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Rafa's Recovery Revelation

By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, March 12, 2022

Rafael Nadal is undefeated and undaunted by all deficits this season.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion overcame some sloppy stretches and Sebastian Korda's crackling drives staging a stirring 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(3) comeback in Indian Wells to raise his 2022 record to a perfect 16-0.

More: Nadal Edges Korda in Indian Wells Thriller

Two of Nadal's 16 most memorable wins this year have come through resilient rallies. The 35-year-old Spaniard fought back from a two-set deficit to defeat Daniil Medvedev in an Australian Open final Nadal called his greatest career comeback.

The Grand Slam king is king of the comeback, but if you think Nadal was churning with confidence down a double break at 2-5 to Korda today, think again. Nadal candidly conceded he feels the same fear and frustation as any other player when confronting a deep deficit.

"The only thing that I can tell you is, if the people believe that I am a believer all the time that I going to come back, not true. I am not this," Nadal told the media in Indian Wells. "I don't have this amazing self-confidence that even if I am 5-2, okay, I going to come back. No.

"But in my mind is, Okay, is almost impossible."

The three-time Indian Wells champion relies on a simple mantra: never give in and never give up.

"I don't want to give up. I going to keep trying," Nadal said. "But I know it's going to be almost impossible. Let's try to let him win, not help him to win. Just try to keep going and to put the things a little bit more difficult to the opponent.

"Normal thing with this kind of match, in that position from 100 matches, probably you going to lose 90. But if you give up, you're going to lose 100.If you are there you can win 10 percent."

Ultimately, Nadal traces his fierce fighting spirit to strong family ties.

"The reason why I have been fighting during all my tennis career or I have the right self-control or I have the right attitude or fighting spirit during my whole tennis career is simple, because I grow with this kind of education." Nadal said. "My uncle, my family, never allowed me to break a racquet, never allowed me to say bad words or threw or give up a match."

Toni Nadal, Rafa's uncle and original coach, valued character building more than winning and losing during his nephew's junior years. Rafael Nadal said those values continue to fuel him today.

"Probably when I was a kid, they didn't care much about winning or losing," Rafael Nadal said. "Of course, all the parents and family, my uncle of course, my coach, wanted me to win every single match. But probably that was not the most important thing. The most important thing was the education and the fact that I grow with the values, with the right values.

"So I didn't have many chances. I had to do it that way. If not, I will not play tennis. Honestly, no? If I went on court and I create a circus or break a racquet or lose my control, my self-control, I will not be playing the next tournament, without a doubt. That's probably why I have this mentality."

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve