Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2005

Roland Garros 2005: Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta

From Nadal autobiography Rafa:

The Argentines are like the Spaniards, experts on clay. And Puerta played better than me for long stretches of the match. I had not yet mastered the trick of isolating myself from my environment and from my fears. You never do fully, otherwise you wouldn’t be human. But back then building the emotional defenses necessary to win consistently remained a work in progress, and the nerves tampered with my thoughts processes more than they would later in my career. What I didn’t lack in that final was energy.
Puerta was playing well, well enough to win the first set 7-5. But I think of that game now and what comes to mind is a sense of never having paused for a breath. I was fighting and running as if I could fight and run for two days without rest. I was so excited at the thought of winning that I never felt a moment’s tiredness, which in turn tired Puerta out. I held on, I was steadier on the big points, and I won every set after the first one 6-3, 6-1, 7-5.

In the space of barely six months I’d climbed three peaks, one higher than the next. The Davis Cup, my first ATP win at Monte Carlo, and now, the headiest of all, the French Open, my first grand Slam.
The emotions I felt were indescribable. At the moment of the victory I turned and saw my family going nuts, my paents hugging, my uncles screaming, and I understood immediately that, for all the years of hard work I had put in, this victory had not been mine alone. Without thinking, the first thing I did after shaking hands with Puerta was rush into the crowd and clamber up the steps to hug my family, Toni first among them. My godmother Marilen was there and she was crying. “I couldn’t believe it“, she told me later, recalling her reaction to the final point. “I looked at you there, a big, grown-up champion with his arms in the air, and suddenly my mind leapt back in time and I saw an image of a deadly serious, skinny little boy of seven, training on court back home in Manacor.

I had similar thoughts. I had battled so hard and long to get here. But into my mind there also came images of home with my family, and more than ever before, I understood that day that, however great your dedication, you never win anything on your own. The French Open was my reward, and my family’s reward too.
I also felt relief. In winning a Grand Slam I’d taken a weight off my shoulders. Anything else that life bought would be a welcome bonus. Not that I was going to ease up on my ambition. I had tasted victory at the highest level; I had liked it and wanted more. And I had a sense that after winning a tournament of this magnitude once, it would be less difficult to do it again. It was now, after winning at Roland Garros, that the idea began to take shape in my mind that I would win Wimbledon one day.

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