A tennis ball floats through the air on a warm Thursday night at Indian Wells, in a match between Rafael Nadal and Thomas Berdych. Rafa flies skyward, twisting his body in an amazing display of athleticism and with a flick of his racket, sends the ball towards the center of the court.
Berdych manages to get to the ball just in time and sends it careening to rafa's backhand. After a backhand slice from Rafa and a backhand from berdych, Rafa rips a ridiculously angled forehand across court where Berdych barely gets his racket on it.
With the roar of the crowd and a double fist pump from Rafa seconds later, anyone who doubts Rafael Nadal is back is only kidding themselves. Will it last? Maybe not, but for now this is the Rafa from early last year. The one who was on fire. The one who for a while, had no equal.
It's both true and amazing how body language can tell you far more about a person than anything they say. When Rafa's confidence is at it's peak not only is his shot quality high, but his fist pump is on full display and right now his fist pump is making a barrage of appearances at Indian Wells.
I saw more fist pumps from Rafa in last night's win against Berdych than I saw in the whole second half of last year.
So what happened?
Well, first off I think that it's a new year. A new year of fresh opportunities to both win tournaments and slams, and a year far far away from last year and the problems that plagued Rafa.
While his on the court injury problems were certainly serious and difficult, I fully believe his off-the-court problems which mostly involved his parents divorce are what really caused most of Rafa's issues.
For most of us divorce is just something you know people go through. You can sympathize to a degree but you can't really understand what it's like to see your parents and family divide and how painful it is. Whether you are five or twenty-five, it's a scarring experience.
For Rafa, family is everything so dealing with his parents separation I believe left little room in his head for tennis. Something tells me that Rafa wasn't fully back mentally in his quest for the USO trophy and that he was trying to find solace in tennis rather than fully give himself to it like before.
But now, I think he's come to terms with his parents separation. I'm sure he still hates it, that he wishes it were not true. I'm sure it will be something he wants to avoid talking about, but overall I feel there is a level of acceptance now and a willingness and wish to simply move forward and control only what he can control.
I fully believe we are starting to witness a wiser and more mature Rafa this year. Someone who is going to do all he can to make the second half of his career as great as the first half.
You can see the fire, the passion, and the belief now in both is game, his expression, and his body language.
If the Rafael Nadal we are seeing now is Rafa v 2.0 then we could possibly be seeing another banner year for the Spaniard. I for one am grateful and so should the tennis and sporting world. Rafa is back!