Rafael Nadal was formidable in this first part of the season. The former world number 1 won the Australian Open against all odds, having just come back from a long stop due to injury. The Spanish phenomenon had arrived in Melbourne without great expectations, but he managed to accomplish one of the most incredible feats of his entire career.
After surviving two real battles against Denis Shapovalov and Matteo Berrettini, the 35-year-old from Manacor rallied Daniil Medvedev two sets in the final. Just when the Russian glimpsed the banner of the finish line, the Iberian cracked his certainties and found the energy necessary to overturn the inertia of the match.
Rafa thus overtook Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to reach 21 Majors, as well as becoming the fourth man in history to have won all the Slams at least twice (along with Djokovic, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson). Despite having obtained any possible recognition, Nadal has always stood out for his humility.
In the latest episode of 'Holding Court', the podcast hosted by Patrick McEnroe, sports journalist Michelle Kaufman told an anecdote about the Majorcan dating back to a few years ago.
Kaufman opens up on Rafa Nadal
"Liz Clarke of the Washington Post and I, we always rented a flat together [to cover Wimbledon].
One of the greatest things about living in Wimbledon for those weeks is you're really living in a tennis village," Kaufman said. "You're walking around and you'll see commentators and players all around.
You're right in the middle of it. There's nothing like it, really." The 56-year-old recounted that during one of her trips around the area, she noticed someone who looked a lot like Rafael Nadal. "One day, we are walking to the ground and we see a guy ahead of us with a big tennis bag and it looked like Rafa Nadal.
Just walking about. We thought, 'You know, that guy really looks like Rafa. But he wouldn't just be walking through the town, carrying his own racquets," Kaufman said. "Because they provide drivers for the players.
Even if they are just staying three blocks away, there is a driver who will come get you. We were so curious and we walked really fast and tried to catch up to the man. And it was him. We asked somebody at the grounds, 'Nadal is walking here, by himself, through the town carrying his bags.'
They said that he declined the driver and that he was one of the only players to do it," Kaufman said. "Rafa said that he liked to walk through the town with the people. To me, that just said so much about him."