Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rafael Nadal - The Momentum Rider

It was 40 - 30 in the second set and Roger Federer was one point away from winning his service game. Rafael Nadal had already lost the first set and was looking completely outplayed by the brilliance of Federer's versatile game. Many people were surprised to see Nadal just hanging in there in the match failing to realize the most important point in any sport or life in general. But Nadal knew it, in fact  to my eyes, he is an epitome of the very particular characteristic we are going to talk about in this article.

Rafael Nadal hung in there to make sure that no matter how exquisite Federer's shot-making was, he would not let Federer build on his momentum. So when the score line became 40-40, he knew he was just two points away from clinching the second set. He could sense the tightness in Federer's serve and he clinched the moment  He won the set 6-4. At that point he knew that the tide had shifted in his favor.

Just those two points and the direction of the wind had changed.  Normally people tend to relax at this moment but Rafael Nadal is not one of them. He went on to win seven consecutive points and quickly the score line read 3-0 in his favor. In the blink of an eye, to what seemed to be Federer's match, Nadal had overturned the tables and pocketed the crucial break in the match.

This is the most important point to be observed in Nadal's game.  He rides on the momentum built by him and crushes the opponent after he gets a  chance. His biggest strength I believe is the fact that he never lets anyone build on the momentum by hanging in here  and when he himself wins a crucial game, he makes sure that he comes back with more fierceness than that of a raging tiger.  His tenacity and fire in the eyes is so strong that often times, the opponent is left dazzled by the intensity of his play and ultimately goes on to lose the match.

 "Success requires first expending ten units of effort to produce one unit of results. Your momentum will then produce ten units of results with each unit of effort.".

So if you observe here, Nadal gave everything when he was two points away from winning the second set and once he had won it, he went on to quickly break Federer by riding on the momentum gained by those two points. Federer could have played better at the start of the third set, but it was obvious by his body language and shots that he was still thinking about the second set and what could have been if only he could have not let Rafa win those two points? By the time, Roger Federer woke up and decided to fight, it was already 4-1.

But when Rafael Nadal lost the first set, what did he do? He made sure that Federer did not get away on his momentum and hung in there.  I believe that building on the momentum and sustaining it is the biggest weapon of Rafael Nadal. Not to forget, how Nadal makes sure that when the other person is about to get into a fast ride by earning a break on his serve, he comes back with double intensity to ensure that he halts their progress right just when it would seem to take a flight.

I believe here is a very important lesson for all of us to learn from Nadal's game. Life is also like a game of sport where in we will be faced with obstacles. There will be people who will try to halt our progress in whatever we do. Our goal should be to hang in there tight enough knowing pretty well that no matter how big the hurdle is, we will reach to a point where we can shift the tide by doubling in the intensity of our efforts. Once we have done that, all that we have do is to make sure that we keep riding on this momentum by keeping our focus on our goals like an aeroplane which needs power and thrust to gain momentum to fly and once it is air borne, it has to sustain its momentum otherwise it will fall. 

Or in other words, if we look at the example of train travelling at a speed of 30 MPH and 130 MPH. If you keep a pile of rocks in front of their path, the second train with 130 MPH will break the rocks and carry on its path whereas the 30 MPH train will be stopped. So if you want to succeed in life, build on the momentum like the 130 MPH train and you will break the biggest of the barriers in life.

Right now Nadal is riding on the same train where no opponent or rival seems big enough to him. Be it Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or the big servers like John Isner, Nadal has continued to ride on the momentum that he gained at the start of the year and is currently 53-3 with regards to his match record this year, has won mind-blowing  nine titles in 11 finals over five months span. Any guesses, who will be the strongest contender to win the US Open this year? :):)

If you have any questions, you can mail me at apekshaha@gmail.com.

Rafael Nadal - The Maestro of Patience and Work Ethic


  1. ..interesting lessons of life!

  2. I always find articles like this dissapointing. Do you have any data that shows that nadal is more streaky than other players to back up your claim? Streaks happen just by chance, and to date no statistical analysis of any sport has ever shown that there are players that actually go on streaks or have what you refer to as momentum. It is a nice belief, shared by most sports fans, and even most athletes, but what it really comes down to is that the best players simply score more points than their opponent ON AVERAGE throughout a game/match/career.

    See here for a nice compilation of just a few of the statistical analyses of streaks:

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