Rafael Nadal chases down a shot and smashes it down the line for the point. We've seen it a hundred times, and we've also seen what comes after the point: the fist pump.
It's a gesture that has been around for ages. Michael Jordan would pump his fist after a great dunk, Tiger famously pumps his fist and holds it after making a putt; it is one of the most recognizable celebrations in all of sports.
Yet, it is somehow different when Nadal does it. It seems fresh somehow. When other athletes pump their fist, it seems to say, "Look at what I just accomplished. Aren't I great?" But not with Nadal.
The Spaniard plays with such fervor, such intensity, that the first pump doesn't seem contrived or premeditated. In fact, when he unleashes it after a great play, it seems like an involuntary reaction. Nadal's fist pump is a non-verbal expression of joy.
How can someone find that much joy in an act that they have done time after time, year after year? I don't know, but somehow Nadal is able to, and we get to see it when he pumps that fist.
Some people see the celebration as too much. It shows up his opponent and makes it seem like Nadal is gloating to them. That couldn't be further from the truth.
When you love to do something, you get more joy out of doing that thing well than anything else in the world. That is what Nadal is all about: the joy of the game.
That is why Rafael Nadal's fist pump stands above the rest, a simple gesture of celebration, made even better by the man's love of tennis.