Rafael Nadal, 23, has won six Grand Slam tennis titles and the singles gold at the 2008 Olympics, and led Spain to victory in the Davis Cup in 2004 and 2009. Realise that you are just another person. This is one of the most important things I have learnt. On the tennis court you may be different, you may be a star, but when you walk off the court, you are just another person. Some people get confused about that. They think that because they are good at singing, playing tennis, football or whatever, they are good at everything. It is very important to stay grounded.
My will to win comes from my education. It doesn't matter what you do, whether you are a tennis player or whatever, education is the basis for everything. Keep control of yourself. My uncle is my coach. When I was younger, if I threw my racket on the ground, or said something I should not have, he would throw me off the court. After that, I learnt to keep control of my temper. You can practise the forehand, you can practise the backhand, but you have to train the mind, too. You have a lot of moments of pressure in your life, not least in tennis, and if you have more control of yourself, you are better prepared to deal with these moments.
You must work hard, persist, to earn your rewards. I practise four to six hours a day, every day. Sometimes I think I don't want to practise, but I still do. The most important thing, even more than winning, is to do your best at all times and be satisfied with your performance. Losing is not all bad. At match point I get very nervous - in fact, I'm nervous every time I go on court because I'm scared of losing. In tennis, you win one day, but the next is like starting over. The only good thing about losing, is that it makes victory sweeter.
As told to Helena Frith Powell
Published: January 9, 2010 04:00 AM