TENNIS is similar to boxing. There are two gladiators on this tennis rectangle and inside the boxing ring. No coaches allowed. No teammates allowed.

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Tennis is mano a mano. And if – like in boxing – the goal is to hit the enemy and bleed, then no one is causing more trauma than Rafael Nadal. Consider that one point that emerged four days ago when the 34-year-old Spanish legend played the 18-. One year old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Open. Nadal shoots a ball at Alcaraz’s forehand, which she returns across the square. Nadal shuffles his feet and slams a forehand inside out. Alcaraz crawls to meet a backhand drive that causes Nadal to slide left behind the double lane. On the defensive, Nadal throws a loop shot. Alcaraz hits the Dunlop tennis ball. Nadal scurries back and turns the defense into an attack. He slams a forehand for a winner! But no, the light-footed Alcaraz brings the shot back. The ball bounces briefly and is pounded by Rafa’s Babolat Pure Aero bat. Alcaraz races to his left, flinging a perfect 15-foot lob over Nadal’s 6-foot-1 frame. The ball lands two feet on the baseline. Nadal zooms back and does a U-turn to hit a forehand. With Nadal 30 feet from the net, Alcaraz cleverly hits a drop shot. It’s a winner. No! Nadal flies back as fast as an angry cop who is teased with a red cloth. Nadal cuts the ball. Alcaraz throws a topspin lob, but Nadal jumps and spins his 188 lb. body in the air to hit the toughest blow in tennis – backhand strike – while Alcaraz barely touches the ball and makes a mistake. Alcaraz winces in pain as the rally ends. He succumbs to abdominal cramps that require a medical break. Minutes later, Alcaraz stumbles back into the square. But the torture intensifies when Nadal beats him 6-1, 6-2. That was just one point. The result was then 2-0, 15: all in an insignificant phase of the game, but Nadal treated the 27-second rally like a Wimbledon championship point. Why this speech by Rafa? old just won the Laureus Athlete of the Year 2021 trophy. He defeated all other male athletes including LeBron James and Lewis Hamilton. Here’s what he said: “I’ve had some amazing competitors. The rest of the athletes probably deserved the trophy as much as I did, but this has been the year for me and I can’t be happier. “It was an unforgettable moment to win the French Open and reach Roger Federer’s 20th Grand Slam. It means a lot to be the same as my great rival but also my great friend. It’s something very special after all the history we had together on and off the pitch. “What a humble, selfless speech. This is the Nadal paradox. He torments and humiliates people on the square, especially on sand; He enjoys her suffering. He does not attract attention out of court and receives the Sportsmanship Award four times – given to the “fair play, professionalism and integrity of a person on and off the pitch”. In simple terms, he’s the nicest guy on the ATP Tour. What a boxer this Rafael Nadal.

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