(Toni speaks after Rafael's victory at the Australian Open)
"During these past few days and following my nephew's acclaimed triumph at the Australian Open, I have repeatedly read and listened to a plethora of praise aimed at his person.
Many of them referred to his mental strength, his demonstrated strength in the face of difficulties, and his ability to overcome very adverse situations. Many wondered about the reason for this, and some even gave some explanations.
I, somewhat acquainted with the particular case under consideration, will be among the latter. Without any intent to be in possession of the absolute truth, I will try to explain the keys that, in my opinion, make Rafael respond in this way to these situations and that this is so singular in the present moments because, evidently, what makes the fact admirable, above all, is its exceptionality.
On many occasions I have wondered, not so much why he is able to behave this way, but why most people who aspire to achieve some major accomplishment in their lives do not do so. I understand that when one makes such a decision one takes on the difficulty and challenge that it all entails and I assume, in turn, that he will be interested in doing whatever it takes to achieve it.
Hence my surprise when I see that this does not occur in a habitual way. And my growing disappointment when I realize that this way of acting occurs in all areas and not only in tennis or sports. In my view, it would be good to rethink our principles and ask ourselves, at the very least, whether with the current model we are properly training our young people and helping them to face their future with assurance.
In a passage from the essay "The Civilization of the Spectacle," Mario Vargas Llosa writes: "What does civilization of the spectacle mean? That of a world where the first place in the current scale of values is entertainment and where having fun, escaping boredom, is the universal passion." He adds that this ideal in life is perfectly legitimate, but he also warns of its unexpected consequences, and continues: "In this way, not being bored, avoiding that which disturbs, worries and distresses has increasingly become for social sectors from the apex to the base of the social pyramid, a generational mandate." I would add that this has contrary, if not devastating, consequences for good character formation.
What the Peruvian-Spanish writer describes did not start now, it is where we have arrived in a process of decline that began a few decades ago, but has expanded enormously with the current technological world and with the good efforts that at this time A few leaders in need of popular favor and supported by a growing group of the population in need of thinking that he is helping to create an ideal world and boasting of his big heart, his lofty fairness and his singular empathy.
And so, gradually, we have come to despise anything that requires effort or makes us the least bit uncomfortable. In my experience in tennis training, I have seen how frustration, rancor, and abandonment have become more pronounced in young people when faced with something that upsets them or does not immediately happen as they wish.
So comes the almost immediate abandonment after the first difficulties or when they arise. The younger generation increasingly needs the workouts to be fun, the rewards to be immediate, and to be applauded at the slightest progress.
And going back to why Rafael has escaped this and is able to act as he acts, my answer is simply: because he has become accustomed to it. I only conceive of this as a way of acting. Never have I seen in an exam, at least it has not happened to me, that someone could respond to what they had not studied.
My grandson has been preparing for many years, practically his whole life, to deal with difficulty. That is why I was a very demanding coach, very uncomplimentary, very disinclined to flattery and therefore consistent with the path I chose.
My grandson had an obligation, instilled by me in the beginning, assumed by him later, not to complain, to enter the court every day in a good mood, to accept that things are not going well immediately and to take on the difficulty both physically and mentally.
He accepted the requirement, every day, of all the years ,that he trained with me, to come in with a good face on the court, not to break a racket (a sign of discouragement), to train longer than expected, to never complain and to "hit" ball every time the best he could and as fast as he could.
But most of all, to understand and accept that even if we did all this, things would not necessarily go well, maybe well but it was not a given. He grew up listening to and, above all, assimilating a whole series of phrases that I tirelessly repeated to him: "If you are unable to defeat your rival, at least don't help him defeat you." "Doing everything we have to do does not guarantee success; not doing it almost certainly guarantees failure." "When we fight in an entirely adverse situation, we will almost always end up losing; but there will be a day when we succeed in turning the situation around.
And that day will justify all the previous ones." "It is very difficult to master the ball if you are not able to master your will." All these phrases, and some others, Rafael has internalized and applied constantly. Sometimes I have been given some credit in the way Rafael behaves.
Without false modesty, that is not the case. To say so is very easy. The credit is solely and exclusively his because he was willing to obey first and internalize and apply later. That Rafael was able to do what he did in the final in Melbourne, and of so many other finals and matches, responds in part to the application of all these learnings, but more importantly, let us not delude ourselves, to an unusual talent and innate ability improper in most players.
Regardless of the number of titles won, I have already seen this fighting spirit, this concentration, and this unwavering faith in victory in players like Mats Wilander, Björn Borg, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, or the legendary Rod Laver, and in other tennis players with less sporting success. What is disturbing is undoubtedly that nowadays this is an exceptional fact. "