• Reading Level 3
Science | Physical Education | PSHE | Relationships and health

‘Greatest sporting achievement of all time’

Is willpower the key to greatness? Raphael Nadal started playing tennis at three. Today at 35 he has overcome incredible obstacles to become the GOAT, the Greatest of All Time. A foot injury almost ended his career. Covid-19 left him "physically destroyed". But yesterday, Raphael Nadal won the Australian Open. His historic win over Daniil Medvedev, coming from two sets down to win in five, handed the Spanish star his 21st Grand SlamThe name given to the world's four top tennis tournaments: the US, Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon.. It makes him the sport's most successful player – the undisputed GOAT of men's tennis. It has been a painful journey. A childhood disease in his foot gave him a string of injuries. He almost gave up tennis for a career in golf. When he was 19, he won his first Grand Slam. The King of ClayHis nickname for dominating clay courts, where he has won a record-breaking 62 titles. uses his left-handed shotsMost players are right-handed, but the young Nadal played with both hands. His uncle encouraged him to focus on his left-handed technique giving him an advantage over other players. to beat his opponents. He was the youngest player to win all four major tournaments and has won two Olympic gold medals. His friend and rival Roger Federer says Nadal's comebacks are an "unbelievable" inspiration. He has "extraordinary willpower", says his coach. He turns his painful struggle into positive energy: chasing every ball, fighting every point. Psychologists link self-control with success. In the marshmallow experimentIn the study on delayed gratification, children are offered one marshmallow immediately or two if they wait fifteen minutes., children with strong willpower go on to get higher grades. But what about natural talent? Nadal was coached by his uncle, a former tennis player. His family are strong and athletic. You don't become great without great genes. Science backs this up. Studies show some people improve more with the same amount of training. Writer David Epstein explores how particular body typesElite sport is selecting more extreme body types: forearms in tennis are growing, swimmers' torsos are getting longer and female gymnasts are getting smaller. give athletes an advantage. Nadal has talent, dedication and some curious habits on court. He places his drinks in a specific way and repeats the same gestures. Some think he has OCDNadal has been verbally abused by spectators who think he has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Nadal has not been diagnosed and says his habits are not caused by anxiety. or believes in luck. "I'm not superstitious," says Nadal. His routines give him "focus" and "silence the voices" of self-doubt and overconfidence. Nadal says he will still be happy if another player "finishes with more Grand Slams than me". And maybe this positive attitude is the secret to Nadal's success. Is willpower the key to greatness? Mind over matter Yes: Natural talent is nothing without grit, determination and hard work. Nadal shows us we are capable of far more than we think – if we dare to try and have the courage not to give up.

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