Australian Open 2011: Even in Defeat, Athletes Should Learn from Rafael Nadal

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Australian Open 2011: Even in Defeat, Athletes Should Learn from Rafael Nadal
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The glazed-over look in his eyes during changeovers said it all. 

It was clear early in the first set of world No. 1 Rafael Nadal's quarterfinal match against his countryman David Ferrer that the top-ranked Spaniard would not advance to the semifinals. 

The possibility of a 10th major title, a second Australian Open title and, of course, four consecutive major titles was all over. And yet, he didn't bow out. 

In fact, he did just the opposite. He gave everything he had in every point he played. 

He attempted to track down every ball, even when it was clear he wasn't going to get there in time, and played every point as if it were his last. 

On one hand, this match was incredibly difficult to watch. As Nadal wiped tears from his eyes during a changeover in the third set, it was clear he wanted to win more than anything, but his body prevented him from competing at his typical level, and that killed him. 

On the other hand, this was a match that every athlete needed to see. 

Take a look at Jay Cutler. Of course, you can't compare the individual injuries and infer that Cutler should have stayed in the game, but he definitely could have shown the fight of Spain's Raging Bull. 

Perhaps the team doctor advised him against re-entering the game, but instead of cheering on his teammates, he sat on the sidelines and moped like a child who had just been put in timeout. 

Clearly, he had quit on his team. 

What was even worse was that on Monday, his injury was constantly being used as an excuse. It was being used as a justification for his actions. 

Cutler should watch Nadal. Although he was clearly injured, he refused to even speak about his injury. Instead, he gave his opponent the respect that he deserved. He had advanced to the semifinals of a major and deserved to be applauded. 

In his press conference, reporters harped on his injury and questioned whether or not it was related to past injuries of his or to the virus that had hampered him in Doha. 

Nadal's response: "The only thing I can say is, accept the situation and work to try to have another very good season."

Tennis should be proud to have Nadal as its ambassador, and other athletes should take note of his maturity and nobility when they're faced with similar situations. 

They say in sports that "boys will be boys." 

Well, these boys should show the character that is expected of a professional athlete, just as Nadal did on a late summer's eve in Australia. 

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