I really cannot call myself a great fan of tennis, though I do know the names of those at the top of the professional circuit, and Rafael Nadal is obviously one of those, having spent time as world Number 1.  I have even watched some of Nadal’s games and always felt that he looked a tortured man, but I had no inkling as to his inner self, so I picked up this book Rafa (ISBN 978-0-7515-4773-3, Sphere Books, 2011) from the Bookazine shelf and wondered if it would really expose his character.

It begins at Wimbledon and describes Nadal’s emotions as he prepares himself for the most important singles of any year.  All the small routines that he does to build himself up for the contest.  He even admits that he has to psyche himself up, whilst Roger Federer appears the most ‘natural’ tennis player with whom he ever shares a court.  “He just seems to have been born to play the game.”  He also admits to the crushing despair that he suffers in any defeat.  Nadal is certainly no ‘super-hero’.

With a book like this, which is written, not by Rafael Nadal, but by (in this case) John Carlin, the reader is at the mercy of the biographer who may choose to show the positives or the negatives and change the reader’s perception of the subject.  This being an ‘authorized’ biography will mean that we will probably get more good bits than bad bits, but Carlin presents Nadal in a most believable way.  Very human and in private life very humble, not the impression one gets from the telecast of Grand Slam finals.

There are a couple of illustration sections with the first of the photographs being family snaps and the second capturing triumphant moments.  The number of people involved in his ‘team’ was an eye opener as well.  Eight persons including his trainer, his agent, his physical therapist, his doctor, his Nike handler, a communications chief and his second coach, in addition to Toni Nadal, his life-long tennis coach from the age of four years.

With injuries being career threatening occurrences it could be seen why he needs a doctor and physical therapist as part of his team.  “Each individual member of the group complements the other, each plays his or her role in fortifying me where I am weak, boosting me where I am strong.  To imagine my good fortune and success in their absence is to imagine the impossible.”

He relates the pain of losing Wimbledon in 2007 and the joy of winning against Federer the following year and shows just how much mental stress there is as well as physical stress.

By the time I had finished the book, I had warmed to this Rafa character, who came across as a most genuine person, and not a prima donna as I had pre-supposed.  If you are a fan of tennis, this is a book you should read, and at B. 435 it is not expensive.  You might even begin to barrack for Rafael Nadal and not RF, Switzerland’s favorite son.  A most enjoyable book.