Rafa finishes year-end number one and deservedly so after another outstanding season in 2019. It may not have been his best season ever, but incredibly I think he might have even improved this year. His ability to win matches was terrific, especially when you consider how good it already was.
Now my opinion on Rafa… When I think of him, the first words that come to mind are: intense, beast, champion and annoying. Let’s have a look at each of those words and why they come to my mind first.
Intense: When it comes time for Rafa to switch on and hit the arena to play, the man exudes intensity. You can see it clearly in his face and body language. He’ll be jumping around and pacing like a prizefighter who has just had a dose of smelling salts and is about to enter the ring. Caps off the start of on the court formalities with his signature sprint from the net to the baseline. He’s ready to go, and everyone watching knows Rafa will bring it.
Beast: Physically has an imposing physique and coupled with his intensity looks like a beast. Then there are his beast mode moments. When you think the point is lost for him or that he can’t possibly make one more ball he’ll find beast mode by making the ball and hitting a winner. Another thing is he just will not go away. When the scoreline looks like his opponent has him or is the likely victor Rafa will never relent or submit to mortal people’s impulse to accept the inevitable. The opponent must maintain their excellence to finish him. Rafa does not concede until he must go to the net and shake hands.
Champion: I consider this to be someone who maintains an elite standard over time and continually wins – a lot! They also have great respect for their sport and conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. He qualifies, without a doubt.
Annoying: Now the fun part where Rafa fanboys will be coming for me 😊. Let me try and sedate them by saying this should end up a backhanded compliment. It starts with my dislike for his grunting. As a viewer, I find it annoying and distracting from my couch. Then there is the constant fidgeting and semi-wedgy removing. For goodness sake you are sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger underwear so can’t you please get a pair that fit correctly and some Nike shorts too! This habit and the fidgeting, particularly when preparing to serve at times, pushes the boundaries of time-wasting and being unsporting to the opponent. Now Rafa comes across as a respectful and super friendly guy, and I’m sure he is so I would never accuse him of cheating, nonetheless, at times I believe this “tactic” is up for discussion. Rafa will be a lock-in for top 10 in 2020 – for me, his final place comes down to how much improvement the rest of the field can make. It’s improbable his level is going to drop.
So, in summary, here are my likes, dislikes and areas for improvement:
Likes: His death stare, the eyebrow raise during interviews, his accent and way with words – “it’s unbelievable”. I bet he is a pleasant and fun person to be around off the court. Of course, refer to terms above – beast, intensity and champion. Oh and those guns 💪
Dislikes: Grunting, wedgy removal, fidgeting and over the top fist pumps (particularly the ones involving a jump) and the bright coloured Nike gear that clashes and hurts my eyes. Did I mention the double fist pump?
Areas for improvement: Tennis wise I don’t see how that is possible. I’m sure he can think of a few and is probably out there working on them right now. His homework over the offseason should be to call Tommy Hilfiger and Nike to sort out that tic and to tone down the outfits.