The Feeling of Rafa

A little tribute to Rafa, runner up in the 2014 Australian Open Men’s Final.

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I was expecting to be ecstatic right now, celebrating Rafa’s win over Stan to achieve his 14th Grand Slam title and double career slam having won all four major tournaments twice.

But that it not to be.

And not because Rafa wasn’t up to the task from a tennis skills point of view, but because he was injured.

Which takes me back to all the ups and downs of Rafa’s career, both due to his incredible skill and sportsmanship and his injuries.

Occasionally I indulge my Rafa fan-dom here on the blog and tonight I need to do that again, even though I’m not sure what to write except that Rafa will always be a true champion. Instead of retiring he played on, winning a set, despite his pain, which we all felt.

Rafa has battled back from injury so many times to get back to top form, and that’s part of what makes his fans love him so much.

He’s a champion in every aspect of the word.

He cares.

He fights.

He doesn’t retire.

And when he loses, he always respects his opponent.

And then there is the Feeling of Rafa that made this Australian Open sensational. AO is always great, but last year,  there was a hole due to Rafa’s absence. So this year, to have Rafa in the draw, to have him practicing regularly at the grounds and to have him around Melbourne was really special.

Every time Rafa walks on court, for matches and for practice, I get the “Feeling of Rafa”. Do you know the one? Whether you’re watching on TV or live, it’s a buzz that makes you glad you’re a part of it. It makes you pay attention and makes you invest a part of your happiness in whether he wins or loses. That’s one of the reasons why Rafa has so many fans. We just want to have an experience of him that we can share with other Rafa fans. You can tell I love those moments by how many Rafa practice pic photos I’ve shared on the blog this AO!

I was planning to write more about how I’m feeling but realised that what I’ve written previously perfectly reflects my feelings right now.

On missing Rafa at the 2013 Australian Open

I’ve been a tennis fan for a long time.

Long before Rafa was around.

So I’m not a tennis fan because of Rafa.

But for me, being a tennis fan is better because of him.

Much better.

Better due to his smile.

His energy.

His respect.

His skill.

His stamina.

His water bottles.

His biceps.

His Rafa-ness.

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On Rafa’s loss to Novak in 2012

Australian Open 2012 was mega huge. Packed with heat, massive crowds, drama and emotional turmoil.

While there were some things that happened that I didn’t love, I still loved every minute of it.

I say that even though it all fell apart and I cried when Rafa didn’t win the final.

Cried because I didn’t want him defeated by Djokovic again.

Cried because I really thought he was going to win.

Cried because so many people, along with me, invest so much in whether or not he wins.

Cried due to the tension of a match that lasted nearly six hours.

Side note from GSG: Even now, I’m still a bit scarred by that final

Rafa warming up his left arm

Rafa warming up his left arm

On Rafa’s loss to David Ferrer in the 2011 AO Quarterfinal

This Australian Open, Rafael Nadal was playing to complete the Rafa Slam. Winning the Grand Slam means winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year; Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

The Rafa Slam was Rafa’s chance to win all four tournaments in a row, starting with the French Open 2010, and finishing with the Australian Open 2011.

Unfortunately, during a quarter final match against David Ferrer, Rafa was hurt. He called the trainer really early in the first set and the word around Twitter was that the issue was muscle spasms in his back.  Then, during the next change of ends we saw the huge bandage on his thigh as Rafa stretched out his left leg.

Rafa said in his press conference following the match that he had a problem in the beginning, after that the match was almost over.

But like a true champion, he didn’t withdraw. Rafa played on to finish the match, albeit nearly in tears at times, which bought many of his fans close to tears.

David Ferrer won in three sets. Fair play to him for playing a great match against his friend and Davis Cup team mate. In the post match interview with Jim Courier Ferrer spoke of what a gentleman Rafa is. That’s certainly true.

And now the reality sets in. The Rafa Slam is over.  Imagine facing the thought of starting again and winning four more slams. In a row.

But Rafa can do it.  Because he’s a true champion. And he loves playing tennis.

This is why I love tennis so much.

It’s about the games, the sets, the matches.

And it’s also about the players. As a fan, you feel like you know them.

Celebrate the wins. And when they hurt, everybody hurts.

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Rafa will be back

As Rafa fans we all appreciate every moment that he’s on court and fit and healthy. He learns from every loss and it makes him stronger. So Rafa fans, onward to Roland Garros, Rafa’s hallowed turf! And in the meantime, thanks for being there to share the moments, and best wishes to Rafa for a smooth recovery.

Until next time

Grand Slam Gal

Want to see more Rafa pics from AO14?


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  1. Anne says

    My friends and I love this too. Rafa is the most amazing tennis player and person. He doesn’t deserve all this bad luck. Poor boy. We feel terribly gutted for him but what a champion he is. He always makes us proud. Hoping the injury is not serious and he will be back soon. Missing him already.
    We all love you, Rafa, no matter what happens and we treasure all the moments we see you on court. Vamos Rafa always!

  2. BETTY HANAN says

    Thank you for such a wonderful piece. I agree with all the sentiments expressed. I love tennis, but I love it much more because of Rafa. I wake up at whichever time he is playing and follow him on a daily basis. I am lucky enough to be able to travel to Australia from New Zealand every year for the last week of the AO and saw the nearly 6 hour match against Djokovic, I was brought to tears by Rafa’s loss and hated his oponent’s reaction. Rafa is a true champion and as all his fans know, he is a gentleman and a great human being. I was so sad when he was booed after his medical time-out in this final. Being in RL is electrifying and I was all ready to watch a superb match and for Rafa to win his 14 GS. It was not to be, but as you noted, he is gracious in defeat and was gracious in giving Stan the credit for a great match. I look forward to many, many more grand matches with Rafa and are proud to be his fan.

  3. Catherine says

    I love this. Describes perfectly every emotion and feeling any Rafa fan (certainly I) went through on Sunday night, and go through whenever they are in his presence.

    He’ll be back just as strong, just as gracious, just as fearsome. Just as Rafa. 🙂

  4. marin says

    Thank you Mel, well said!

    I guess Rafa has spoiled us with his wonderful comeback and this AO seemed as part of it… and it really hurts that it was so close and yet so far – the 14th trophy and 2nd AO crown. It is impossible not to wonder why so much bad luck on this wonderful Grand Slam. However, Rafa always comes back strong and there are always gonna be tough losses. At least we got some great matches (against Monfils and Federer) and some tough fights (Nishikori, Dimitrov). And most important – Rafa! I did not watch a single match last year because Rafa was not there. I love tennis but I am not willing to watch blurry streams for anybody else than Rafa nor stay up in the middle of the night (this year I did for Venus though).

    I already miss seeing Rafa and cannot wait to see him on tennis court again. Hoping for speedy recovery and lots of good luck!