As Rafael Nadal put it, “That helps you a lot to be…”

In 2009, the Madrid Masters tournament moved from an indoor hard court to the clay court of the Caja Mágica, drawing the best players in the world. The first time around, Rafael Nadal came up short, but in front of his home fans in 2010, he won the first of his four titles.

Nadal repeated his victory in 2013, and he repeated it in 2014 and 2017; in the prior three tournaments, he was not even in contention for the title. In a few weeks, Rafa will return to action in Madrid, where he will aim to improve upon last year’s quarterfinal loss to Alexander Zverev.

For the first time ever, the German defeated the Spanish king of clay on the slower surface and celebrated his victory with a hat trick of knockouts. While the home favorite started strong, he eventually fell to a 6-4, 6-4 defeat.

Rafa squandered his opportunities to build a larger lead, and Alexander took control of the match from the second set on, winning in straight sets to advance to the semi-finals. To Nadal’s six winners, Zverev’s aggressive play was the difference.

The German dominated a quadruple winner in the short and middle exchanges, where he set the tempo with his serve and forehand and controlled the point. After taking a 4-2 lead, Nadal was not happy with his play. He lost serve and the momentum in the match in the seventh game after playing poorly.

The Spaniard failed to capitalize on a 5-2 lead, instead letting his opponent close to within one point, at 4-4. In the ninth game, Rafa had a game point, but he blew it, leading to another break and ultimately a 6-4 loss in the first set. The second set went Nadal’s way exactly zero times, and he was unable to force his opponent out of his comfort zone or impose his shots.

At 2-2, Alexander got the break and continued to serve well to win the next three games and advance to the semifinals.

Rafa has been hospitalized after suffering an abdominal tear.

Over twenty years ago, Rafael Nadal was heralded as a “future star” in the tennis world.

Despite this, he has dedicated himself to improving every facet of his game. “We stress the importance of treating each training session as if it were a real learning opportunity. The idea of just going to the track for the sake of training is absurd; every visit should be focused on a specific goal of improvement, even if you don’t achieve that goal on that particular visit.

In a purely mental sense, that greatly aids your ability to stay alert and productive throughout the day. There is no other way of looking at life that makes sense to me, “according to the native Mallorcan.