Nadal in action at the Barclays ATP Tour Finals in London last week
Rafael Nadal is not your average sporting superstar.
Few men in the game of tennis can claim to have won all four Grand Slam titles – seven to be exact.
Rather than bask in the adulation of being one of the sport’s figureheads, driving fast cars and chucking away prize money, the ‘King of Clay’ is far more at home with his fishing rod, dating a local girl.
Nadal and his childhood sweetheart, Xisca Perello, have navigated themselves through the glitz and glamour of being globally recognised.
While entire volumes could be written from trawling the left-hander’s glittering career on court, very little can be fished about the woman who has been alongside him for the best part of a decade.
Distracting hangers-on are not part of his cabal; Uncle Toni is still his trusted coach. Having poor advisors cannot be applied to this Spanish hard-hitter; Emmanuel Adebayor, he is not.
Perhaps this is what’s required in order to reach a state of tennis nirvana.
The eight-time French Open Champion has recently reclaimed his status as World Number One following a memorable 2013 in which he has soared like a phoenix rising from the ashes of injury to a tale of redemption.
Twelve months ago, the 27-year-old cut a forlorn figure in his Manacor home with little to console him from the depressing reality that his fight against a severe bout of knee tendinitis was seemingly up.
Fast forward to today, and the man obsessed with court rituals is sitting pretty at the top of the charts once more, having garnered the French and US Open titles in addition to eight tournaments on Tour this year.
A steely resilience and an unwillingness to accept defeat are as symptomatic of Nadal as the raging bull is characteristic of his native Spain.
Much to the chagrin of opponents, commentators and umpires alike, Nadal’s pre-serve routine is as inimitable as it is endless.
But few can denounce this muscle-bound tennis Galactico for the OCD and multiple phobias – including a fear of motorcycles and darkness – from which he suffers.
Not when with grace and no shortage of granite, he produces such a fine array of cross-court play.
One bulging backhand down the line to save break-point is all you need as evidence to dissuade you from ridiculing his piratical bandana and sleeveless T-shirt.
Endearing or embarrassing – call it what you will – this Adonis amongst a sea of Mediterranean Adonises still places his numerous trophies alongside stuffed animals in his Mallorcan family home – if the words of his cruel mother are to be believed.
The idyllic backdrop of a quaint family-oriented lifestyle belies the ferocity displayed on court that has rendered 13 Grand Slam titles since he turned professional in 2001.
Such a proud record is all the more impressive when acknowledged in light of the ‘Golden Age’ of tennis we are currently living through.
At a time in football when International caps are thrown around like confetti, wrestling a sustained period of dominance as la crème de la crème of tennis is virtually impossible with Messrs Djockovic, Murray and Federer snapping at your heels.
A glance at the Spaniard’s all-time favourite films – Titanic and Gladiator – indicates why he has never been ranked outside the World’s top five tennis players since 2003.
While big-money movies can’t be viewed as the making of this big-money behemoth, his journey from winning his first ATP match as a 15-year-old against Ramon Delgado to cementing his place at the top of the ATP rankings is far removed from ‘Barney’s Great Adventure’.
Even in the final throes of a gruelling year at the ATP World Tour Finals in London held last week, Nadal was unwavering in his quest to end the year with panache.
His straight-sets defeat to Djokovic at the O2 event will have hurt him as much as his first-round elimination at Wimbledon in June – such is the unrelenting pursuit of perfection that drives the two-time Champion of SW19.
Now in the close season, Nadal will most likely recuperate in Mallorca among his family and friends. But don’t expect him to rest on his laurels for too long.
As our very own Andy Murray has learned to his cost, you are at your most vulnerable when you have appeared to overcome a major psychological hurdle.
The Brit’s hasty exit at the quarter-final stage of the US Open, followed by minor back surgery, have somewhat taken the gloss away from that historic Wimbledon win.
Expect the Spaniard to soon be resuming his affinity for La Quinta Resort, the desert oasis that is home to the No.1 tennis resort in the United States.
There promises to be a stronger than ever field in the battle for tennis supremacy next year. Immovable, insatiable, undaunted: Expect Nadal to be pinching his Nike underpants as the Imperial Commander.