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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Perfect 10 at 31: Rafael Nadal’s exploits show athletes today are turning age on its head (The Times of India - 13 June 2017)

Rafael Nadal
     Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal has long been known by the moniker ‘King of Clay’. But it fails to do justice to his achievement this past Sunday when he won an incredible 10th French Open title – no tennis player before this has won a single Grand Slam 10 times in the Open Era. Consider also that Rafa today isn’t the dynamite 19-year-old that took the tennis world by storm. At 31, he is now a veteran of multiple serious injuries.

     It says something about modern sports science that despite the level of the game constantly increasing, players are finding ways to not just prolong their careers but also improve their performance in the would-be autumn of their professional lives. If it’s Rafa, Roger Federer (35), Serena Williams (35) and Leander Paes (43) in tennis, then there’s Tom Brady (39) in American football and Gianluigi Buffon (39) in soccer. Meanwhile, in cricket the likes of Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni – both 35 – continue to enthral us.

    True, there have been athletes in the past who have pushed the boundaries of age. But what we are witnessing today is a growing crop of special players who are dominating their respective games despite their advancing years. This has only been made possible by advances in sports medicine that allow a player to withstand and quickly recover from punishing injuries. In Rafa’s case, injuries have cast doubts on his career several times before. But each time the Spaniard was able to bounce back and take his game to the next level. Rafa has certainly earned a legendary status in tennis and already set an incredibly high standard for youngsters in the game. And he looks set to raise the bar even higher.

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