Next February 1 will be fulfilled 10 years of Rafael's victory at the 2009 Australian Open, a happy and complicated day for my nephew. The semifinal against Fernando Verdasco, a day and a half before that final, had a duration of 5 hours and 14 minutes, and an intensity and emotion difficult to overcome. Rafael was completely exhausted and, despite following all the protocols to achieve his physical recovery, when we went out on the track to train slightly a few hours before the confrontation, our worst omens were confirmed.
Rafael was dejected. I did not have energy. His muscles were numb, he was dizzy, his legs hurt, his arms, his head. And, worst of all, his face reflected his helplessness and discouragement. In the 27 years that I was with him, I have rarely seen him as extreme as that day. I tried to make him understand that this was not a way to face a final, that he made a last effort, that he changed his face. To everything he replied that he had no strength, that he could not run.
When I understood that the situation was not going to improve on the track, I decided to interrupt the warm-up and went to the locker room, where we did not leave until he jumped into the Rod Laver Arena to meet his rival. Those hours before the final were as eternal as scarce. Eternal for the intense speech to which I submitted it, with my less indulgent version. Scarce because physical recovery was impossible to achieve.
Rafael became accustomed from very small to develop his capacity of endurance. He had the tacit prohibition to faint or show signs of frustration. I could not lower my arms without adversity. And I always worried that this acceptance was not blind, and therefore stupid, but always a product of reflection and logic.
I do not believe in complacent or clement motivation, because this usually leads to deception. I am convinced that we can always do a little more, that there is always something more of encouragement and momentum. So, with more confidence in him than with little compassion, I repeated tirelessly that overcoming him belonged to him, which was in his hand.
"Rafael, now you feel bad, very bad. And you can be sure that when you go out on the court in a few hours you will not feel better. Quiet that your father will not go down, nor your mother, nor God to help you. This depends on you. You will know if this title is important enough. You will know if you want to try to take advantage of an opportunity that may never appear again. "
What happened when there was less than an hour to start the meeting, I wrote it in a book, of which I reproduce a small extract:
"I began to see in him no longer an attitude that shied away from words, but that look that sought accompaniment. He began to want to feel and share the illusion necessary to face the duel. He started drumming his legs on the neatly clean floor of the dressing room. He began to smile at something and to show that he had not completely abandoned his self-confidence and his own effort. Once again the habit of holding on a bit more, of giving himself another opportunity".
From that moment on, the adrenaline and a controlled euphoria took over us and I became, for a few moments, Barack Obama, who had won the US elections a few months ago. It was necessary to reduce the tension and try to create a somewhat more jovial atmosphere. "Yes, we can!"I yelled again and again. "Repeat yourself, Rafael! The times that are needed! "
In the end we managed a laugh and he managed to recover his usual expression. At this moment I understood that he was willing to face the game and to reclaim his opportunity. He adjusted the tape, loaded his raquetero and headed for the center court where he was waiting and Roger Federer.