RAFA Memoir Review

The long awaited English memoir for former world number one and ten-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, titled RAFA, will be released on August 23 and certainly had me interested being a huge Nadal fan.

His memoir doesn’t disappoint. Does it drag on at times about the finer details of the Wimbledon 2008 final? Sure, but everyone still talks about that match and remembers it fondly and clearly so does Rafa. What is more interesting is the insights gained into his family and team dynamics as well as the little idiosyncrasies that make differentiate Rafael from Rafa.

The memoir details Rafa’s long and complicated relationship with his coach Uncle Toni, and while Nadal is often critical of his uncle and the way Toni’s teaching methods made him feel, he is quick to remind people of his unwavering respect and love for his uncle and his unending, all consuming loyalty to his family.

So intense is the Nadal family dynamic that his sister once hid the fact she was having routine blood tests from Rafa while he was in Australia because “it would freak him out.” His love and concern for his family is so intense that any deviation from its equilibrium disturbs every fiber of his being.

The Rafa who intimidates his opponents with the intensity with which he ties his bandana is a beast compared to the shy Rafael who is scared of dogs, storms and the dark and once hid in a closet eating olives until he was sick.

The relationship between Toni and Rafa sounds often tempestuous with other key players such as Carlos Costa keeping things cool. The huge respect he has for his father and his mother is scattered throughout the book and with their insight it becomes easy to see how Nadal has managed to avoid becoming a big headed, private jet flying, prima donna tennis player.

The lessons Nadal was hammered repeatedly with by his Uncles Toni and Miguel Angel about endurance have most definitely made him once of the most impressive athletes in terms of endurance and recovery that the world has ever seen. The 2009 Australian Open semifinal and final prove this beyond doubt but it also made me wonder if the endless pushing to endure and push through the pain rather that “quit and go home” has contributed to some of his serious injuries.

I have always believe that his physio Rafael Maymo and his team as a whole have something to answer after the disasters that happened in 2009 that saw him unable to defend his Wimbledon title. He may not have been losing leading up to Paris but he was clearly jaded, broken, and wounded physically and mentally and someone should have put their foot down and told him to rest rather than allowing him to endure.

This is just my opinion but I think the importance placed on enduring difficult times has been a curse and a blessing in Rafa’s career but may be what ultimately leads to his undoing.

The book is well worth a read. You’ll learn how his parents separation traumatised him, about the injury that almost ended his career that turned him into a dark, miserable, angry and surly athlete in trouble and you’ll also learn what his long term girlfriend Xisca Perello, who he calls Mary, thinks would be detrimental to their relationship.

Are there plenty of interesting moments that we haven’t heard much about before? Absolutely. Is there too much focus on Wimbledon 2008 and not enough on some of the other phenomenal career shifting moments in Nadal’s career? Definitely. Is it refreshing to hear Nadal speaking so honestly about his relationships with his family, friends and lover rather than deflecting with prepared answers? Without a doubt. Are there some things left out that fans would like to know about such as his acid burn on his back? Yes but all in all it’s a great book about a great player, a true workhorse.

It’s got to be my favourite sports memoirs/biographies etc that I’ve read to date because of the insight and different perspectives you get into the almost Jekyll and Hyde bull from Mallorca.

Get your copy from August 23 or win one of two copies through Tennis Perspective here.

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