On Sunday, June 9th, 2013, Rafael 'Rafa' Nadal made history by becoming the first tennis player to win the French Open and for that matter any Grand Slam title eight times. This is not the first time this amazing player has made history. In 2010, he became the seventh person in the history of tennis, to win all four Grand Slam tournaments - The Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
That year, the then 24-year-old also entered the books for becoming the youngest player to achieve a Career Grand Slam and, the first man in 41 years to win the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles, all in the same year.
What made these achievements particularly special, was that they both came shortly after the young player was almost written off, thanks to his recurring knee tendonitis. In 2010, the ailment caused him to retire from the year's first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, while in the midst of a quarterfinal match against Andy Murray. Just as naysayers were predicting doom and gloom, the young player came back with a vengeance, dropping a total of only six sets on his way to the three Grand Slam victories.
Similarly, this time around the 27-year-old resumed playing just four months ago, following a seven-month injury break during which he was not sure he could even return to the game, leave alone win his 12th Grand Slam title.
What is the secret of his success? Many things of course, but mainly hard work and determination. The man who helped instill these values in him at an early age is his uncle, Toni, a former tennis player who first introduced Rafa to the sport when he was just four-years-old.
Toni's coaching techniques were very unconventional - To improve Nadal's backhand, he forced the naturally right-handed player to practice with his left hand. A lot of Rafa's training took place on poor courts with bad tennis balls, just to show him that winning or losing isn’t about playing with good balls, courts, strings or lights but, about attitude, discipline and focus.
While the training has certainly been invaluable, one cannot take away Nadal's dedication and hard work, which has led to all these title wins and even, an Olympic Gold Medal in the 2008 games. Though currently ranked No. 5 in the world, Rafa is already considered one of the greatest players of all time - And judging from Sunday's astounding performance, he is nowhere close to calling it quits yet!
Sources: mirror.co.uk, spanishfiestas.com,atpworldtour.com, news.yahoo.com