Yesterday was one of those routine days that pass between college jobs, shifts to talk about tennis, and thoughts that flash through your head. I decide to pause and finish a task that was pending. It is not mandatory, although I think it is necessary to finish it before the end of the week. I recline on the couch and get ready to watch the last set of Guillermo Coria vs Rafael Nadal, end of Rome 2005.

The night falls on Rome as well as on the living room and I do not need popcorn to see how Nadal fits a double break to start the final set. The Mallorcan writhes, prey to problems with blisters in his hand that he drags from the fourth set. The stamp is that of a badly hurt puppy, with the ambition to continue and the frustration of not being able to do it. The second break of the set is like a mental pit-stop, a “reset” of those that change the course of history.

Then the badly injured puppy begins to put more balls on the track. Dramatically reduces errors on reverse. Get a break ball. It is reversed with the right, which is decisive again. He raises doubts for his rival. Get a break. Then another. Take the game to the limit, to exhaustion. He roars with each long exchange in his favor and collapses under the ground of the Foro Italico when he reaches the final after more than 4 hours of play. It’s crazy, one of the best games I have ever seen, and that has not been live.

I close the computer and reflect on the figure of Rafael Nadal. Who is Nadal? Thousands, millions of labels have been put on him throughout his career. “Pasabolas” is one of them, the most insulting, but not the only one. Today Rafa meets 34 years, and it is not a bad number to reflect on the subject: we must bear in mind that an enormous number of tennis fans predicted that, for this year, Rafael would be more than retired.

That passage of time over the years 2015 and 2016 would correspond to the start of the fifth set against Coria. Nadal is a love and I can’t. He is already a lion and not a cub, but he is still badly hurt. He fits strange defeats, loses punch in his punches, is constantly dominated by his greatest rival. That’s when the Nadal essence. It is something imperceptible, like the air that flies over the Philippe Chatrier in spring.

It is no coincidence that his birthday coincides with the Roland Garros dispute. It is Paris, where the air is impregnated with the essence of Nadal. It’s kind of like an abstract jar that takes you over and tells you to go one step beyond your goals, that your threshold of demand is never big enough. Nadal returned to Paris in 2017, after two years of drought, and won by marking a personal minimum of games received, something like the return from 0-3 to 4-3 in his duel against Coria.

In full pandemicRafa has also been attacked on various fronts. Criticized for “getting soaked” in political matters by some, and claimed by others to be Minister. Make no mistake, gentlemen and gentlemen. The essence of Nadal is far from having a place in a Parliament or in a Congress. It is not your site. I have the slight impression that the threshold of demand that the public places on current politicians is too high. They do not have the slightest intention of overcoming it and transmitting something positive. Could they say the same about Nadal?

We are talking about the guy who has returned countless times after an injury, whose career has been forged based on overcoming adversity. Nadal minister? Its essence and its contribution to society has been to plug thousands of children to television to see him suffer on the track, to teach them that the values ​​in it can coexist with the demand and the ability to fight, to give an example that sometimes your best version is not enough. Is that what today’s politicians do?

That is why I conclude that, on his 34th birthday, if someone wants to know the essence of Nadal, they should wear that fifth set against Guillermo Coria. Are you able to define it? Hardly, vaguely, but it corresponds to what you see on your screen. It is setting an example, fighting as you did 15 years ago, combining demands with values ​​and making yourself believe in yourself no matter how difficult the situation is. Because 99% of mortals will never have the level with the racket that the Majorcan has, but we can try to carry out our work with the same level of demand and struggle that he imposes himself.

Happy 34, Rafa.