One place he shows no fear is on the tennis court. Nicknamed “The King of Clay,” Nadal is regarded as one of the greatest clay-court players, and his rivalry with Roger Federer is the proverbial stuff of legend. Simply, the statistics say it all — 11 Grand Slam singles titles including the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and the French Open (he set an all-time record of seven at the Open); the first Spaniard to win the Australian Open; one of just three players to hold Grand Slams on clay, grass, and hard court; and in 2008, he won a Gold Medal in the Beijing Olympics.
Tennis has been a primary focus his entire life, and on the court, the left-handed player focuses with all the intensity of a heat-seeking missile. Pre-match rituals include a freezing cold shower and listening to music on his iPod, while game time concentration is a Zen-like lesson in single-mindedness. “When on the tennis court, you are mentally focused on what you are doing completely. You cannot lose your concentration in any one moment or the match can go like that,” he explains, snapping his finger. “It’s something the players know, and you are always very focused on every moment. It’s what I have done my whole career.”
Humility is often a trait not associated with sports celebrities, particularly one who enjoyed a No. 1 ranking as the world’s top player for a number of weeks in 2010 and 2011. But Nadal is known as a completely normal guy who rarely receives negative press nor throws tantrums or tennis racquets on the court. His popularity as an international superstar goes hand in hand with the fact that he is one of the sport’s hottest hunks. His photo shoot with the entertainment show Extra was interrupted by women of all ages screaming from the balconies of Cozumel’s Secrets Aura, “Rafa, Rafa, Rafa! We love you!” (Sorry ladies, he has been involved for the past seven years with Maria Francisca Perello, who works at the Rafa Nadal Foundation.)