Rafael Nadal was just 22 when he won one of the most engrossing encounters in modern sport, beating Roger Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final. The match forms the central thread of Nadal’s autobiography. He finds a plot in each key point and incisively illustrates how, at the highest level, a less nervy player can beat a more talented one.
Nadal attributes his mental strength to his uncle Toni, his unforgiving trainer since childhood, who demanded every success but belittled each achievement. Their relationship is gripping: the coach insists Rafael should not develop the ego that success implies, while his charge sighs that he needs no more “humility lessons”.
But it’s not only Toni. The whole family is so allied in support of Rafael that they resemble “the Corleones, or the Sopranos, without the malice, or the guns”, says co-author John Carlin, in one of several interludes. For the Nadals, this readable (if not wide-ranging) book suggests, tennis is a team sport.
Rafa: My Story, by Rafael Nadal with John Carlin, Sphere, RRP£17.99, 272 pages