It’s Number 21

It’s Number 21

The Miracle in Melbourne, what a day, what a night! 21 major titles from one of the greatest of all times. One of the most improbable victories of all time – Rafael Nadal emerged victorious.

Weeks before the start of the Australian Open, Nadal was not even sure if he'd ever play tennis again. A few weeks later he goes on to win the Australian Open – his 21st major title.

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Nadal have been playing against each other for almost twenty years. They had won 20 Grand Slam titles each. They were not just fighting each other but their biggest fight was fighting the tide of age and youngsters ready to knock them off their top spot.

Djokovic and Federer did not participate in the Australian Open. Nadal, at 35, was never a favourite to win the title not just because of the form of Daniil Medvedev but also because of the foot injury that had plagued him since May and the disruption caused by COVID-19 which he contracted in December.

His semifinal win against Matteo Berrettini had come just 48 hours after he said he felt ‘destroyed’ after his quarterfinal match against Denis Shapovalov. When he came out for the semifinal match, he looked completely focussed and re-energised. He played a brand of tennis he was known for in his prime and that booked him a place in the finals – his 29th final.

According to his party line in public which said ‘He’s not fighting in Melbourne to get one ahead of Federer or Dlkovic, instead he’s playing the game with love and a desire to learn just weeks after having the thought of retirement.’

Despite the injuries, what is it that makes him step onto the field and play the best tennis possible? It is surely not fame or the number of cups. The answer was given by Nadal before the start of the Australian Open. He said ‘I just keep going. I am just enjoying playing tennis as I said hundreds of times. But honestly, from the bottom of my heart, of course, I want to keep winning because I love what I am doing.’

There is a word called swadharma in Sanskrit which refers to one’s innate passion. Even Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita talks about the importance of following one's passion and how it propels a person to excel in life.

Nadal is surely loving every game he is playing and that showed when he entered to play the finals against Daniil Medvedev. Mind you, it was not a walk in the park. It was the other way round – it looked like Medvedev would easily walk off with the game. Nadal had lost the first two sets 2-6, 6-7 but he did not give up and came back to win the next three 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

Life is not going to be easy just because one follows one’s swadharma. Rather, it might get tougher. But at the end of the day, because you love what you are doing and have found your swadharma you will just enjoy every second of your life.

Steve Jobs says, ‘The only way to do great work is to do what you love. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart you will know when you find it’.

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Chinmaya Udghosh