Fearless Rafael Nadal is the GOAT in tennis but frightened of cats and dogs

The world has just watched Rafael Nadal prove his great tenacity, fearlessness and competitiveness when competing at the highest level in his chosen sport, tennis. He’s just won his 21st major title after one of the greatest comebacks of all time and after he has suffered health problems with a painful foot. He doubted that he could play again never mind win his 21st major to surpasses his two great rivals, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Rafael Nadal with Boris Becker and his dog Sumo. Rafa looks concerned
Rafael Nadal with Boris Becker and his dog Sumo. Rafa looks concerned. Photo: in public domain.
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‘I’m not the most courageous guy in the world outside of the court’- Rafa Nadal

Yes, on the tennis court he can be fearless. Fearless in going for the lines and making it. Taking risks which you have to do if you’re going to reach for the stars and be the greatest of all time. It is surprising, therefore, that he has admitted to being fearful of animals because he doubts their intentions. In other words, he is not sure what they’re going to do.

And this fear of animals is, I think, linked to his borderline OCD which is equally apparent on the tennis court. His rituals are stamped all over his performances. The way he places his water bottle during matches – diagonally and spaced precisely. The way he fiddles and faffs with himself when he is serving leading to the odd time violation and arguments with opponents. The way he avoids walking on the lines when he goes back to the umpire’s chair on a changeover. These are just some of the things he does which indicate OCD.

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And he has admitted that he is not the most courageous person. He said: “I am not the most courageous guy in the world outside of the court”. He is frightened of being alone in the dark and has been known to sleep on his sofa with the television blaring away. He is a very cautious driver. He freely admits to driving very slowly. During the first two years after he learned to drive, he said that he was “so-so”. He admits to being dangerous at the time but now he is not, he said. But he still drives slowly. He is fearful therefore what might happen. And he is cautious.

I think he feels a bit frightened of the outside world by which I mean the world outside that enclosed world which is the tennis court. The tennis court is an unreal world. A world that he controls. You cannot control the world outside, the real world.

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And I think it is about the need to control. And the need to control comes out of a feeling of insecurity. So, let’s agree that Rafael Natal feels insecure. He’s a very charming, polite and quietly spoken man. He is a gentle guy but a monster on the tennis court with his brutal, heavy topspin forehand and his blistering cross court backhand. Although he is known for his fantastic groundstrokes, he is also one of the best volleyers in tennis.

To recap, then, he is not a risk taker in the real world but he is a risk taker in his world, the world that he controls and dominates. He is sure of himself on the court but insecure off it. And sadly, that insecurity comes out in a slight or perhaps great fear of some animals including large dogs and I suspect domestic cats. News media does not mention that he is frightened of cats but it is stated that he is scared of animals.

The great people of our time are human like the rest of us. I wish he liked cats, though. He should learn to. It is a question of desensitising himself to cats and learning to trust them. He can and should do it. And the same applies to dogs and other animals.

P.S. In case you are unsure: GOAT is an acronym which stands for “Greatest Of All Time”.

P.P.S. I am unsure of Rafa has a genuine fear of cats but if he does, he would suffer from ailurophobia and he would be an ailurophobe.

P.P.P.S. Rafa says that his rituals keep him focused. He has not admitted to OCD.

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