I have not been a great Rafael Nadal fan, primarily because I am a Roger Federer fan and you know how it goes when you like one player more than the other. Your fan-ship overrides all other emotions and even if Nadal plays better than Federer, which he has been doing consistently, you still don’t like him because you like Federer.
However, the 2014 Australian Open final made me like Rafael Nadal. Not because he was not playing Federer and so I could root for him safely as the best bet to win the tournament. I liked him because the way he played on the game inspite of his injury. Many would say, that he was being a fool to continue playing with injury, that it would have hampered his career long term, so on and so forth. However, what I saw in Nadal that evening made me his fan and like him as a true champion. What I saw was that here was a true champion who played the sport not for his wins and his reasons. He played sport to respect it and his opponents. He could have easily chosen to walkaway citing injury and hand over the championship to Wawrinka, but by playing on he respected Wawrinka’s shot at the championship. He wanted Wawrinka to earn it the hard way so that he could cherish the championship and his first grand slam victory. This was going to be the biggest moment in Stan’s career and he did not want him get it easy. Champions know the value of hardwork and how much a win would mean to a first timer if he gets to win it fair and square. There was a lesson by Nadal for Stan as he won his first grand slam, that you can be champion only if you respect the sport and your opponent and make sure that you never let it easy for anyone to take your crown.
Hoping for Nadal to recover soon so that he can come back and show us why champions are made of sterner stuff and true champions truly inspire others.
As for Stan, he took his first steps towards being a champion and playing along side the greats of this era, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, would surely rub on him in becoming better in the future.