, uncles, aunts – that all doors in the house are opened. In a jokingly way, even Carlin compares them to the Corleones, from The Godfather.
- From what can be gathered on the book, Rafa would do anything his family told him to. After he won his fourth Roland Garros, in 2008, he wanted to get a sports car – but his dad said he could only buy it if he won Wimbledon. 1) What. 2) At 22 years old, he was already a self-made millionaire at the time. On the autobiography, Rafa says: ‘I wouldn’t have gone ahead and bought the car without his (Sébastian, his father) blessing. But instead, he came up with what he thought was a devious compromise.’ Well then.
- Rafa talks about how once his godmother congratulated him on a win. I know, what a crazy bitch. On the book, it’s written: ‘Marilén, the godmother, did try once (to congratulate Rafa), and immediately Toni and Rafa’s was response was to look at her incredulously and say, “What are you doing?” “They were right”, Marilén says. “It was as if I were congratulating myself. Because if one of us wins, we all win.”‘ It’s like something straight out of The Sopranos.
- Toni Nadal: is a bit mental. I think most Rafa fans know that already. You know those tennis parents that want to live their lives through their children? That’s what Toni seems like. Having failed on the tour because he never had a ‘big weapon’, he has ‘built his nephew’ to become a champion. Rafa thanks Toni for everything. Toni was always tough and strict - making Rafa train more and work harder than his tennis buddies. Maybe without Toni, Rafa wouldn’t be the amazing athlete he is today. I still wouldn’t want my kid near Toni though. Rafa tells a story on how, once, when he was a kid, he forgot to nring his water bottle before a match and asked Toni if he could buy him one. Toni said no to ‘teach him responsibility’. Similar thing happened when Rafa tried to jump over the net but fell down instead. While Rafa bled, Toni screamed at him. Say with me, readers: nutcase.
- Injuries: He talks about the bone problem he has on his foot – the one that nearly made him quit tennis in 2004/2005. He has a genetic condition and he pondered trading tennis for golf. He has to wear special soles on his shoes (designed by doctors) to ease the problem up until this day. Rafa also discussed the knee treatment he did for his tendinitis – the one that made him skip Wimbledon in 2009. He got injections – without any sort of pain relief medication – straight into the region. They seem to have healed the problem completely.
- Wimbledon 2008: Along with his family, that’s the subject most talked about on the book. One of the best matches of all time and Rafa‘s first Wimbledon title. It’s obvious that was the most important title for Rafa – even more than the U.S. Open last year, where he completed his Career Grand Slam. After he lost the 2007′s final to Roger Federer, Rafa was traumatized. He was crying on the shower floor for hours after. Rafa was relieved when he finally took the crown in Wimbledon. In the book, a bunch of the points are narrated. It’s interesting if you want to know what Rafa was thinking at the moment – but even casual fans can guess that one out. ‘I’m so nervous, serve to the backhand!!’ My desire was to skip all the pages describing games and games of that match. Would I really be reading the book if I hadn’t watched that match? Come on.
- Champion: Rafa was set to be a champion. He’s crazy competitive and driven. He has that inner drive that very few have. Carlos Moyá says that even when Rafa was still 14, the boy used to be able to push him in practices. Let it be reminded that Moyá had already won Roland Garros by then and was in the top five.
- My favourite part: In my opinion, the best was when Rafa talked about the Davis Cup, in 2004. He was out of the top 50 and the Spanish captain chose to play him on the final against America – instead of Tommy Robredo or Juan Carlos Ferrero. Still only eighteen, Rafa defeated Andy Roddick on home soil. It was one of the few bits in the biography where I was really into the book. And I’m not even sure why. Probably why I am not a professional book reviewer. Teenage Rafa kicking the big guys’ asses just makes me happy.
I think Rafa could have said a little more about his life, like, interesting things. I know he doesn’t enjoy talking about personal stuff, but what’s the point of writing an autobiography then? It all felt a bit shallow. Like a press conference or an interview to a major newspaper. He’s no Agassi. The book’s strongest feature is learning about how dedicated Rafa is to the sport. You always hear about his work ethic right and left, but Rafa gives a lot of stories on it. There are very few athletes dedicated as he is. Rafa Nadal is a great professional, an amazing player and, above all, a hard worker.