Photo : Peter Staples/ATP Tour
In sport, is it possible to be a better athlete at 35 than at 25?
A comparison of Rafael Nadal’s 2022 and 2012 records seems to indicate that the answer is YES.
In January, he secured his first two titles of the season in Melbourne, including his record-breaking 21st Slam. He hadn’t won a tournament since Monaco last April.
His current 20-1 record, which would very likely be 21-0 if he hadn’t suffered a rib injury in the final in Indian Wells against a surprising Taylor Fritz, means Rafa has already picked up three winner’s trophies in 2022. A decade ago, he only managed the hattrick in Rome, in May. Incidentally, that stress fracture will keep him out of the game for the next few weeks.
Is he a phenomenon? Against the ticking clock, he’s a definitely one in a million in tennis and sports in general.
Of course, there’s Tom Brady.
At 25, the Great One scored 80 goals with the Edmonton Oilers. Ten years later, Wayne Gretzky had slowed the pace to 25 with Rangers.
Another no.1, Tiger Woods, had nine titles at 25. At 35? Zero.
RAFA ON RAFA
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Nadal, and 2022 is actually a comeback year for him following a long hiatus after Roland-Garros. That just makes his streak all the more impressive.
What’s the secret to his longevity?
“One of the keys to me continuing to play tennis today is that I tolerated success and failure equally. Nothing is so fantastic and nothing is so terrible; there are good times and bad times. Emotionally, you have to maintain a middle line,” he said in a recent interview.
As the old saying goes, age is just a number:
“I always say and believe everything can be improved, and days like today help us do it because, in the end, you have a broader knowledge of the things we need. Above all, to be able to enjoy life.”
It doesn’t look like he’ll be retiring any time soon.
“For me, the only failure is not trying.”
WHATEVER IT TAKES
One of the most difficult aspects of getting older is injury management, and Rafael Nadal is headed back to the clinic to heal a stress fracture on one of his left ribs.
He’ll be out four to six weeks and miss the start of the clay season and most likely the tournament in Monte Carlo, which he’s won 11 times.
He’s disappointed but focused.
“I reached a very important part of the year with very good feelings and good results. But, hey, I’ve always had that fighting and overcoming spirit, and what I’ll do is be patient and work hard after my recovery,” he tweeted on March 22.
In case you were wondering, the National Bank Open at IGA Stadium from August 6 to 14 is on Rafa’s calendar. He’s already booked his hotel rooms.
THE FRITZ BROTHERS IN QUÉBEC
Taylor Fritz, the newly crowned champion of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, is the nephew of Canadian-American tennis pro Harry Fritz, two-time Canadian no.1 and member of the Davis Cup team.
Harry’s a cool guy who played a lot in Québec, back when Réjean Genois dominated the Labatt tennis circuit. Harry would hit the practice courts with his tennis bag in one hand and a backgammon set in the other.
His brother Guy, Taylor’s dad, also played here, though less often.
Today, Harry and Guy coach tennis in Palm Desert, California.
BETWEEN THE LINES
There were two Canadians whose success in Indian Wells deserved better coverage: Gabriela Dabrowski (and partner Giuliana Olmos) and Leylah Fernandez (and partner Alizé Cornet), who reached the semis in doubles.
And CONGRATULATIONS to Rebecca Marino who got through the qualifying rounds in Miami.
People are very happy competitive tennis is coming back to Québec. Jean Delisle, president of the National Bank Challenger, and his team have already held their first meeting, even though the tournament isn’t until the fall.
ASHLEIGH BARTY: A SURPRISE BUT NOT REALLY
The tennis world is disappointed, but perhaps not surprised, that Ashleigh Barty, the World No.1 since 2019, has decided to hang up her racquets.
She’s only 25, and that’s pretty young to call it quits, but let’s be understanding about it.
The woman with three Grand Slam titles, including AO 2022, had shown signs when she took a particularly long break from tennis in her late teens.
It’s a shame to see Ash go, especially since she’s a great champion and a great person. Let’s wish her all the best!